A Knot of Thrones - Burning Balentyne


Aldencross is a township of necessity. It exists only because Balentyne exists. First, there was the dwarven bridge that spanned the nearby River Tyburn. That bridge was built in a time when a great dwarven kingdom spanned the entire island both north and south. That bridge was a critical lifeline connecting the dwarven realms, north and south.

In time, the dwarven realms faltered and disappeared but their sturdy bridge remained surviving through the centuries. When King Accarius IV called the Architect built the Watch Wall, this ancient bridge was an obvious place to build a fortress. The king considered destroying the bridge but decided against it. The bridge might be useful in the planned invasion of the Savage North (that invasion never materialized) and the mere existence of the bridge meant the bugbears had a known choke point they were likely to attack. And so the dwarven bridge became the death trap called Balentyne.

Balentyne was not far from a crossroads where the north-south old dwarven road met the newer Talirean road that ran parallel to Lake Tarik and the River Tyburn. At that crossroads, there was single inn called St. Alden’s Cross, named for an obscure Talirean saint who protected travelers. That inn is long gone and in fact, its foundation is located at what is now the Town Hall. This inn was a small oft forgotten way station for traders and explorers and for many decades, that was all that was here.

The construction of Balentyne changed everything. Suddenly, the inn had guaranteed business. Off duty soldiers need a place to drink and relax between guard shifts. The Lord-Commander of Balentyne built a home near the inn, as did some of his officers. And around that central nexus the town began to spring up. The closeness of this relationship is confirmed by the fact that the town of Aldencross has no mayor. The master of Aldencross is always the Lord-Commander of Balentyne.

Aldencross was never a walled community. Balentyne was the fortress and offered all the protection the town may need. It is also a soldier’s town. Even though prostitution is illegal in Talingarde, Aldencross has more than its share of single women who seem always ready to have a soldier visit for “lunch”.

This unseemly underbelly of the town does not change that fact that this is a Talirean township. Most of the people in town are good Mitran-fearing farmers and artisans. They grow the food and make the equipment that the soldiers at Balentyne need to keep the Kingdom of Talingarde safe. There is not a single family in town without a connection to the Watchtower. It is their sons who guard the Watch Wall. It is their daughters who marry those sons. It is there labor that feeds it, clothes and equips the soldiers and keeps the frontier safe. This is a point of immense pride to the people who make Aldencross their home.

Arriving Quietly

The journey to Aldencross from the lake shore is a short and uneventful one.  With their iron circlets, disguising themselves is no challenge and their arrival in the small sleepy norther town is unnoticed.  Up till now, the PCs have been completely cut off from civilization.  First, they were prisoners or fugitives.  Then, they were sequestered in the manor house.  Later, they have either been on a boat loaded with contraband or in a bugbear war camp. Here at last, they are in a town with a pile of ill-gotten loot.

Aldencross is a market town and it is not rare for smaller traders to come from all over to peddle their goods here.  This will not be seen as suspicious or anything unusual.  Adventurers bound for the savage north are not unknown.  Frankly, the idea that a band of Talireans would conspire with bugbears to break the Watch Wall is unthinkable to the common folk. The PCs have no trouble moving freely within the town.  Though Aldencross is a sizable town, there is only one inn that caters to travelers -- “The Lord’s Dalliance”.  It is a pleasant enough place with strong drink and adequate food.  In the evenings there are often off-duty soldiers and even the occasional watch captain.  Dancing girls and comely bar maids ply the soldiers eager to earn a share of the king’s gold.  This is where our villains head first!

They arrive just shy of 2a; Shivers disguised as a general laborer, Lumond disguised as a generic human, Harlock and Vicky both using their iron circlets to visually, and temporarily, remove their runic scars.  Upon entering they are met with a sleepy Bellam Barhold, the innkeeper, in his nightgown holding candle stick in their general direction.  

"We'd like lodging for the night sir" says Harlocke kindly.

"Well, we have one room left.  But we will have more come tomorrow.  You're welcome to all share it if you so choose." replies Bellam.

The party agrees, heading quickly up the stairs to the only available room, promptly tucking in for the remainder of the night.

