The Miller’s Tale
Deena McKinney-Martin 410 Rustwood Drive, Athens, GA 30606 USA
This adventure begins with a series of events that take place before the characters even get involved. They’ll literally stumble upon the plot and quickly get caught up in something dark and nasty before they realize it. The characters can enter the scenario in a variety of ways. They could be traveling along the river bank and spot Isanar’s body. Or they could be asked by an officer of the realm to investigate the death of Elanir Banair. Shadier characters might be friends of lsanar and want to find out about his death.
The Tale of Otell Edlin
Ever since the Great Plague struck the city of Minas Tirith some 500 years ago, there have been minor recurrences of the disease from time to time. This last summer, such an outbreak occurred on the estate of Lord Lothis Banair, a minor noble in service to King Eärnil II. Lothis’ main source of income is his crops of wheat, which he sells to the Baker’s Guild of Minas Tirith.
The outbreak was relatively small, but it struck down several of the freemen who worked for Lot his in his wheat fields. As a result, Lot his was not able to raise the bumper crop he had counted on. His contract for the year 2031 had him selling his goods to a miller named Otell Edlin. Otell is unremarkable in looks, except that he is a large and strong man. Lothis sold his small batch of wheat to Otell at a price still within the range set by the Guild, but it was definitely a much higher price than normal. Lothis, after all, still had to have his same share of profit despite his poor crop. Otell protested this charge, but it was approved by the Guild as within the terms of the original contract.
Otell, already a hot-tempered, impetuous man, was infuriated by Lothis’ actions and the consent of the Guild. Worse, he owed a significant debt to a ruthless underworld figure named Corlan Larethan, who lives in Linhir. It was only a matter of time before Corlan’s men would try to collect the debt, or Otell’s head. Otell had to get the money somehow. Perhaps foolishly, he desired revenge on the greedy Lot his.
Map of Minas Tirith and environs
Northwestern Middle-earth Map Set #8; reprinted with permission.
Otell knew that Minas Tirith also had its share of ne’er do wells. Through one of the barmaids at the Old Guesthouse by the name of Karlana, he contacted a young thief named Isanar Archin. In addition to his handsome, rakish looks, Isanar had a good reputation as a cautious and nimble burglar, though he himself was quick to point out that he was not an assassin. Otell hired Isanar to go to Lord Lothis’ estate and steal one of his prized possessions, a large and unusual rock of unknown origin. Lothis found it while traveling some months ago.
Lothis’ rock is an interesting thing. It is of a black substance never before seen by scholars in Minas Tirith and is deemed to be valuable, mostly because of its beauty. It is very hard, with flecks of crystal throughout. Lothis keeps it on display and is very proud of it. In reality, the rock could be a number of things: a meteorite, a bit of waste or a byproduct from a magical experiment, or even just an extremely rare geological formation. Whatever the rock is, it innately brings 5D6 unluck to the current owner, for somewhere in its past, the rock has been cursed. The rock is the source of Lothis’ bad crop, and sadly enough, the death of his daughter (see below).
Isanar agreed to the task for a reasonable sum. The two agreed to meet outside of Minas Tirith for the exchange, at a weeping willow bank where the river Anduin turned south, in two days’ time. The next night, Isanar made the trip to Lothis’ estate and snuck into the house with relative ease. The rock was on plain display at the top of a large stairway on the second floor. Isanar was getting ready to leave when out of nowhere came Lady Elanir, Lothis’ 17 year-old daughter. Before she could scream, Isanar grabbed her — truly intending only to knock her unconscious and leave — but Elanir struggled with him and, in a tragic mishap, fell down the stairs and was killed.
Isanar, who had tried to save the girl, was horrified and he fled at once. As he ran, Elanir’s maid, coming to see why her mistress had arisen, caught a glimpse of him fleeing. Her shouts brought the house down, and Isanar escaped by the skin of his teeth, out the open kitchen window. Isanar managed to hide himself until the next day, when he was to meet with Otell.
Word of the murder and robbery spread rapidly. Isanar was panicky, and so was Otell when they met. Isanar urged Otell to take the rock and flee; he told Otell that he’d never be able to sell it in Minas Tirith, and that he had no desire to be hung for a young girl’s death that he was innocent of.
Otell saw that Isanar would likely blab the entire story to save his skin, so in a surprise move, he strangled the thief (leaving some fine flour dust on Isanar’s body), threw him up into one of the willow trees (the closest place he saw to hide the body), took the rock, and fled. Quickly, he made two purchases: a strong box and a heavy chain. Going back to the river, he placed the rock in the box and sank it in a spot about a mile from where Isanar’s body was hidden. For the moment, Otell breathed a sigh of relief. True, he couldn’t sell the rock in Minas Tirith, but perhaps Corlan would take it as payment. It might even be sellable in Pelargir or Dol Amroth, both of which were relatively easy journeys from the city. Otell was making his plans when a visitor called.
