Remove these ads. Join the Worldbuilders Guild

Iron and Roses

by Joan Besch
Levels: 2-4  

Synopsis

The party has been walking for weeks on the road to Ensign at the heart of the Arcane Empire of Duras. They’re at least two weeks from their destination and it’s been nearly a week since they’ve seen any sign of civilization. When they find themselves passing by a comely little cottage it promises what may be the last reprieve from the loneliness of the road until they reach the capital. What they find inside will set them on an adventure of discovery and fateful choices.  

Adventure Hook

The characters are wandering adventurers and have found themselves presented with an unexpected blessing in the shape of one last opportunity to resupply and perhaps even share the evening with kind strangers and a cask of ale.  

Adventure Background

The cottage is positively idyllic and just large enough to support a small, comfortable family. The land on which the cottage rests is some of the most bountiful that the characters have ever seen and there’s no reason to suspect that the family living there doesn’t have more than enough to share.   Dramatis Personae
Lilly: A young, cait sidhe girl.
Ulric von Vichstaag: A human Inquisitor of the Vennican Order.
Elsha: A glaistig shepherdess.
Hibble: A house hobbe.
Siobhan: An aos sidhe baroness. Pronounced “shiv-awn”
Annaleigh: A young, aos sidhe girl and best friend of Lilly. Pronounced “anna-lee”
 

Chapter 1 - The Cottage

Read of paraphrase the following:  
After weeks upon the road to Ensign, and with weeks more still ahead, you’ve grown tired and your supplies have begun to thin. For the past several hours, you’ve begun to notice that the forest around you has thickened, the trees reaching higher and the grass sprawling more verdant than you’ve ever seen. Deer watch you placidly from beside gentle streams and the bushes practically groan with the burden of their fruit.

It’s little surprise when you come across a handsome little cottage just off the road - surrounded by a carefully manicured ring of roses in place of a fence and linked to the thoroughfare by a delicate, cobbled path that passes through an arch of climbing ivy to approach the front door.
  Try to tempt the players into approaching the cottage of their own volition, but if they choose to walk away announce a blood curdling scream from inside.

When the players go to inspect the cottage, they find that the front door is unlocked. It swings open to reveal a trail of old, half-dried blood smeared from the entrance back around the corner of the small building’s only wall.

When the players follow the blood trail, read of paraphrase the following:  
Two bodies lay strewn across the floor of the kitchen - a man and a woman, both elven at first glance, dressed in simple clothes stained crimson by the ragged gash torn across each of their throats. Between them crouches a young, siamese kitten no more than a few months old who glowers at you from behind her blue, blue eyes.
  The kitten will hiss at the characters if they attempt to approach or investigate but can be calmed with a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check. If this check fails but is attempted again, the DC becomes 5. Once the kitten has been calmed down, the players can read her collar, “Lilly” (CN cat). Once she has been calmed, she refuses to be separated from the first person to successfully pass her Animal Handling check and will do anything she can to return to that character if forced apart.

Any Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals a bloodied bootprint in the smeared gore. A DC 10 Intelligence (Investigation) check also reveals that the edges of the dead man and woman’s wounds are ragged, as if cut by something dull, and burned, as if the knife were glowing-hot when used.

A DC 5 Intelligence (Nature) check reveals that the bodies are at most a day old. Whoever was responsible could still be caught and brought to justice.   Moreover, a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals that the man and woman are not elves - or, at least, not simple elves. Their skin boasts a striped pattern underneath the blood, almost invisible but plain to see once its presence has been discovered.

Do not offer it, but if the players attempt an Intelligence (Nature) check to determine the deceased couple’s race, a DC 25 roll reveals that the couple are some variety of Sidhe - denizens of faerie. A DC 15 Intelligence (History) check reveals that the Sidhe are descendents of Titania who make their home in the Summerlands of Faerie, not the material plane.

The house itself contains more than enough basic supplies to meet the characters’ needs but does not hold anything of particular value other than the sentimental - a hand stitched quilt, a well worn teddy bear, and a few toys fashioned from leather and bird feathers.

Once the players have looted their fill, remind them that the trail is not yet cold. They could potentially still find the murderer and bring this young couple the justice they deserve.

