The art of misdirection as a DM isn't to contradict yourself, but to only provide a partial list of facts - and then at a later date, supply the rest or in some cases, more of the facts. If digested in two separate piles, it can and will drive the party nuts - and that's what had been happening here - so much so that one of the players spent a good half hour writing out the bits and pieces of our activities so far in an effort to see how it all came together.
Write up follows:
Soren used the 1st of the antidotes on Gwyn (an incense you burn that smells like shit covered skunk) and then the 2nd on Kazak – waking our two friends up. On waiting for Bron’s return they then went to Skelt Manor with a bit of trepidation as Soren informed the group of Bendern’s seeming duplicity and the fact that Beren was there now.
On arriving the door was closed and no knocking opened it, although we did hear some grunting inside. Norris used his thieves tools and his severe lack of lock picking – and it just goes to show exactly HOW cheap the locks were at Skelt manor because he opened it! On the rugs were some muddy foot prints that went in and to the right, then up the stairs to the 2nd floor.
Inside and to the right in the sitting room was Quaris Skelt, trussed up, gag in his mouth, and sporting a purpling goose egg on the back of his head. He was released and told that someone knocked his ass down and out about an hour ago and he didn’t know who or what happened. When asked where Bendern was he told us that the younger Skelt was upstairs in his room and had been there most of the night. Damn it.
We followed the prints up the stairs where they went to a door and it required Norris and his lock picks and ANOTHER terrific roll and the door was opened! And lo and behold – there was a small pile of ash inside the door, the muddy foot prints ended at the bed, and the room smelled faintly of oranges. Bendern was asleep and did not awaken to our prodding. We asked where Brother Beren was and was told that he was on the 3rd floor in one of the old servant’s rooms.
We checked and he was there, unharmed and once again succumbed to the poison. We dragged him down the stairs to Bendern and using the last antidote, lit it and woke the two of them up. Then it was question time.
Bendern did not remember meeting the party last night, telling them that he had gone to Two Cats about 6:30 last night and then to Madame Greenbelt’s for some nightly pleasure with a girl named Agatha. Around quarter to 8 he left and came home where he sat with his father for a spell and then went up to his room to read and eventually fall asleep. However as far as we were concerned we saw Bendern at Two Cats at 8ish in the company of the 2 men who tried to Orange Blossom us and even pass on a magic mouth pouch (that Bron had eventually heard and said it was the same voice that Aaron Skelt had during his short fight with the buggish undead thing).
Bron was a keen discerner of the truth and on looking at Bendern and hearing him speak, was convinced he was telling the truth – or at least BELIEVED he was telling the truth. So now what? The group then looked at Bendern’s shoes and saw that they were about the same size as the prints on the rug but that meant nothing – plus the boot prints although ending in his room did not go up to the bed, nor were his current shoes or his spare set covered in mud of any sort.
What was going on?
Soren went down to the very angry wolverine in the cage in the pantry and called on Frey to give him a blessing to befriend the animal. And suddenly the 135 lb giant wolverine stopped hissing and spitting, became docile, and snuffled happily at Soren’s hands. Mission successful! 60 hps of snarling wolverine fury now in the hands of the party’s ranger. ;)
Feeling that it was time to get the authorities involved in light of last night’s attacks and then to arrange a visit with Sverek Falconhand, Soren went to the militia house and spoke with the tired Captain of the guard. He talked about the attack, his response, and what had been learned of the matter. And was surprised to find the captain was less than pleased with Soren’s results!
Not once did the ranger call for the watch, and he took it upon himself to shoot two men with deadly if not lethal force and accuracy, question them, lead them to his room, bind and interrogate them, and then kill one and let the other go and THEN come and tell the watch so they can clean the dead guy out of his room.
