“A Tale of Three Corpses”
2 Imbolc, 2020au
Shard of Salazar
/ Shard of Delarius
The Bordermen awoke in morning, gathered their adventuring gear, and prepared to investigate the death of Lord Paice and the theft of his attache. The whole affair seemed strange to them, and matters became even more complicated when they heard a knock at their door. It was the waitress Elena Vane, who wanted them to know that Darryn Moore, the blacksmith, was still missing from the night before. The Bordermen assured her that they would search for the missing smith, and followed her downstairs.
Before breakfast, the Bordermen stepped outside to tend to the livestock, and their own horses, which was their duty as Bordermen of the Lodge. Arthur readily went to work, eager to get his chores done with, while Edmund splashed some mead on his face and followed suit, though in a more casual manner. Byron, after speaking with his friends, sought to investigate Moore’s wagon, which he was able to break into by picking the lock.
Inside the wagon, Byron’s senses were assaulted by a strong smell of flowers and incense. Books on politics, philosophy, and magic lined the walls, things that no ordinary blacksmith would be interested in. Finally, Byron noted that the place was still well cared for, and no one living there was in any kind of hurry when they left.
Returning to his compatriots, Byron filled them in on what he found in the wagon. They were still missing something important, though they guessed the disappearance of Darryn Moore after the death of Lord Paice was no coincidence. These events were related, tied together by some kind of…synchronicity. The Bordermen discussed this in hushed whispers as they entered the Lodge and took a seat in the corner, where Elena had already prepared their breakfast, consisting of bear-steak and eggs and goat’s milk.
Across the room, the group spied more travelers, nobles by their dress and manner. It became apparent that they were here about Lord Paice, and soon Edmund caught a glimpse of their house’s insignia.
“Hey,” Edmund whispered. “Those are Duke Forrest’s boys! They ain’t supposed to be here in Hawkmoor!”
In truth, the agents of Duke Forrest were far from welcome in lands ruled by Duke Uthrik Hawkmoor, or any of his Earls. The two houses were bitter enemies, and rarely crossed paths without crossing swords as well.
Just then, Sir Gaines approached. He apologized about his manners the night before, and hoped they would still offer their aid in finding Lord Paice’s attache. The Bordermen vowed to find the attache, if only to get the knight to leave. He dismissed himself however, explaining that he had business to attend to, and crossed the room to converse with the Forrests.
After hastily finishing their meal, the Bordermen approached Garlan Hook, the Lodgemaster, who was tending to the bar. They asked if he had seen Darryn Moore anywhere, or if he might know were the smith might have run off too. The Lodgemaster was unaware of the smith’s absence, and was quite irritated that they had not come to him first with this information. In spite of this, he explained what little he knew about Moore, who had worked at the Lodge for 30 years, which was a longer time than Hook had been Lodgemaster. Whatever the case, Hook wanted the Blacksmith found by midday.
Leaving again, the Bordermen returned to Darryn’s wagon, knowing that they had Hook’s blessing to search the place. Entering slowly, they search the room carefully, finding little of interest, other than a deck of tarot cards hidden in a trinket box. Having run out of ideas, Edmund struck the bed with tip of his spear. He recognized the sound, knowing that the bed was somehow hollow. With the help of Arthur and Byron, they were able to find a latch to open the hidden compartment. The bed slid upward… revealing a rotten corpse, the smell of which was masked by hundreds of flowers.
Arthur ran back to the Lodge, telling Garlan that they had found something he needed to see. Noting the man’s serious expression, the Lodgemaster followed him out to the wagon where he saw the horrific sight with his own eyes.
“How long has Moore been sleeping on top of this thing?” Hook growled.
After studying the corpse for some time, Hook was dumbfounded. This person had been dead for some time, to all appearances, but Garlan knew of a poison–one capable of aging and killing a person–and he thought he knew the dead man as well. It looked almost identical to Lord Paice. Then the body inside the inn, whose face had been mauled by the great bear, wasn’t Lord Paice at all!
With Garlan’s aid, they guessed what might have happened. Whoever the assassins were, they were unaware of the poison’s effects on the body. When they realized their mistake, Lord Paice was already dead, obviously poisoned. Thinking quickly, they staged the bear attack, allowing a person dressed as Lord Paice to be mauled by the bear, to the point where even a skilled observer might not see through the lie.
And who could cover this up so well, and send those too curious for their own good on a wild goose chase? Sir Gaines. It all made sense, except for a few things.
Raising a pouch found on the real Lord Paice, the Bordermen uncovered a signet ring. A Stewart signet ring. Edmund searched his memories, remembering a long lost uncle who had left Highmoor’s Seat when Edmund was but a boy. Lord Paice was in fact Galen Stewart, which might explain why he was murdered. A Stewart noble masquerading as a Whitemane baron would be…problematic.
Now only one piece of the puzzle was missing. They still needed to find Darryn Moore, though Byron thought he could find the man, after having found tracks outside. Asking Garlan to keep the Forrest nobles and Sir Gaines busy, the Bordermen set off in search of Darryn Moore, following the faint trail.
The footprints led to a corpse buried in the snow, the corpse of Darryn Moore, having been struck down by a Forrest arrow. They had slain Moore, and used his wagon to hide “Lord Paice’s” body.
The Bordermen began their trek back to the Lodge, watching as Arthur’s bird dove through the air suddenly. Puzzled, they realized that the bird had been dodging an arrow. The Forrest assassins were still there!
They raced forward, narrowly avoiding a number of arrows directed at them. Edmund and Byron dashed into the woods, ready to face the Forrest archers, while Arthur withdrew his crossbow and went to enter the Lodge through the back door, hoping to face Sir Gaines.
Edmund advanced slowly, dodging between the trees, accompanied by Byron’s wolf Togo. Soon he was upon them, stabbing at the archer with his spear. He was unable to strike the man, though he was able to drive him out of hiding, allowing Byron to put a well placed arrow in the assassin’s neck.
Inside, Arthur was greeted by Sir Gaines’ soldiers, one of which he shot down with his crossbow before being forced to retreat. Leaving the Lodge at same time was Sir Gaines himself, followed by the two agents of House Forrest. Having donned his full plate armor, Gaines called out to Edmund, the “Moorlander”, saying that he and his friends were wanted for the murder of Lord Paice, Darryn Moore, and now, Garlan Hook.
As if on queue, Garlan charged out of the now burning Lodge. Though riddled with arrows, the Lodgemaster put up quite the fight, taking all three men to the ground with him. Garlan called out to Edmund, telling him to get his horse and run.
Edmund met up with Arthur and Byron, who had already gotten their horses, and commandeered a cart, which the wolf Togo readily leapt into. Edmund joined them, though not before vowing to face Sir Gaines at another time. Edmund wasn’t a man of honor, though he felt Sir Gaines owed him a duel.
And so they rode into them mountains hoping to bring word of this crime to the First Lodge, and to avenge Garlan Hook.