On June 16th, Year 4, all of Citadel is awakened by cries of “fire” as the people rush to the temple to extinguish a blaze breaking out there. The Citadel House adventurers help to put out the fire, also healing those who are injured in their zeal.
- Osiris (CoB): Level 3 Elf Magic-user
- Randall (HuS): Level 2 Human Druid
- Oliver: Fox Companion
- Reginald (MiM): Level 1 Elf Magic-user
- Bart (TrS): Level 1 Halfling Musician
In the aftermath of the fire, guard captain Michael rejects offers from Randall and Osiris to help investigate, so they of course eavesdrop on his orders to the militia members helping with the investigation, learning that they are questioning the first people on the scene to learn who was in the area. They are also seeking the help of Jared, the alchemist recently come to the Vale from Enoch, to identify the cause of the fire.
While they are eavesdropping, a new arrival comes through the portal. Randall leads Rowan back to Citadel House to settle. There, Osiris follows Michael to Matthias’ office where he listens at the door, hearing a list of names to be investigated, including Dorcas.
Osiris already had his suspicions about Dorcas, so he latches into that name, returning to Randall and Rowan. While they are discussing what to do, Matthias arrives. He asks them to look into Dorcas, since Michael doesn’t have the information to suspect him enough to question him closely. At the same time, he asks them not to give Micheal any more reason be leery of adventurers than he already has.
With that mandate, they return to the temple square so Randall can interrogate some of the trees to see if any noticed someone entering the temple before the fire. As they arrive, they see Michael and Jared leaving the temple with a couple members of the guard. While Randall questions trees, Osiris follows them back to Jared’s shop. After awhile, they leave Jared’s shop and Michael sends one of his men to ask Matthias if any gnomes are still in the area. Osiris follows and eavesdrops again, learning that the fire was started with a Gnomish alchemical product, nothing very familiar to Jared. As he leaves Citadel House, he is stopped by Bart, who wants to join the investigation. They both go to the temple square to see what Randall and Rowan have learned.
Meanwhile, at the temple square, Randall strikes out speaking to Sprucey, Sprucy, and Westy (who considers Randall his only friend), but finally reaching South-Side Bill (a fourth spruce in the South of the temple), he learns that a balding man (Dorcas is balding) entered the temple not long before the fire. Bill offers to call him out in a lineup if they need.
It is during this conversation that Osiris and Bart arrive, relating what they have learned about the Gnomish fire starter. Seeing a bunch of adventurers in the temple square, a guard approaches them, accusing them if getting involved in the investigation. Randall assures him that they are only making sure the trees are okay and the guard assents to watch them so long as they keep away from the temple.
They quickly move on, heading toward Dorcas’ estate to look for evidence of Gnomish fire starters there. On the way, they have another confrontation with guards, who where questioning Dorcas and warn then but to bother him. Randall passes of their visit as an experiment with magical plant growth and they see them off.
At the door, they make a plan, picking Bart (the halfling) to sneak in through the back while they distract at the door. Bart makes his way stealthily through the side gate, passing the gardener unseen and making his way to the servant entrance. Dorcas’ Manservant, Philip, and his cook are both in the kitchen, but Philip leaves to answer a knock at the door. With the cook distracted, Bart creeps down the hall trying a door he suspects leads down. He is rewarded with stairs to the wine cellar. There, in the light from the hall above, he sees a door.
He tiptoes back up the stairs to shut the door and makes his way in the dark to the door below, only bumping a couple wine racks in the dark. He opens the door and carefully steps in, activating a magic light to his surprise.
He makes an incredible arcane knowledge check (97/100), establishing Bart as very familiar with alcohol brewing and somewhat familiar with alchemical tools. The work station on the table before him has components of both and on the shelf behind the table are both brewing ingredients and a number if other containers whose contents he doesn’t recognize. Their labels use some elvish and dwarvish characters, but mostly characters he doesn’t recognize.
