Way of the Wicked
There are twenty locations of note within the town of Aldencross.
1. Town Center
This is Aldencross’ hub. It is where the King’s Road turns and crosses with a fisherman’s trail. The roads heads out of town west and runs all the way to Farholde. The road heads south before turning east and following the Tyburn river, travelling all the way to Estyllis and the sea. The northern road heads out of town to the lake and the eastern road travels only a mile before reaching Balentyne and the dwarven bridge. In the center of town is a great statue of a knight on a horse. This is a statue of Markadian I called the Victor. The statue is unusual because such statues usually depict the Victor in armor, perhaps even charging into battle. Here the Victor is depicted out of his armor, in fine garb, riding his horse and looking dreamingly to the north. There is an inscription “Till all Talingarde is Free”. The town center is usually a large empty circle. However on market days, this town center fills with merchants’ stalls. Having a stall in the town center (as opposed to the outlying greens) is a great privilege usually given only to well-established local merchants.
2. The Lord’s Dalliance Inn
Aldencross’ most famous (and infamous) inn is the only establishment that caters to travelers. On market days, it is impossible to get rooms here. Run by Bellam Barhold, the place is as much a town institution as it is regarded as a civic embarrassment. The Lord’s Dalliance was once a brothel. Everyone in town knows that. What many don’t realize (or rather choose not realize) is that the Lord’s Dalliance still does a fairly brisk trade in the world’s oldest profession. In a border town with this many bored soldiers and visiting merchants, how could it not? The local reeve mostly ignores these complaints, but equally rigorously clamps down if the trade expands anywhere but the Lord’s Dalliance. Having one oasis of sin keeps the soldiery from getting restless. Having two could start to change the character of Aldencross and the reeve and most townsfolk certainly don’t want that. Once you can get past the more lascivious exploits of the Dalliance, the Inn is actually a comfortable place to stay. Bellam and his wife, Alicia, serve quality food and the rooms are clean and comfortable.
3. Town Hall
This large building located right off the town center is built on the original foundation of the Alden’s Cross Inn that was the first building in this town. This is well known. What is less well known is that inn’s old basement still exists. On the bottom floor of the town hall is a small chamber in the back (little more than a closet). The closet is currently filled with carefully stacked old furniture and bric-a-brac. If emptied, there is a hidden trap door in the floor. The trap door is neither locked nor trapped and leads into the basement. Mostly, the basement is also filled with junk. However hidden down there is a case of whiskey that was stored in a small box that magically preserves anything stored inside. This three hundred year old whiskey of St. Alden’s Mash is utterly unique and worth 100 gp a bottle to collectors in a larger city ( Farholde or Ghastenhall for example). There are twelve bottles in the case. Other than that, this town hall is little more than a large open area and a few offices used by the reeve for official business. There is nothing of value or interest there.
4. Vallison Manor
This large estate is the home of Dominik Vallison, village reeve and one of the wealthier merchants in town. He owns both the general store and the mill. Dominik himself is an educated man who went to Ghastenhall to be educated and then returned to run the family business. His time in Ghastenhall cultured Dominik and though he loves his home, he also appreciates that it is a borderlands backwater. Dominik thus craves cultured company and if anyone noble or learned visits town, it is likely that Dominik will invite them to dinner at his manor. Dominik thus represents an opportunity. Dominik is an important man in Aldencross who is well known both in town and at the watchtower. As part of his duty as reeve, he is expected to report important events to the Lord Commander. Thus, Dominik is the only civilian in town who can go to the Watchtower, demand to enter and be granted more or less total access on the pretense of going to meet the Lord-Commander or doing the Lord-Commander’s bidding. Dominik is a handsome middle-aged dandy who always wears fine clothing and a masterwork rapier. Though he looks like a noble, he is in fact not. He is simply a very wealthy and well-connected man. However, for all of his airs, Dominik is still a loyal Talirean and worshipper of Mitra.