Harlocke is the first PC to awake; leaving his gear in the room, he makes his way down for a hearty breakfast.  Sharing the dining hall with two other groups, a dwarven party of 11 and a fancy dressed troupe of thespians containing an ever popular William Marcus Marlowe!

After breakfast, Harlocke desires a morning stroll and walks around town for 30 min while the other party members slowly rise from their deep slumber.  After the scraps of a late breakfast, Vicky heads out to follow some local guardsmen around town as Shivers, Lumond, and Harlocke visit Master Caldin’s Couldron to stock up on healing potions.  Concluding their business with Master Caldin, they promptly head to the VonKraig Smithy and begin selling the stockpile of used weapons they amassed over the previous weeks' journey. 

This smithy specializes in supplying and maintaining the weapons and army of Balentyne. But Erasmus VonKraig, the master smith, also has a small stock of other weaponry and is always happy to take some side work if visitors need armor or weapons. Erasmus is even accomplished enough of a blacksmith that he can make masterwork weapons and armor, though this requires a special order.  Our scoundrels order 3 simple locks from Erasmus to use at the inn; the locks promised to be completed by the following day.  

As Shivers, Harlocke, and Lumond wander around town, Vicky heads to the tower of Balentyne.  Noticing that papers are required for admittance, and fearing she hasn't the proper credentials, Vicky turns herself invisible and sneaks through the guard post into the tower.  Once inside, she finds a quiet spot to reveal herself and immediately blends in by joining 2 servants preparing carrots for the soldier's mid-day snack.   When prompted for her name by Hannah and Jane, Vicky claims her name is Rebecca and that her and her father are staying in town for the week determining their next move north.  Although this is met with some skepticism she seems to be accepted into the workforce for the day as there are always carrots that need-a-peelin!

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Lumond overhears talk about Mama Guisseppe's beef stew and how she goes up to the watchtower and cooks a big batch of it for the men every Monday.  Garrison food is repetitive and forgettable at best.  This gives Lumond the idea to stand near the watchtower and look for Mama Guisseppe and her stew.  His effort pays off for he see's a kind old lady being escorted to the tower by a garrison of 6 soldiers, 4 of which are hauling large cauldrons of what smells like a savory, hearty mixture of beef, wine, onions and herbs.  Lumond waits patiently for hours until the old woman, escorted by 4 soldiers this time, makes her way back home with Lumond following quietly from the rear.   Mama Guisseppe’s sons both served in this garrison years ago when she started this tradition though both of her boys have long departed for better careers in the southern city of Ghastenhall.  

Shivers, always the quiet observer, overhears a discussion between two locals: "Ye Merrie Men are coming to town and the handsome William Marcus Marlow is coming with them!  Can you believe it? The Bard of Barrington! Here!  They are doing the “Fall of Amberlyn”! Oh, I can’t wait!"

Vicky concludes her tower work for the day and walks back to the inn where the rest of the party agreed to meet.  Arriving, she sees Shivers, Harlocke, and Lumond already seated at a table eating dinner, surrounded by 20+ local bar patrons enjoying dinner and merriment.  Tired from a long day of work, she heads to the rooms while the rest overhear two guards discuss Father Donnagin.  

"I’ve heard that Father Donnagin was sent here after the church demoted him from bishop. He got into some sort of trouble" says one guard. "serious trouble I’d wager to be banished to the Watch Wall."

The three PCs decide that this isn't a safe place to have a private conversation and head up to meet Vicky in the room.

For the next hour, the party discusses next steps which include plans to impersonate guards, poison Mama Guisseppe's stew, to posing as dwarven workers to enter the watch tower.  Then the group turns in for the night.

An hour later, Harlocke is woken to the sound of rustling from the lower rooms of the inn.  Upon a stealthy investigation, he witnesses Bellam sneaking away to the cellar where a secret door opens to a long tunnel.  

Thus ends day 1 in Aldencross!

GM Thoughts

This was a lovely departure from our usual hack-and-slash session.  It was intriguing to see the group role play some of the situations and I believe they handled admirably.  They were extremely tactful in how they handled each situation and the information provided didn't go to waste.  

Felt very proud of Vicky for being the first party member to infiltrate the watchtower ahead of the others.  



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