It was Setrian Rolnmir, one of the more prestigious members of the Baker’s Guild. Setrian is tall and good-looking, the picture of respectability. Having observed Otell’s shady activities in the past (including his dealings with Isanar), Setrian was intrigued when he noticed Otell purchasing a box and chain in the marketplace.
Setrian was very clever and, recalling the animosity between Otell and Lot his, is reasonably sure Otell now has the rock, since he was obviously looking for a way to “sink” something of value with the box and chain. News of the robbery and the death of Lothis’ daughter is already major news in the city.
Setrian couldn’t care less about the rock; what he is interested in is buying flour at a reduced cost. He suggests that Otell continue selling him flour at the rate shown in the books but actually taking 25% less money. Otell seethes, but there is little he can do. In exchange for this reduction in cost, Setrian vows to keep word of Otell’s shady dealings private. Otell fears Setrian’s influence in the Guild, so he agrees, not being a particularly clever man.
- Week One
- Lothis overcharges Otell.
- Day 1
- Otell meets with Isanar and sets up the deal
- Day 3
- Insanar sneakds to Lord Lot his’s keep, stealing the rock. Elanir dies
- Day 4
- Otell and Isanar meet during the late afternoon. Otell kills Isanar and takes the rock.
- Day 5
- Otell buys the box and chain early in the morning, hiding the rock in the river.
- Day 6
- Setrian puts his facts together and visits Otell, blackmailing him.
- Day 8
- Corlan arrives to harass Otell. They go to the river for the rock. If it is there, Otell dies and Corlan takes the rock. If it is not there, Otell is given three days to find it. He’ll go to Setrian for help.
- Day 9
- If Otell goes to Setrian, he’ll get in touch with Corlan and cut a deal.
- Day 11
- Otell either dies or gives the rock to Corlan, who will let him live in this case.
Enter the Player Characters
Setrian will get very nervous and decide to bump off any characters whose meddling threatens to get too close either to Otell or the Baker’s Guild. (Giving him some credit, Setrian wants to save his own skin, the sweet deal with Otell, AND the honor of the Guild.) He hires some dark and swarthy types living in the villages outside the walls of Minas Tirith to kill the characters (or, barring that, just frighten them badly).
The thug leader is a relatively talented assassin named Marten Osslin, and he has four men who will help him rough up the characters. Only Marten knows the details of who hired him, and he won’t crack unless tortured. Setrian’s hired goons will prefer to attack the characters when and if they separate. (After all, they’re just meant to scare them badly, not murder them.)
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Corlan Larethan and his gang will come in to collect from Otell two days after Setrian cuts his deal. Otell will beg and plead for his life, and promise to show Corlan where the rock is. Corlan will agree and take him under guard to the river. If the rock is still there, Corlan will take it and kill Otell anyway, sinking his body in the river. If the characters are nearby watching, they can see this and either fight or talk with Corlan. He’ll take the rock and return to Linhir in a day if he isn’t caught.
Should the characters find the sunken box with the rock, bad fortune will prevail upon them. Corlan will come to town and proceed to berate Otell as before. If the rock is gone, though (presumably in the hands of the characters), Corlan will let Otell live and give him three days to find the rock or come up with the money he owes. Otell will go to Setrian for help. Corlan will fight characters if they have the rock (on the tip of Setrian), attempting to wipe out whoever is necessary to get it.
On hearing this news, Setrian (who has kept tabs on the inquiring characters) will suspect that the characters have found the rock. He’ll contact Corlan directly and cut a deal: knowledge of who and where the characters are (with the rock), plus one favor from the Baker’s Guild, in exchange for the relieving of Otell’s debt (remember his sweet deal). Corlan will agree to this.
If Corlan fights the characters, it should be a nasty battle. He himself is an exceptional combatant, not to mention his personal bodyguard, a beautiful woman named Muraz, who hails from one of the deep desert tribes, armed with deadly weapons and nasty poisons. Additionally, he has three thugs in case he needs them.
All’s Well That Ends
If the characters find the rock, by law it belongs to Lord Lot his and should be given back accordingly. If Otell lives and is found out, he will at best be severely fined and dismissed from the Baker’s Guild and most likely ordered to leave Minas Tirith. In the worst scenario, he will be hung.
Setrian is a whiz at covering his tracks and his own skin. (Don’t forget, he has spies and informants all over the city.) He’ll pin all the blame on Otell for the entire mess, and as Otell’s books have been fixed, there will be nothing to link Setrian to all the dirty dealings, except Otell’s accusations (he can show them the books) and possibly Marten’s words (if he is alive and has been tortured). Corlan and his men, as well as the thugs Setrian hires, can be punished for attempted murder by hanging.
It is quite possible that Corlan will take the rock and return to Linhir. If so, the characters might have an “enjoyable” time pursuing him, perhaps in disguise through the under-rabble. It might be any large, semi-dangerous city near where the original adventure took place if you are not using the Middle-earth setting. Linhir is detailed in Havens of Gondor and The Kin-strife.