A DC 5 Wisdom (Survival) check allows the players to follow the trail deeper into the woods.  

The Glaistig

The players have been following the murderer’s trail for hours and the sun has already begun to set, placing the forest into a rapidly deepening darkness as the last rays of light struggle to penetrate the dense canopy.

Just as they should probably begin questioning the wisdom of pursuing a killer through a darkened wood, they hear a woman’s scream from nearby.

When the players approach the scream, read or paraphrase the following:  
A woman kneels on the forest floor, tears staining her cheeks and blood staining the green linen of her shepherdess’ dress as she struggles in vain against the jaw trap latched tight around her right ankle.

“Oh gods,” she whimpers, fighting with increasing panic against the device with hands wrapped up in the dark blue gingham of her cloak, “Oh gods, oh gods, oh all the gods…”

It’s only then that she notices you, terror and hope warring behind her seaglass green eyes as she rakes a lock of golden hair back from her face. “Help me!” She begs, dipping two hands into the folds of her cloak and producing two fistfuls of glittering, golden coins. “I’ll give you anything. All the gold you want. Anything!” She repeats frantically, throwing the coins towards your feet and reach for a second handful from within the shadows of her simple robes and letting it pour between her fingers. “Please! Help me!”
  If the player Lilly has bonded to approaches the woman, Lilly hisses a warning.

The players can interact with Elsha (NG Glaistig commoner) as they see fit. She will tell them anything she thinks they want to hear in order to be set free.

Her story is that she is a simple shepherdess out searching for a lost lamb when she accidentally set off this bear trap. It’s a reasonable excuse because, save for the fortune in gold coins she appears to be carrying, she does look the part.

Do not offer it, but a DC 20 Intelligence check reveals that the coins are not actually coins at all but particularly crafty illusions cast over river stones, dry leaves, and mushroom caps.

If viewed through Detect Magic, Elsha is revealed to be covered in an illusion.

A passive perception of 15 (or a DC 15 Wisdom (perception) check) reveals that Elsha’s flesh is burning around the teeth of the trap, much like the wounds on the murdered couple (if the players detected that).

Should the players elect to free Elsha, a DC 18 Strength check is required.

As soon as the players have freed Elsha, or whenever the conversation warrants it, read or paraphrase the following:  
The trapped woman opens her mouth to speak, but the only sound she makes is a quiet “urk.” Slowly, she turns her face down to the slowly blossoming stain of blood spreading out from the delicate point of a crossbow bolt jutting from her breast.

Then, she begins to scream.

Wild with pain, she scrabbles at the bolt and where her bare hands touch the metal tip the smell of burning meat and boiling blood roil out into the crisp, clean night air.
  Give each player one round of action as Elsha tries in vain to pull the crossbow bolt from her chest. If the players attempt to remove the bolt for her, it is revealed to to have iron barbs that will only make the damage worse. If the players attempt to heal Elsha, the spells have no effect as she is currently still being wounded by iron.

After one full round of actions, Elsha falls still and silent, finally dead.  
The bloodied, back-bent legs of a goat jut from beneath Elsha’s skirts and the fur-tufted tips of her ears peek through the golden river of her hair. Even as she lays dead, her blood still simmers quietly against the crossbow bolt as if the cold metal were red hot and the coins she promised have vanished, replaced with polished river stones, dry leaves, and mushroom caps.
  Whichever player has the highest Passive Perception score (or whoever rolls highest on a Wisdom (perception) check) spots a shadowy figure dashing away and vanishing deeper into the woods - Ulric von Vicstaag (LE human Warlock of the Arch Fey).

The party may attempt to track the figure using a DC 15 Wisdom (Survival) roll. If the players lose track of Ulric von Vicstaag and cannot pick up the trail again, Lilly will hop down and lead them the rest of the way.  

Chapter 2 - The Beinn

As the characters approach the end of the trail, read or paraphrase the following:  
The smell of wild roses and loam hangs thick in the air, mingled with ash as you emerge into a small clearing of moonlit grass. A ring of delicate, white mushroom caps punctuate the edge of the clearing, surrounding a great oak tree easily as broad as two men with arms outstretched. At the center of that ancient tree is an intricately carved wooden door, pushed in ajar just enough to reveal a marble hallway lined with delicate tapestries beyond.
  A Passive Perception of 14 (or a DC 14 Wisdom (perception) check) reveals that several of the mushrooms directly in the path that the group follows appear to have been broken and burned.