Bart pockets one of the bottles, but stepping out of the bright room hears the cook’s voice asking if it is Dorcas. Never having heard Dorcas’ voice, Bart resorts to a raspy, generic human voice that is enough to get the trusting cook asking if he wants some tea for his throat, allowing him to put her off. When she returns to the kitchen, he makes a hasty return to the back gardens, again passing the gardener unnoticed.
Meanwhile, at the front door, Randall pitches his idea for using his druidic powers to increase crop yields to Philip, who listens patiently and agrees to bring the proposal to Dorcas. He soon returns, telling them Dorcas is busy today, but could perhaps receive them tomorrow. At Randall’s implication that he will instead do the test with the next largest land holder (Tristan), Philip proposes that they see about trying it with some of the gardener’s projects.
They come to the side gate just as Bart is passing through it and Bart plays off his presence as cheering up the gardener with a little music.
Philip leaves them with the gardener (Reginald) and Randall gets a chance to experiment with his new Rapid Growth ability, learning that the food it grows is flavorless and probably low in nutrition, at least on the short time frames he was using.
They also learn that Dorcas has been taking less interest in the garden ever since receiving a shipment from the gnomes that included brewing equipment, which has become a new hobby of his. Also odd is that he doesn’t share his hobby with the house staff. He drinks his personal gnomish brew constantly but never invites others to partake, which is contrary to his usual behavior with hobbies.
With this new information, they take the bottle Bart retrieved to Matthias, but learn that he doesn’t speak much gnomish yet, and the best gnomish speaker they have (Conan) is out of commission. Matthias recommends they go to Jared, the alchemist, with it to see what he can determine. He suggests they try to get him to look at the equipment, but preferably without knowing what it is he’s looking for.
Before visiting Jared, they go to Agon and ask him to use his book of knowledge to read the label. It reads as Boomslang Skin, which none of them recognize. They take it to Jared and he doesn’t recognize it either. They accidentally tip him off that Dorcas is the arson while telling him about his alchemical lab. He becomes very nervous, simultaneously terrified that Dorcas is gunning for his job and planning to harm him. They convince him to prepare/invent a forgetting potion to clear enough memory of their conversation that he visits Dorcas without giving away his mission. He says he should be able to go in the morning.
They return to Citadel House and make themselves scarce until morning, before noon, Jared arrives excited to thank Randall for letting him know about Dorcas’ alchemy lab. When they remind him about Dorcas being an arson, he panics again, but informs them that he didn’t find any fire starters, but that the ingredients he did find seemed like they could be used to make a transforming potion, maybe even to transform into someone else.
This is enough to convince Michael to raid the estate, at least the outer warehouse. He even invites them along. In the warehouse, they find a chest from the gnomes containing a fire starting alchemical powder, along with a number of other tools of sabotage. Michael agrees to let the Citadel House Adventurers take the chest, as long as none of it ends up being used in his jurisdiction.
They head up to the house, where they confront Dorcas in his office. With the help of the pea plant behind his desk, they learn that he is keeping a man in the trunk beside his desk. It’s locked, but the pea plant tells them the key is around Dorcas’ neck. They open the trunk and find the real Dorcas there. The gnome exposes his identity with cries about the elves and dwarves not meddling in the gnomish nation and is promptly arrested.
Dorcas, though practically starved and with sores from the confined space, immediately sits down to get up to date on how his doppleganger managed his affairs. He soon finds a letter, in gnomish, which he turns over to the party. Jared inherits the gnomish alchemical lab, a major supplement to his existing tools.
They take the note to Agon and he again uses the book to translate it. It talks about an effort to awaken “Luath Draoidh.” Using the gnomish communication device, they learn that Luath was the second and last king of the gnomes, who was sealed away. Sources disagree whether he was sealed so he could return in the gnomes’ time of need or because his evil needed to be stopped. The later seems more likely and they become determined that the Ar-a-mach faction must be stopped from awakening him.
All in all, I considered this a very successful mystery session with a good resemblance to detective shows, minus a big twist to a different bad guy, but that just didn’t fit here. Instead I went for the less common “but there’s a bigger bad guy” version of the story, which was a great fit, as I’ve been planning for them to find about Luath Draoidh one way or another for some time.