The Edge of the Knife

Duking It Out, Part 1: Get a Clue

The party was invited, as Nestor’s guests, to a gala held by Duke Alberion. During the party the Duchess was found murdered in her room, drained of blood. The possible perpetrators were quickly narrowed down. The suspects for this heinous crime: the Duke, the Duchess’ friend Katja, and Nestor. The party conducted a thorough investigation, finding small hidden passages in various rooms in the manor and all manner of suspicious evidence. After concluding that it wasn’t likely any of the suspects committed the crime, a scream reverberated through the manor. After rushing to the location of the scream the party found no trace of Katja. Using Sophia’s raven familiar to scout the small bolthole they find that she must have been taken to the cellar. The party is now preparing for an expedition to find just what lies below the Duke’s manor…

The Setup

Shortly after Nestor returns from another day spent trying to gather more information on current happenings in Ashby a liveried courier enters the inn’s common room. After inquiring with the innkeeper, who nods toward the party, the courier approaches.

He addresses the bard, “Good evening. Am I speaking to the esteemed scholar, Nestor?”

“Yes, that would be me.”

“My employer, ah, the Duke and Duchess Alberion would request your presence at a gala recognizing his contributions to the University. As you are a scholar of such regard, my Lord and Lady would be most honored if you were to attend. There shall be a banquet and a display of fireworks. Your…companions…are also invited, assuming they can compose themselves in refined company. I will be back shortly to take your response to the Duke’s invitation. Please discuss the matter with haste,” he finishes before sharply turning about and heading back out the door.

Let the party discuss what they wish to do. Have Nestor remind them that good relations with such a powerful man could not hurt their cause, and it might be good to discuss the current situation with Duke Alberion.

The courier returns to take your response to the duke (and give guidelines for proper decorum. should the party decide to attend).

The party must leave their armor, except the mithral shirt, at the inn and they must don courtier’s clothes and jewelry, rented by Nestor, who announces that there isn’t much money left past lodging expenses and what he needs to maintain the retainer. Each party member can take one weapon of their choice with them to the celebration.

Upon arriving at Duke Alberion’s handsome manor you see that his party is in full swing. Wending your way from the gate through the garden you see that the guests have segregated themselves into groups. By the long table containing hors d’oeuvres and punch are a group of men of obvious military bent. Near the string quartet are the socialites, happily gossiping. A group of uncomfortable looking youngsters, almost assuredly University students, huddle on the opposite side of the dance floor. In the opposite corner of the grounds from the musicians stands a group of stately elves, most likely professors at the University. A well dressed, regal looking man and his lovely wife move between the groups chatting gaily with the guests and putting them at ease. This must be the Duke and Duchess.

Nestor whispers to the party, “Go out there and at least look like you’re having a good time, and mind your manners. I’m going to have a chat with our friend, the Duke.”

Have each party member choose a group to make some small talk with, or just get some food or something. This can either be a test of improv skills or a free pass on RPing.

The Duke walks by the quartet and they bring their current number to a halt with practiced aplomb. He stops on the first landing on the steps to his home and turns to address the guests, “Thank you all very much for attending my little soiree. I hope you have all had your fill of dancing and not your fill of food. It is time for the second part of our festivities: the meal! Please make your way into the dining hall and take a seat. Once everybody has gotten settled we’ll have a speech or two, a few toasts, and then dinner.”

Nestor leans close to the party, who has gathered by this point, and encourages you to spread out among the other guests and make some connections over dinner.

Have the players pick guests to sit by from the groups mentioned above.

You hear but don’t listen to a couple of boring speeches from University faculty about the Duke’s generosity, go through a couple of toasts where you don’t get to drink much booze, and then the covers are taken off a magnificent spread arrayed on the tables. This is luxury!

Have the party do some more chatting with guests as before. Maybe get some dinner at this point…call not larping.

Following the dinner everyone mingles and you see Nestor engaged in lively conversation with the Duke and Duchess. Duke Alberion claps him on the shoulder and moves off to pay attention to other guests. The Duchess starts an earnest conversation with Nestor and leads him out of the dining hall. Not long after this a woman who was pointed out to you as the Lady Katja Sarnin approaches Sophia.

“Excuse me. I noticed that you were affiliated with that delightful Nestor fellow. Do you know where he’s gone?”