If the players do not move towards the entrance, Lilly will hop down and head directly for the door.   Navigating the Beinn
There is no map for the faerie beinn. It is a constantly shifting, magical architecture that is actively working to confuse an invasion and as such each door the party takes could lead them somewhere else altogether.

Once the players have entered the main hallway, begin an invasion counter, starting at 0. Each time the players enter a room, the counter increases by 1. If the players lost track of Ulric on the way to the Beinn, increase the counter by 1.

There are six doors for them to choose from in the hallway. The actual door doesn’t matter. When they have selected a door, roll 1d6 and check the result against the below table. That is the room the players enter. Once the invasion counter reaches 6, the players automatically enter the Master’s Quarters.  
1d6Beinn Room
1The Great Hall
2The Kitchens
3The Servants’ Quarters
4The Armory
5The Throne Room
6The Master’s Quarters
  If the players enter a room with a number less than the invasion counter, the inhabitants of that room are dead. For example, if the invasion counter is 3 and the party enters The Kitchens, the hobbes hiding there have been slaughtered.

Once the players have entered a room, the tapestries in the hallway change while no one is looking. The character with the highest passive perception (or any character who attempts a Wisdom (perception) roll) will notice that the images depicted in the tapestries are growing more and more dire as the invasion counter increases - showing scenes of dead and dying faeries and a figure in a cloak, wielding a black sword growing larger and more menacing each time they enter the hall.

Once the invasion counter reaches 6, the party automatically enters The Master’s Quarters.  

The Great Hall

When the players enter the Great Hall, read or paraphrase the following:  
A grand table stretches the length of this resplendent hallway, easily two dozen seats long and polished to a mirror’s sheen. The floor is carpeted with a soft, lush grass obviously intended to be tread with bare feet and the walls are engraved with scenes of great battles and triumphant heroes all overseen by a tall, slender man and woman in delicate crowns who observe implacably.
  If the players arrive here before Ulric, there are six fae nobles (use the nobles from the Monster Manual) who will immediately attack the mortals who have invaded their territory - unless the party has Hibble.

If the party has Hibble and the nobles are still alive, Hibble will convince the nobles to flee the beinn without a fight.

If the players arrive after Ulric, the nobles are dead, scattered around the room with more ragged, burning wounds.  

The Kitchens

When the players enter the Kitchens, read of paraphrase the following:  
A sea of well-worn, wooden countertops and cutlery that gleams too brightly to be steel surrounds you on all sides. The smell of roasted venison and porkbelly are thick in the air, mingling with the scents of rosemary, sage, and roasted vegetables to create a mouthwatering aroma.
  If the players arrive before Ulric, there are four hobbes (small creatures a little shorter than gnomes with rounder middles and longer limbs, hair like tufts of dandelion fluff and ears like a donkey’s). These hobbes will not attack the players but will panic and attempt to escape. A DC 10 Charisma (persuasion) check will stop one of the hobbes - Hibble (LG hobbe commoner).

If the players arrive after the invasion counter reaches 2 and have not already encountered Hibble (see The Servant’s Quarters)three of the hobbes are dead but a DC 15 Wisdom (perception) check (or a passive perception score of the same value) reveals a hobbe cowering in a cupboard - Hibble. A DC 10 Charisma (persuasion) check will convince Hibble that the characters are not his enemies.

If the players manage to calm Hibble, he agrees to help them find Ulric and save the beinn. With Hibble to guide them, the players can go to any room they wish without need for a roll. The invasion counter continues to increase as normal.

A successful DC 10 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals a jar of Samhradh Berry jam. This jam acts as a potion and has 4 charges. A character may consume a charge to gain Detect Magic and Detect Invisibility as per the spells but gains 1 level of exhaustion once the effect has ended.  

The Servants’ Quarters

You find yourself in a narrow hallway with a half dozen arches on either side blocked not by doors but curtains of ivy and climbing roses just thick enough to obscure what lies beyond. The floor is simpler here - well worn wood, kept fastidious - and the walls themselves seem as though they’ve been carved directly from soft earth.
  If the party arrives before the invasion counter reaches 3, a Displacer Beast lurks behind one of the curtains prepared to ambush the party. If the party arrives after Ulric, the displacer beast is already dead in the middle of the hallway.