5. The Giuseppe House
This is the humble cottage of Mama Louisa Giuseppe. The kindly old woman is both a town fixture and practically an institution. She is either here, at Balentyne feeding the soldiers, gossiping about town or in the nearby Church of St. Alden. She has a large flower garden in her back yard and supports herself selling these flowers during markets. However, thanks to the help of the church and the gratitude of the soldiers, she actually needs very little money to carry on. She lives alone and has little of value, other than her recipe for the greatest Beef Stew the town has ever tasted.
6. The Church of St. Alden
This is Aldencross’ local Mitra church. This small country church has been rebuilt only twenty years ago after a fire but is built on ancient foundations. The caretaker of the church, Brother Justin of Travismere is not a spellcaster. Instead, he is imply a humble devotee of Mitra, well-skilled at keeping the place in fine working order. The real authority at this church is Father Donnagin, the chaplain of Balentyne. Brother Justin is frankly in awe of the man and defers to him on all matters of any real substance. Still, Father Donnagin is rarely at the church save on holy days. The duties of the watchtower simply keep him too busy.
This is the old town graveyard behind the Church of St. Alden. This graveyard is one of the oldest parts of the town and has graves dating from over three hundred years ago (when the first inn was founded). Of course, with such an old graveyard, there are rumors that the graveyard is haunted. This rumor is untrue. Father Donnagin would have noticed any undead and dealt with them long ago. However, the graveyard is home to a fey named Giggling Jenny. Jenny is typical fey prankster, but is unique that she helps maintain the cemetery and church. It is not that Giggling Jenny reveres Mitra. It is that the caretaker, Brother Justin, puts out bacon and milk every few days. Jenny feasts on the treats and repays the lay priests kindness by doing minor bits of magical legerdemain to keep the place in fine shape.
8. The Mott House
9. Town Market
This large sparse grove of tree is the location of the town market every quarter. The trees are not so dense that they don’t allow stalls and tents to be set up and yet their overhanging branches provide shade during the hotter months and natural places to hang goods to display for sale. These markets are the social centers of town and they are always attended by just about everyone. When the market is in town, this usually quiet picnic spot transforms in a bustling place of commerce. Farmers and merchants peddle their produce and products. Visiting tinkers and trash peddlers hawk all manner of wares. Snake oil salesmen make outrageous claims about their potions. And the smell of food stalls fills the whole area with the smell of roast chicken and toasted nuts.
10. The Illuminated Scroll
A small farming village may not seems like a natural place for a sage and scribe to set up shop, and yet Mister Jacobian Scaramore manages to make a living here. He serves as the town’s scribe, accountant, hedge mage and resident expert on matters of law. The truth of course is that Jacobian is a disgraced lawyer and hedge wizard from Matharyn. He was involved in a scandal involving a romantic relationship with a male priest of Mitra. While neither technically violated either the law or the ordinances of Mitra, it ruined both their careers and Jacobian moved to the Borderlands looking for work.
11. Master Caldwin’s Cauldron
This is the town alchemist shop. It carries a surprisingly large range of potions and alchemical concoction. The alchemist keeps a decent selection of potions in stock and can manufacture about anything else visitors desire in a few days. The owner of the shop, Teryth Caldwin, is a bookish fellow who has recently moved to town. Though a respected member of the community whose cures have proven very useful, he is also regarded as an odd bird and generally given a wide birth. The truth is that Teryth has a secret project he is working on, one that would shock the common citizenry if they knew about it.
12. VonKraig Smithy
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.
13. A Stone Watch Tower
This small stone watchtower is manned by four soldiers at all times. There is, in the top of the tower, a large iron bell that can warn the citizenry in times of attack on the watchtower or in times of crisis. There is a simple code of bell strikes that can communicate whether the townsfolk need to evacuate or whether the townfolk instead need help from the watchtower. Learning this code is not too difficult as all the guards know it. If the right signal were given at the proper moment when the watchtower was not under siege, then a Captain and twenty men would come from the watchtower to check out the call. This could be done to weaken the defenses of the tower.
14. A General Store
This is a small country general store run by the Morganstern family. It carries most normal equipment that adventurers would typically need (such as rope, tools, backpacks, etc.) What it does not carry is any sort of weapons or armor.