If Sophia doesn’t help, have her approach the other party members. If Sophia does help, she hurries off after the bard and the Duchess.

Information on Katja Sarnin (as heard from gossip from the guests):
● She and Ellen (the Duchess) have been friends for ages.
● I heard that Katja and Ellen were competing for the Duke’s affections. Looks like Ellen won that round.
● Oh, she’s a delightful girl. Such a lovely voice, too.
● I’ve heard that Katja practices fencing. That is not the appropriate pastime for a lady of her standing.
● Her father is a long-standing member of the Waldstag. He’s doted on his daughter since his wife died, and Katja is spoiled of it.
● Ellen and Katja had a falling out when the Duke proposed, but of a sudden they were thick as thieves again.

Information on Duchess Ellen Alberion (gossip)
● Ellen comes from one of the lesser houses. She only got where she is because of Katja.
● Her father won his peerage through his service of arms to Nanmor, but died when she was young.
● I hear she’s been taking ill recently and hasn’t quite been feeling herself.
● Her relationship with Katja was strained when Ellen won the Duke’s hand. I’m glad they’ve gotten back to their old selves again.
● Ellen loves to play the piano, and Katja often sings with her. They sound so beautiful together.
chuckling I think Ellen’s marriage to the Duke is about the only thing that she and Katja didn’t do together.

Information on Duke Montren “Monte” Alberion (gossip)
● The Duke is a strong advocate of those flying ships they’ve managed to create. I’d rather keep my feet on the ground.
● I’ve heard that the Duke has been called away from important business because of his wife’s infirmities.
● Monte proposed to Ellen when everyone thought he was going to marry Katja. It came as a shock to everybody, especially poor Katja.
● Montren is a busy man. He is always going between his manor here and his duchy near Laugharne.
● The Duke often leaves Ellen here at the manor while he deals with the machinists in Laugharne. Even when he’s here, he’s often too busy for her.
● Some say they’ve heard the Duke complain of the obligations he has to Ellen, now that he’s married to her. It seems they get in the way of his business dealings.

Some time later, the bard comes back into the hall looking slightly flustered. He approaches Duke Alberion, and the Duke’s face darkens. He excuses himself from the conversation and hurries off toward the part of the manor Nestor, the Duchess, and Katja disappeared to.

The bard rounds up the party and tells you that the Duchess wasn’t feeling well and decided to lie down. As he tells you this the Duke dashes into the dining hall and starts shouting orders.

“Have the guards seal the grounds! No one is to leave!”

He then drops to his knees and wails, “She’s dead!”

At that moment, Katja runs into the room as well, tears running down her cheeks and shouting, “It’s Ellen, she’s…she’s dead!”

She sees the Duke and runs over to him, daintily lifting her skirts, then squatting next to him, her arm around his shoulder.

The guests start talking furiously amongst themselves. Duke Alberion stands up after finally composing himself and starts around the room, talking to the guests. After he gets done talking with the majority of the guests, he has most of them go sit back down at the tables. He finally walks to the front of the room and announces, “As you may have surmised, my wife is dead. I found her on her bed, with a puncture wound in her throat that must have been the cause of her demise. The murderer could only have been one of those present…” He raises his hands to silence the rush of noise from those assembled, “…and furthermore, could only have been someone she would have trusted alone with her, else some of the staff would have heard something. In talking with you, I can determine that all those currently seated have foolproof alibis. This leaves Nestor and Katja as the two who could possibly be guilty.”

Nestor interrupts, “Without intending disrespect my Lord, I believe you may not have considered all of the possibilities. If I may bring this up, you do not have an alibi either. If we are to make a fair investigation of this, we must investigate and acquit you as well. I would like to suggest that we have my companions, whom you have determined could not be implicated in this, conduct a thorough investigation. I have reason to believe that they will be impartial, as they would, to a man, almost certainly leave me to my fate if it suited them or if I were found guilty of wrongdoing.”

The Investigation

Available to be interviewed are Nestor, Katja, the Duke and a servant who was nearby. The players will need to ask about other witnesses to find out about the servant.