If the party decides to peek behind the curtains, each hides a tidy little room with a bed, a desk, a closet, all illuminated by a single, colorful dancing light as the spell Dancing Lights.   If the party arrives before the invasion counter reaches 3 and have not already found Hibble (see The Kitchens), a successful DC 10 Investigation check reveals a hobbe cowering in a closet - Hibble (LG hobbe commoner). A DC 10 Charisma (persuasion) check will convince Hibble that the characters are not his enemies.

If the players manage to calm Hibble, he agrees to help them find Ulric and save the beinn. With Hibble to guide them, the players can go to any room they wish without need for a roll. The invasion counter continues to increase as normal.  

The Armory

When the characters enter the Armory, read or paraphrase the following:  
Gleaming armor of ornate plate inlaid with gold and engraved with delicate filigree rests within glass cases, alongside spears and arrows, their heads too bright to be steel and polished to a mirror’s sheen. Swords with blades of glass begin to sing softly in the back of your mind if you stare too long at them and bows carved from wood inlaid with pulsing, liquid gold hang upon the walls beckoning, begging to be wielded.
  If the players arrive in the armory before the invasion counter reaches 4, there is a daoine sidhe (LG sidhe Knight) preparing for battle who will immediately attack the mortal invaders - unless the party also has Hibble.

If the party has Hibble and the Knight is still alive, Hibble will intervene and convince the Knight to search elsewhere in the Beinn for the real invader.

If they arrive after Ulric, the knight is already dead and her armor and weapons have gone dull and useless.

If the players attempt to take anything from the armory, they are zapped by warding spells for 1d4+1 force damage. These wards cannot be disarmed but can be dispelled using the Dispel Magic spell with a DC 16 spellcasting ability check. If anyone who is not fae attempts to wear or wield the armor or weapons they immediately lose their luster and become worthless.  

The Throne Room

When the characters enter the throne room, check the invasion counter.   If the invasion counter is less than 5, read or paraphrase the following:  
At the end of a long, marbled parlor lined with pillars of climbing roses and a central walkway of lush, green grass sits a woman upon a simple, unadorned, wooden chair. A river of golden locks tumbling over her shoulder to match the shining silk of her sleeveless gown, she cants her head to one side lifts a hand to beckon you forth with an expression of profound resignation on her captivating face.

“Come closer.” She bids and her voice is like a song, hanging in the air for a heartbeat longer than it has any right to, “Grant me at least the honor of seeing the faces of those mortals who would unmake my home before you send me off to join my slaughtered people.”
  If the invasion counter is 5 or greater, read or paraphrase the following:  
At the end of a long, marbled parlor lined with pillars of climbing roses and a central walkway of lush, green grass sits a woman upon a simple, unadorned, wooden chair. A river of golden locks tumbling over her shoulder to match the shining silk of her sleeveless gown, she slumps in her seat, one arm limp at her side and the other hand still clutching at the shaft of the spear impaled through her chest.

“My-” she falters, coughing blood onto the marble. “My daughter. S-save my daughter.”

And with that, she falls still.
  A DC 5 Wisdom (medicine) check reveals that Baroness Siobhan (NG aos sidhe noble) is still alive. The party can save her if they remove the spear and heal her for 25 points of healing. If they do not, she dies.

Regardless of whether or not Siobhan survives here, have Lilly interact with the scene. She knows Siobhan as the mother of her best friend. If Siobhan is dead, the kitten will mourn her and if she lives Lilly will hop into her lap and purr to comfort her. Be creative with Lilly and how you use her here.

If Siobhan is still alive when the party arrives, or if they save her, she is willing to share what information she can with the mortals if it means they will stop Ulric.

Ulric von Vichstaag is well known among the fae of Emeriss. A warlock who takes his power from the blood of slain fae monarchs, he has been systematically hunting down and destroying the beinns - footholds and bridges between the mortal world and the Summerland of the feywild.