If the characters wish to contact the Baker’s Guild (also known as the Baker’s Fellowship), they may certainly do so. I suggest consulting the Minas Tirith module or a similar reference if you want more information on fantasy Guild structure. In Minas Tirith, the head of the Guild will be as cordial as possible, particularly if the characters are known or in a position of authority. But he will do his best to also protect the Guild’s interests if at all possible.
Facts at Hand
- Niala, Elanir’s maid, can give a reasonably good description of Isanar as she saw him by moon and candlelight: “He was tall and slender, with dark hair and fair skin. He wore dark clothing and was not a bad looking youth. I would know him if I saw him.”
- Karlana the barmaid can also identify Isanar, as they were old friends. She will be very hurt by his death and will insist that he was NOT a murderer, indeed not a very violent sort of man at all (just a poor, but talented, kleptomaniac).
- Characters with Streetwise skills can try to learn about Isanar on the street as well, though most information will lead them to Karlana at the Old Guesthouse. She can tell them where his mother (a kindly, if senile old woman) lives in Woodentown. If anyone goes to look, Isanar has a spare set of thieves’ tools and an old pair of boots with river mud (a good AK roll might recognize it) in his room.
- The heavy wood/iron bound box that Otell buys is from a woodcrafter named Shan Melikan. He purchased the chain from a blacksmith named Nedlin Ormal. Both will remember selling these items specifically to Otell the Miller.
(Master Assassin/Thief/Underworld Figure)
Corlan is a very handsome man of mostly Dúnadan descent. He’s tall, with tanned skin and black hair with reddish highlights, and blue eyes. He tends to dress in neutral colors, in well-made, but plain clothes. He is an exceptional businessman and rather ruthless except towards children. Not one for gruesome torture (unless absolutely necessary), he’ll get an opponent down and take care of him as quickly as possible. Corlan has a moderate temper, and he very seldom is cruel to his men or Muraz, though he does keep them under a tight rein. Corlan is usually willing to bargain shrewdly if he sees potential gain in a situation.
- Handsome broadsword with jeweled hilt (exceptional balance, gives an additional + 1 OCV; for base stats of +2 OCV, 1D6+ 1).
- Velvet scabbard matches broadsword (2D6 healing aid (twice per day) to bearer).
- 5 darts (1D6 AP attack, coated with virulent poison, 3D6 and linked with 1D6 killing attack if body done).
- 5 smoke bombs (allow 2” radius darkness cloud when smashed on the ground).
- Earring (gives 1/4 physical and energy resistant damage reduction).
- Gondorian style helm (+8, 4 – 5) hard leather breast plate (+5, 10 – 13) leather gloves and arms (+4, 6 – 9) hard leather leggings (+6, 14 – 16) leather boots (+4, 17 – 18).
Like Corlan, Marten is of mixed Dúnadan descent. He has medium brown hair and blue eyes and is fair of skin. Marten is more of a thief than an assassin, though he’ll do whatever is needed to advance his reputation and widen his wallet. He seeks to develop his own “thieves Guild” of sorts in Minas Tirith. He’s somewhat quick to anger and occasionally does things he’s later sorry for.
- Umbarean bastard sword.
- 2 throwing daggers (1D6 AP, coated with an Umbarean poison that does a 5D6 end drain if body done).
- 2 healing draughts (restore 3D6 stun each).
- Ring (once per day gives full invisibility for 6 turns).
- Hard leather cap (+5, 4 – 5).
- Hard leather breast plate (+5, 10 – 13) leather gloves and arms (+4, 6 – 9) hard leather leggings (+6, 14 – 16) leather boots (+4, 17 – 18)
Muraz is of average height with bronzed skin and brown eyes. Her hair is shoulder length and a beautiful shade of golden blond. She usually wears baggy trousers of brightly colored material, a tight-fitting bodice, and a gauzy blouse along with her veils (some magical, some not). She was purchased in Umbar by Corlan who has always treated her with great kindness and respect, thereby gaining her devout loyalty. Muraz was kidnapped and badly treated by the Umbareans and has a passionate hatred for them.
- Constricting rope (takes a full action to throw and tighten. 3D6 entangle with backlash continuous until cut free, roll 1D6 more BOD for entangle if target fails to break free in one attempt).
- Entangling veils (4D6 normal entangle 6 charges).
- Poisoned darts (1D6 AP darts coated with 2D6 body drain poison if they do body damage).
- Poisoned oil (3 charges nasty poison sealed in animal bladder on impact with skin will do 4D6 stun drain and cause extreme pain).
- Scimitar (1D6+2 damage +1 OCV).
- 2 throwing daggers (1D6 AP 3D6 STR drain from poison if body done).
- Garrote (21/2D6 only usable on an extremity-ankle, hand, neck, etc.).
- Protective girdle (+6 armor all over body, 1/4 resistant physical and energy damage reduction).
- Leather leggings (+ 4, 14 – 18).
- Leather gloves (+4, 6 – 7).
- Iron neck collar (+8 on neck).
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