Aldencross is a town in the foothills of the tower castle Balentyne, Keystone of the Watch Wall. It 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 will have no trouble moving freely within the town.
With a month’s time to spare the group enjoys their stay in the town. After all, Aldencross is a fine place to stay, take a hot bath and buy supplies.
There is an alchemist in town who sells all manner of potions. There is a scribe with a fine selection of scrolls. In the market place are found the random magic items for sale. Equipment is available in abundance. Aldencross is a soldier’s town so there are numerous smiths who make arms and armor. They’re eager for some side business to supplement their contracts to the crown.
Our villains spend their time in town gathering information of the area, the tower and trading wares. The villains stay at the Lord’s Dalliance, an inn that was once a brothel. When the Mitran regime of Markadian I came to power, many such venerable institutions shut their doors by decree of the king. That was almost eighty years ago. Since then the Inn has reinvented itself and returned to profitability keeping it’s vaguely risqué name.
Significant rumors gathered thus fare include the following:
The Bard of Barrington
A troupe of actors is visiting the watchtower. Led by famed thespian William Marcus Marlowe, the so-called Bard of Barrington, Ye Merrie Men will be playing the Great Hall of Balentyne. This is all part of the ongoing effort of Father Donnagin to cheer up the grim Lord Havelyn. It is of course doomed to failure. But repeated failure has never stopped the irrepressible cleric before and it won’t stop him this time.
Ye Merrie Men consist of twelve actors and stagehands and Bill Marlowe. They are actually not all men – controversially, Ye Merrie Men actually has two female performers. They will be performing “The Fall of Amberlyn” a rousing tale of how love and greed brought down a great city state.
The plot hinges around the young lovers Brandon and Bronwyn and their doomed romance. William Marlowe of course will be playing the handsome Brandon. The role of Bronwyn will be played by lovely ingénue Marie Janoset.
The Secret Passage
A secret passage constructed by dwarven miners links the basement of the brothel to the castle. The passage remains to this day and has been almost entirely forgotten. Certainly Lord Havelyn doesn’t know about it or he would have the damned thing filled in. In the middle of the night, the Inn is almost empty and the basement is not kept locked.
Rook was awoken to the sounds of someone shuffling about in the cellar. Following unseen, he was able to find the alcoholic innkeeper Bellam Barhold (brother to Captain
Samuel Barhold of the tower guard) taking the passage straight to the watchtower’s storeroom, pilfering an old shipment of fine wines (and replacing it with his own spoiled stock). The existence of the passage is surely a secret of Barhold’s… and now a secret of the villain’s.
The Dangers of a Drunken Dwarf
Barnabus Eisenbauch and ten dwarven workmen have been sent to Balentyne to inspect the watchtower and to refurbish its aging gatehouse. This is not a short-term project. Barnabus and his crew are expecting to work here for years.
There is no space for them in the watchtower, so the dwarves are being quartered in the Lord’s Dalliance Inn. Six days a week at first light, they wake, eat breakfast and trudge up the hill to the watchtower for a hard day’s work.
At night, they return to the Inn to eat, drink an unprecedented amount of ale, chat in dwarven about the tower, and to play dwarven card games no one else in town understands. Such is the life of Eisenbauch’s men. On the seventh day – they just skip straight to the drinking. This is what passes for a dwarven religious ceremony.
Captain Varning’s Rangers
Every week Captain Ryan Varning rides out Balentyne and for four or five days patrols the surrounding hills, shores, roads and byways. He leads a unit of six handpicked guards selected for their skill with horse and bow.
Information was found out from an off-duty ranger who frequents the Lord’s Dalliance. He would not volunteer the information, but bought drinks gets it out of him.
It is not hard to find out that Varning and his patrol are out and about. It is common knowledge in Aldencross that Varning patrols the wilderness. Tracking him is slightly more difficult. Varning always varies his patrol’s route. But he does have a weakness.
Captain Varning likes the camp site known as Freeman’s Rock. It has good ground, fine hunting and a great view of Lake Tarik. Three days after leaving, he reliably camps at Freeman’s Rock.
Garrison food is repetitive and forgettable at best. But once a week Mama Louisa Giuseppe comes to the kitchens of Balentyne and makes her special beef stew. A savory, hearty mixture of beef, wine, onions and herbs harvested from her garden – the stew is always a hit. The guards line up and eagerly wolf down a bowl. 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, she still makes the trek up to Balentyne once a week to make her stew. She does this for no pay. Everyone from the commander on down simply calls her ‘Mama’ – a title that warms her aged heart.
This touching tradition is a unique opportunity to inflict real harm on the garrison.