He attacks from the shadows with traps and iron and in recent years he has become a boogeyman to the fae. As far as anyone can tell, his only goal seems to be the total eradication of the fae from Emeriss and the dissolution of the beinns that would allow more fae to return in their place.

Siobhan’s chief concern now is the safety of her daughter, Annaleigh, who has been secreted away in the master’s chambers where hopefully Ulric will not be able to reach her. If the characters can save Annaleigh and stop Ulric before he destroys the beinn, Siobhan promises them 50 gold each, a single weapon from her armory, and a favor owed by the Summerland fae.

If the party attempts to leave Lilly behind she will sneak off after them.  

The Master’s Quarters

When the players enter the Master’s Quarters, set the invasion counter to 6 and read or paraphrase the following:  
You find yourselves standing in a garden of roses, mottled red and white beneath a dark sky absolutely resplendent with stars. A small creek giggles beside the loosely stoned walkway and the smell of loam hangs thick in the air, mingling with the rosy perfume to create a scent that conjures memories of open fields in the earliest hours of night, still cooling from the summer sun.

It bids you set aside your worries, abandon you fears, and relax among the flowers - to rest and let the world tend to itself for a time.

The raw magic of this place creeps slowly, persistently, into the back of your mind and for the barest moment you feel as though you might give in, were it not for a muffled scream deeper into the gardens.
  Let the players decide how they want to proceed but when they follow the scream read or paraphrase the following:  
You round the corner to find a girl, no older than thirteen, cowering beneath the thorny branches of a rosebush. Her hair flows like gold over slender shoulders and a splotch of crimson stains her tunic where she clutches an arm to her chest. Eyes wide, she stares up at the man looming above her and simpers.

He is a tall man, broad shouldered beneath his long coat and the sword in his hand gleams dully as it swings time and again for the child, only to be intercepted by the reaching branches of the rosebush. It’s a sound defense, but with each blow of that grim blade the bush grows thinner, it’s branches moving that much slower.

From her place among you, Lilly looses an ear-piercing yowl that causes the human to pause, mid-swing. Lilly is still hissing wildly as the man turns to face you.

His jaw is solid and dark with stubble that only partially obscures the lacework of scars that criss-cross his otherwise handsome face. With harrowingly blue eyes, he sizes you up implacably and at last nods, asking, “Are you here to help or hinder?”
  If the party allows him to talk, Ulrich (LE Warlock of the Archfey)will offer them 50 gold pieces each to simply walk away and a favor owed by the Vennican Inquisition if the characters will assist him in burning the beinn to the ground.   The value of a favor from the Vennican Order should be played up aggressively here. The Order is home to some of the most powerful sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards in all of Emeriss and could provide the players with a considerable boon should they choose to accept it.   Ulric will explain his own motivations, too, if allowed. At the root of things, the fey are not natural, even by the standards of a world where powerful magics and capricious gods exist openly. They are the children of Titania, who bought her power from the Crossroads at the cost of mortal suffering. Their very existence, in Ulrich’s mind, poses an imminent threat to not only humanity but to all the mortal races.   If the party accepts Ulric’s offer, Lilly flees into the garden. Proceed to The Burning Beinn.   If the party refuses Ulric’s offer, he attacks. If the characters defeat Ulrich, proceed to The Rescued Beinn.  

The Burning Beinn

Read or paraphrase the following:  
You stand in the clearing outside the beinn, watching as the flames lick higher and higher up the ancient tree. The stink of ash and smoke has all but banished the scent of roses and loam that filled this clearing upon your arrival and the crackling of the flames almost obscures the screams echoing from inside the hill.

Eyeing his work with grim satisfaction, Ulrich reaches into the pocket of his coat and produces from therein a hefty pouch that practically groans with the weight of coins. Illuminated by the firelight, he offers you the pouch. “Your gold.” He nods towards the sack of coins, “And a promise that your names will be spread among the Vennican Dominion. Ask for me when you decide to call due that favor.”

“For now, I hear there’s a hollow hill up near Ashover.” Tugging up the collar of his coat, Ulrich turns to begin walking away and into the dark of the night. “Good fortunes out there, adventurers.”
  Proceed to Rewards.  