15. Timon Meadery
The forests near the town hold not only deer and fowl. They are also home to many colonies of bees. The honey is collected and brought to town where this local meadery flavors it with wild blackberries and makes a popular local beverage known as Timon’s Black. This powerfully alcoholic sweet drink is so dark a purple that by candlelight it looks almost black and is a popular drink with locals and soldiery alike. This is where the mead is made and is the workplace of Falrick Timon, the owner and mead master of this place. Mister Timon is a shrewd businessman and capable meadmaker, but he is not at all combatant nor a man of great personal honor. In fact, if threatened, he proves to be a coward, begging for his life and cooperating fully as long as it keeps him alive.
16. The Varning House
This sizeable residence is the home of Captain Ryan Varning, patrol captain of Balentyne. Because Captain Ryan is so often out on patrol and lives alone, this house is fairly reliably empty save for Captain Ryan’s live-in man servant, James Darby.
17. A Farm House
This typical farm house happens to be where the Iverson family lives. Jasper and Edith Iverson are both servants who work in Balentyne. This older couple no longer has any children and so lives alone. They are thus the perfect couple to ambush and replace to infiltrate Balentyne.
18. A Small Abandoned Warehouse
This small warehouse is little more than forty by twenty feet open space. The building has been for rent for years and is now all boarded up. Tracking down the owner is not simple, but the reeve Dominik Vallison can help with this if visited at Town Hall. It turns out that the last legal owner has died. So, Mister Vallison will sell title to the place for a pittance of 500 gp if the buyer promises to fix it up and put the eye sore to good use. Of course, little does Mister Vallison know that the abandoned warehouse already has a squatter. Teryth Caldwin broke in many months ago and used this as a staging point to deliver supplies and build his secret underground laboratory out in the woods. Now there is a permanent trail from the back of the warehouse through the woods to that location. Master Caldwin will notice if this place is rented and start to take other routes to his lab.
19. Osterman Manor
This large and well-appointed manor house sits empty on the edge of town nearest Balentyne. It is easy to walk out the back porch into the woods and circle to the path up to Balentyne unseen. Of course, the approach to the watchtower itself is still guarded. The house is large with a half dozen bedrooms. There is a large basement that is almost perfectly soundproof. There is plenty of space for multiple projects. There is even a high steeple (long ago this was a church) where you can see the watchtower on clear days. It is currently owned by a Baron Osterman who no longer lives in Aldencross. However, the ownership is handled by the reeve Dominik Vallison. Dominik would prefer to sell the place outright for the bargain price of 5,000 gp. But he will also rent it per month for 400 gp.
20.. The Secret Laboratory
The town alchemist Teryth Caldwin has a secret. Years ago, Master Caldwin was a professor at the True Ghaster University. However, Master Caldwin’s researches tended towards the exotic. In particular he was interested in the construction of a golem made from human tissue. His goal was to take the bodies of fallen knights and create immortal guardians who could defend Talingarde. Needless to say, many of his colleagues did not share his enthusiasm for desecrating graves. Though nothing was ever proven, Caldwin’s late night ventures brought disgrace and scandal upon him and forced him to resign his position at the university and flee the city of Ghastenhall in disgrace. He has come to the borderlands to continue his research and prove once and for all that golems would make fine defenders of the watch wall.
Caldwin bought a shack ostensibly to store his reagents and had it extensively modified under the guise of building an alchemist’s lab. What he has actually built is a golem construction laboratory. He has just finished years of work and has constructed a working flesh golem. He intends to wait until the next time the Watchtower has an emergency and to send the golem to aid the troops. In order to make the golem he has violated the grave of Captain Jared Gauldenforth, the much beloved old soldier who served on the Watch Wall for almost fifty years. His golem bears Captain Gauldenforth’s head and would horrify and terrify just about anyone in town who saw the creature. But Caldwin is completely blind to this reality and has convinced himself that the golem will be accepted if he can only present it at the right moment. Of course, that hope is a naive pipe dream. All that Caldwin will earn from unleashing his golem to “aid” Balentyne is an angry lynchmob wielding torches and pitchforks. The fact that monster wears Gauldenforth’s head will only add fuel to the fire. For now, Master Caldwin waits, still hoping for his perfect moment. The beast roams his hidden laboratory restless and eager to emerge and see the world.