“A Patch of Spring”
An ATC (artist trading card) that I've created for an art trade! ^^
This card features two "alpine hares" and was created with watercolors.
The soft sunset helps me to create a warm atmosphere despite the the cold snow ♫
> Please do not repost, recreate, trace, edit or use my art, thanks~ :3
Settlement: Port Vahlgraun and the mystery of the Gutted Garrison
Couldn't have happened to a worse bunch of bastards, but still it happened, they’re dead, and that’s a problem for all of us.
- Urdrik, town elder
Sheltered where the jagged spur of a snowy mountain range meets the sea, this frontier settlement is one of the few places where vessels may dock and resupply before setting out to the deep ocean fisheries or returning to the hungry harbours of the homeland.
Provided they don’t mind uncultured neighbours or the pervading stink of tar and fish, Vaulgraun is just the place for an adventurer to make a name for themselves: supply caravans making treks through mountain passes in need of an escort, sailors from parts unknown showing up with unbelievable tales, nearby valleys filled with squabbling noble willing to shill out coin for other people to solve their problems.
The Port’s governance is a rather slapdash affair as business rivalries intermarry with old family grudges, with most folk going about armed and expected to sort out their own problems. The party finds this out the hard way when they get into a bar brawl and end up humiliating the favorite nephew of a an influential local tough, who uses her connections to blacklist the party from a number of businesses and scare away their work. Their potential salvation introduces himself in the form of Barnard Glanner , a charismatic salt merchant who styles himself Vahlgraun’s first mayor... once he can convince the locals to hold their first election. In return for a steady wage he just needs the party to do some good deeds and spread his name around and he’s sure he’ll be able to sway public opinion, especially if they prevent some big disaster and throw him some of the credit.
Old Tallowear is given a wide birth by most Vahlgraun locals, a beachcomber who still hums the tune that a nest of sirens used to draw him and a ship full of his fellow sailors to wreck themselves upon a particularly dangerous stretch of coastline decades back. The fey-addled elder keeps finding excuses to visit those lethal rocks over the years, and has enough secondhand charm-magic to convince a series treasure hunters to employ him as a guide with promises of the fortunes waiting just below the tide. He’s not lying about the latter, and is even willing to sell the party some of his finds to bait the hook.
Everyone knows the local royal garrison for a bunch of brutes and bullies, shipped out to the ass end of nowhere as blanket punishment for any number of offences, they take out their boredom and frustration on the nearby village and local hill-folk, confident that they’re too far from command to ever brook any real reprisal… which surprises everyone when they turn up dead one morning, massacred to a man with the front gate of their fort knocked from its hinges. The military is likely to think the town had something to do with it and come down on the town on a hammer once they find out… unless someone can find an explanation before they catch on.
A young woman by the name of Ultia Vant has gone missing around the same time of the garrison's gutting, a poor mulecart driver who brought supplies up to the garrison as part of the port’s royal tribute. Previously Ultia’s father was the one to made the run, but he’s been laid up for a year and a half from exhaustion. Ultia’s cart is found looted somewhere off the road, the mule being picked apart by scavengers.
Speaking of suspiciously abandoned modes of conveyance, located in the fort’s courtyard is a very fine carriage rather unsuited to the mountianous slopes surrounding Vahlgraun. Asking around in town reveals it belongs to one of the noble families that’ve been recently purchasing lands on the outside of the mountain, the occupants having apparently stopped off in the port for a night before heading on to meet their grisly ends along with the soldiers. Just what were these agents of the gentry trying to accomplish?
Unfortunately the only witness to the slaughter the party ends up discovering happens to be a half-feral wraith they stumble across eating bodies in the forts cellar a day or two after the deaths are discovered. He speaks with a strange, archaic accent, can’t remember his name and seems quite disoriented, even for a dead man.
The Answer: Ultia Vant was one of those people upon who’s shoulders the entire world rests, as essential in her work as she was unthanked. Without her to drag goods up the mountain the garrison would either start harassing the common people for “donations” or clear off all together, leaving the port and its vital mountain passes undefended. Her father was just as vital, until a bad stretch of weather meant the soldiers had to go hungry for a few days and they decided to beat him so badly that he couldn’t make the journey up the mountain anymore. They made Ultia watch, and swore they’d finish the job if she was ever late again.
For a year and a half, week in, week out, Ultia made the journey, enduring the garrison’s taunts and using every spare copper to pay for her father’s medicine. Then, oneday, her mule died, and she was left with a cart full of goods too heavy to pull herself. With no other option she loaded what goods she could on her back and started the climb herself.
The bone deep anger she felt called out to something, a spirit of violence and ruin in the shape of a horse that was quite coincidentally tired of its current husk of a rider. Tossing their mutual burdens to the roadside, the two rode up to the fort and slaughtered every living thing they could find, at which point they took off to complete whatever sinister errand the ruin-spirit asked in return for its gift of strength.
Check out my advice on how to plan and run mysteries HERE