The Rescued Beinn

Once the players have defeated Ulrich, read or paraphrase the following:  
No sooner has Ulrich struck the ground than Lilly darts towards where the child huddles in the bushes. But, by the time she reaches the frightened girl the kitten is gone, replaced by a second girl, with hair the color of ash, streaked with black and gray. Heedless of how the thorns catch and tear at her tunic, she crawls towards the first girl, calling out, “Annaleigh!”

“L-Lilly?” The blonde girl blinks at her, the branches of her protective roses peeling back as the two girls embrace. “What- what are you doing here?”

“I came with them.” Lilly replies, wiping at her tear-stained cheeks with the back of one hand before using it to point at you. “They saved us, Annaleigh. They saved the whole beinn!”

Doing her best to school the fear and shock from her face, and not entirely succeeding, Annaleigh climbs to her feet and turns towards you. “The whole beinn?” She asks, hope glittering behind her too-blue eyes. “So, my mother…?”
  Allow the party to interact freely at this point. If the characters haven’t met Siobhan yet, look to The Throne Room for a description of how the baroness is wounded and how the party can save her.   If Siobhan survives the assault on the beinn, she will keep her word granting the characters 50 gold pieces each, stamped with the seal of the Summerland - a castle with two trees for towers on one side and a woman’s face in silhouette on the other. She will also take the party to the armory where they can select a single weapon from the stores. This is a silver simple or martial weapon of whatever type they choose and enchanted with +1. Lastly, Siobhan offers the characters her blessing to travel her lands as her personal guests and promises to grant them a favor at a later date.   If Siobhan does not survive the assault on the beinn, read or paraphrase the following:  
With tears streaming down her cheeks, Annaleigh approaches the humble throne. But, before she can sit, Lilly catches her by the wrist, raw pleading in her eyes as she whispers, “Annaleigh, don’t.”

The blonde child’s lip quivers as she shakes her head. “I have to.” She insists, gently pulling herself free of Lilly’s grip, “Without a ruler, the beinn will go fallow. Everyone who’s left will die or be stranded in the mortal world forever.”

“Who says that ruler has to be you?” Lilly begs, but from the slump in her shoulders it is obvious she knows this battle is already lost. “If you sit on that throne, you’ll be trapped here forever.”

Annaleigh swallows hard. “Not forever.” She replies, lowering herself as decorously as a girl can, “Only until I have a successor.”

Dancing balls of light spring to life throughout the hall as Annaleigh’s weight settles onto the throne and the smell of roses and loam rises into the air - rich as honey and trembling with magic. “It’s what mother would have wanted.” The child announces, choking back a fresh sob.

“Fine.” Lilly replies, defiantly as she moves towards the throne, “Then I’m staying, too.”

As a lithe, siamese kitten settles into Annaleigh’s lap, the new baroness turns her face towards you and the sudden gravity of her gaze is like a physical blow. “You’ve done this beinn a great service, mortals.” she announces and the weight of her approval is nearly enough to force you to your knees. “I would see you rewarded.”
  Much as her mother would have done, Annaleigh grants the characters 50 gold pieces each, stamped with the seal of the Summerland - a castle with two trees for towers on one side and a woman’s face in silhouette on the other. She will also take the party to the armory where they can select a single weapon from the stores. This is a silver simple or martial weapon of whatever type they choose and enchanted with +1. Lastly, Annaleigh offers the characters her blessing to travel her lands as her personal guests and promises to grant them a favor at a later date.  

Rewards


Beyond the rewards already laid out based on the conclusion of the story, the characters also gain the following xp.

XP Rewards
Add the total XP of creatures defeated by the party, then divide by the number of characters to determine individual rewards.
Obstacle/Foe XP
Fae Noble 25
Fae Knight 700
Displacer Beast 700
Ulrich von Vichstaag 1100
  Non-Combat Rewards  
Task/Accomplishment XP per Character
Recruited Hibble 25
Saved Baroness Siobahn 100
Burned the Beinn 100
 

About the Author

Joan Besch is a dancer, writer, and gamer from Dallas, Texas with a love for all things fae. She was a professional GM for over a decade and has recently returned to the fold for 5e Dungeons and Dragons, where she can be found spinning worlds out of the aether, inventing whole new games, and generally being a just colossal dork.


Remove these ads. Join the Worldbuilders Guild

Comments

Please Login in order to comment!