When it was redescribed (with the party helping out as interested militia men listening in and making snarky comments during the questioning) the group realized it didn’t sound so great. But in light of all the good the group had been doing, it was excused (not forgiven) and then the party was told they could go to Sverek Falconhand and speak to the Lord on the matters at hand. Be ready in an hour. He did ask about questioning Henian under the Zone of Truth and was told it was not necessary at the Bather was very forthcoming on his actions and did not mince words or try to smear up his crimes or parts in them. In fact he did not know of Aaron but DID admit that he had looted Aaron Skelt about a year ago right after the old man was interred and sold most of the goods to personages not local.
If that was the case then how was Quaris able to open the tomb 10-11 months later and see Aaron there with the same 4 items that Henian admitted selling? This needed more discussion with the party.
Soren grabbed the group, Bendern as well, and they tramped back to Cornblood keep where they checked weapons and went to Sverek himself. The lord was in his late 30’s, long black hair pulled back, thin moustache waxed heavily, military air and bearing to him. A pair of swords girded his chair and there were plenty of guards around.
We explained what was going on, Aaron Skelt, the 4 items, and the order of the deaths – the fact that Sverek was most likely next. The lord said he did not have the sword, he gave it to his father, Moltas, Aaron’s longest living friend. Moltas was brought in along with the sword and the older man spoke long about his friend and the fact that he had a gypsy curse on him. The curse was something along the lines of “Never rest, Always hungry, and Never satisfied.” It was almost 40 years ago and the gypsy was unknown. Moltas did tell the group that his friend didn’t sleep much (2-3 hours a day) and ate and drank like a pig, and gambled to excess and then some – so the curse was true.
This also seemed to be in line with Aaron’s awakening and going after his belongings but if Henian had fenced them about a year ago – how did they get back? The group then guessed that since the items had been sold and been done outside of town, the deaths of the new owners were not noticed by those living here and Aaron had killed and retrieved his treasures – eventually coming back to his crypt where he slept undisturbed until Quaris opened it a few weeks ago and sold the belongings again – once more restarting the curse.
It was a working theory the party had – at least for now.
They assured the lord they could do the job and eventually Sverek offered them 750 crowns and a group charter if they could face Aaron’s shade and put it to rest. We took the job and asked for the sword. We then went to the Keep’s chapel to Thor and Odin, ground that was holy and consecrated, Bron holding the blade (which we did check – was not magical) and waited.
Norris kept up an almost continuous litany of countersong, hoping to keep any potential further affect and charm of him at bay. The clock passed – and passed – and passed – and no one came. As we crept closer to midnight we were growing worried and frantic – a seeming pressure was surrounding the group and the chapel and it was like the time was growing slower. We readied weapons and tried to look around – seeing no one.
At a few minutes before midnight Brother Beren asked Tyr for the ability to detect undead – and he received a pile of them – two sets of 6-10 right outside the stained glass windows, and a single one in the hall right outside the door – but invisible to sight. He then begged for a blast of pure sunlight and slammed it down the main hall – searing the undead and causing it to shriek in agony and dive into the wall to escape the flaming white light.
Spells of strength, blessing, competence, and health were called forth and as one the group entered the hall ready to do battle. Aaron Skelt appeared in a blast of acrid fumes and chittering bugs, assaulting Bron who was fighting as defensively as he could. Gwyn used his Hydraspear on the undead, scoring the man viciously in the midsection. Soren fired some of his bolts coated with holy water from the temple’s font, Bron had dipped rags into the font and wrapped his fists inside of them – hitting the undead beast as well. Bottles were thrown and weapons plied and even the wolverine slammed and slashed into Aaron, the undead flailing at Bron and just missing both times. And eventually the monster collapsed into bugs and dissolved away and the group smacked and slapped the insects with wild abandon.
What now? Did we kill Aaron? Was he really dead for sure? The group wanted to go to the cemetery and check the coffin and if there finish him off. We left and made our way there (learning that SOMETHING had coming into Cornblood Keep through the water culvert under the wall and had left the same way – zombies was our guess) as fast as we could, arriving at the cemetery in a few minutes. Brother Beren used Henian’s keyring and found one of the keys was the one for the cemetery gates – opening it and ushering the group inside to do battle and meet hopefully for the last time with Aaron Skelt.