Dead Sea Almanac - May 6, 2019
This week, Melinda writes to us with a new mystery she has uncovered: the Secret of Raven Castle.
Opening: Raven Castle
Raven Castle is a dark and forbidding place - the kind of place heroes would only stop at while passing by in a raging storm or fleeing pursuers with torches and pitchforks. It's inhabited by a dread vampire lord who offers the heroes a simple deal: they may stay the night, but in exchange they must solve the riddle that he presents them. If they fail, the consequences are vague and dire.
The lord of the castle presents a riddle handed down to him by the wizard who built the place:
In iron heights the candle lies
To see through sailor's loyal eyes
A ship of three on lintel stands
Who brassen windlass is at hand
"In iron heights the candle lies" directs the heroes to the wrought-iron chandeliers, where they find that one candle holder among hundreds is actually a concealed spyglass. Looking through it ("through sailor's loyal eyes"), they can see a ship with three masts over the door to the hall ("a ship of three on lintel stands"). On closer inspection, the ship reveals a keyhole and hinges. The key is the brass spyglass they already have from earlier, which must be inserted into the hole and used to turn the ship ninety degrees (a "brassen windlass" that's already "at hand" because one of the heroes is holding it). When the panel is rotated, it swings smoothly open on the hinges to reveal a drawing of the cellar (pre-renovation) that the castle's occupants can recognize as having a room that doesn't exist in the official floorplan or in their own knowledge.
The Room in the Cellar
The room in the cellar is accessed by a door with three keyholes, hidden behind a painting of a boat at sea (in a row of other paintings). On the reverse of the painting is written the following riddle:
An angel made of carven stone
Protects the symbol of a home
And 'neath the wooden firmament
Rests chair of likewise ornament
The first key leads to a cherub in a fountain in the garden (which you might want to mention in passing to the heroes on their way in). The key is enchanted to appear as a coin and lies in the basin of the fountain, but picking it up reveals the illusion because it feels like a key (though the heroes must make a DC 15 Wisdom save vs. a distractor spell to do so). The second refers to the crest of the castle's lord, which is a shield over the fireplace in the study. The second key is mounted to the back of the shield, which can be removed from the display without too much effort. The last clue refers to the "wooden firmament", and the only floor of the castle with a wooden roof is the attic. There's a chair up there with the lord's crest emblazoned on it, and the key mounted to the underside of the seat. To get to it, though, the heroes will have to fight a pack of giant spiders which have taken up residence in the attic.
The Three Keys
With the three keys in hand, the heroes enter the room in the cellar, and find a sarcophagus. They find two artifacts within: a scepter and an amulet. The scepter has a translucent gem on the top, about the size of a baseball. If the heroes were observant, they might have noticed a peg-hole in the floor of the great hall earlier; the staff fits right into it. From there, peering through the gem at the room reveals an otherwise invisible statue of an angel on one of the rafters. One hero will have to direct another, and they'll have to figure out to place the amulet around the statue's neck. Once they do, the curse binding the Baron de Sangue to his castle will be broken, and he will be free to leave at his will.
The Baron: Optional Encounter
At this point, the heroes can choose to allow the baron to leave and wreak his revenge on the family of the wizard, who live in an adjacent town and who are totally innocent. If they do, they keep the staff and the amulet. The staff is a +2 arcane focus and retains the ability to reveal invisible or concealed objects when the gem is peered through. The amulet grants advantage on Intelligence (Religion) checks and one free use of the Shield spell per day. If the heroes choose to fight the baron, and win, they keep both these prizes and also gain his signet ring, which grants advantage on Charisma checks against vampires and allows the wearer to transform into a bat (and back) at will. In either case, they can then attempt to force the lock on the baron's safe, which yields 380 GP, though if they chose not to fight him and forced the lock while he was murdering the family, he returns to catch them in the act and fights them anyways.