The Duchess’ Room:

The Duchess’ room is a luxuriously appointed bedroom with a four poster bed and rich mahogany paneling. The carpet is thick and plush. A heavy wooden desk sits on the opposite side of the room as the bed. Lining the walls are two large wardrobes, a vanity with a large mirror, a triptych of oil paintings and a plaque that holds a rapier. There is also a large blank expanse of wall near the head of the bed that is actually a well-concealed closet door.

Nestor’s testimony:

I went back with the Duchess to her room to examine some old records she had found. She wanted to know when they were from and what context they had. They appeared to be minutes for Waldstag meetings from several centuries ago. They were really quite fascin…ah, yes, the crime. We looked over these for some time and Lady Katja joined us. Lady Katja then left the room to take care of some business that I’m sure she doesn’t wish us to discuss. The Duchess then announced that she wasn’t feeling well and was going to lie down, so I excused myself and went back to the dining hall to let the Duke know that his wife had taken ill.

If asked about why he was so flustered:

I got lost on the way back from the Duchess’ room and felt like a fool when I accidentally opened a door to the maids’ quarters.

Katja’s testimony:

I went back to Ellen’s room after [Mr/Ms Character who helped her] told me where she’d gone. I saw her and Nestor with their heads together over some old books. I joined them, though it didn’t make much sense to me. We talked a bit between ourselves, but I don’t think Nestor ever noticed it, even when we talked about him. When I told Ellen how adorable it was that he got so worked up over these books,” Katja blushes, “she suggested that I make a move. It looked like she was about to say something to him about it, so I made an excuse to get out of there quickly. I came back to apologize to them for leaving so abruptly when I saw the Duke standing at the door to the room with an ashen face. I looked in the room and…” she starts tearing up, “saw Ellen on the bed, dead.” She starts sobbing in earnest.

Duke Alberion’s (Montren, Monte) testimony:

After Nestor let me know that Ellen wasn’t feeling well I went to check on her. She had been having the oddest spells of weakness lately, as though she was anemic, which was why I was so concerned. I hurried back to her room, and got there at the same time as Lady Sarnin. I opened the door and we saw Ellen lying on her bed motionless. I then came here to report what had happened.

A servant’s testimony:

There was a good bit of activity around the Duchess’ room. I was careful to stay out of the way while I was doing the laundry so as not to interfere. I heard her door open and close, let me think, four or five times, and I heard that odd fellow say, “Oops, wrong door.” not long before all of the commotion.

At the scene of the crime there is:
● The Duchess on her bed in her nightclothes with a puncture wound in her throat. She is in her nightclothes because she decided to lie down, in accordance with Nestor’s story.
● A rapier in an ornate display plaque on the wall. The rapier handle appears highly polished, with no obvious prints or smudges. The tip of the blade appears to have been wiped with something.
● A noticeable absence of blood. Small, partially healed cuts are visible around her wrists, elbows, and the backs of her knees.
● Small depressions in the plush carpet near the side of the bed her body is on. Apparently partial footprints, though too small to be a man’s. More such depressions, including larger ones, are near the desk on the other side of the room.
● Shallow scrape marks on the both the wood paneling on the closet door near the head of the bed and the bedpost nearby. They look like shallow gouges where claws attempted to climb the bedpost and open the closet door. More scrapes are inside the closet if they look inside.

Allow the party to discuss the mystery and try to pinpoint a suspect.

If they think it’s Katja, find some way to get her alone. Use Nestor to try to convince the party to put her in a room, under guard.

If they don’t think it’s Katja, simply have her wander away at some point. Regardless, use the next bit.

You hear a blood-curdling scream that is suddenly silenced. It’s a woman’s voice. As you head toward the location you believe it came from, you run into several other people investigating the scream.

Katja under guard:

You throw open the door to the room where Katja is being guarded, and as you suspected it is empty.

Katja free:

You can’t figure out which room the scream came from, but everybody has shown up now. You take inventory of who is here, and find that Katja has gone missing.

In the room where she disappeared:

In the room that Katja likely disappeared from you find nothing but some more of those curious scrapes on the wall. After fiddling with that section of the wall, you manage to swing a well hidden door open. It’s too small for all but the slimmest of you to fit through. It appears to go down into some dark depths beneath the manor.

If the party takes too long to investigate the cellar, have more people (unimportant NPCs, party guests, servants, etc.) disappear mysteriously.

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