Our hardy adventurers began this episode by deciding to stay on Ulrike's boat for the night as they continued to make their way upriver on the Reik. A safe move perhaps? Not on waters as unpredictable as these. During Albert's watch a swell in the river sent the boat sideways onto some rocks that were hidden just below the waterline, opening a sizeable gash in the hull. All the PCs worked together as quickly as they could to bring the boat around to the shore and through brute strength Mordrin and Gustav managed to wedge the forward into the muddy bank. During their escape to dry land everyone failed to make a clear jump, falling into the cold, turbid shallows. Mordin and Ulrike managed to swim back to the stricken vessel to rescue a handful of food and mead before she broke free and drifted, listing, then capsized, into the darkness.
|Artist's impression of the PCs den|
Mordrin - the rune bearer explained how he had never come to terms with being a dwarf born in a human town; he was enthusiastic about going to a major dwarf hold. He also confessed that he was able to speak with the spirits of ancestors, who often visited during his sleep in order to offer advice.
Gustav - the ex-soilder told tales of his troubled childhood. He explained that when he was very young his uncle Andre would come into his room at night dressed as a 'cotton fairy'; Gustav was scared he might touch him inappropriately, but he never did. In a later episode, his next door neighbors had a cat that fouled around their house and scratched his mothers wrist. She was a seamstress and the wound made her work very difficult, so he found the animal and wrung it’s neck.
Ulrike - the young smuggler explained that she gained her broken nose when she was betrayed over a deal by her father. They had a fight in a bar; it was the last time she saw him. Also, while she was bothered by being boatless she was also pleased as it was the last thing she won gambling - an addiction that’s now all behind her.
Albert - the halfling recalled how he had decided not to go to university, preferring to run off and steal precious objects, an obsession gained from helping his father in his antique business. Candidly, he also admitted that he had been afflicted by visions of gods since he was a child; he felt that tomb raiding would lead to finding ancient truths that might explain these images.
|Grint Flambare of the Grissenwald Players|
Further down the road our travellers came across a man dressed as a Witch Hunter who was leading several manacled captives. Although these prisoners looked like mutants and beastmen, the PCs could clearly see that these were normal men wearing make-up and costumes. When the Witch Hunter shouted something at them about the mark of chaos, Mordrin wasted no time in filling the man's face with a crossbow quarrel, his brains blossoming onto the ground at his lifeless feet. The chained group reveal themselves to be the Grissenwald Players - a troop of wandering actors now saved from a flaming death - and their leader Grint Flambare showered the PCs with thanks and eagerly gave them directions to the nearest safe village - Ibsengarth.
Arriving at the settlement they were surprised to be met at the gate by one of Gustav's ex-militia comrades, a man called Moritz Hausier. Moritz explained that he was the mayor of village and that it was organised as a commune. There were around 20 buildings, including a small farmstead, surrounded by a high wooden fence with a number of watchtowers. Moritz offered them supplies if they stayed and worked on the farms for a couple of days, bringing the last of the potato harvest in the spirit of the commune.
The first day in Ibsengarth is spent picking potatoes… little else. Albert tries to avoid farming duties, only to end up peeling potatoes instead (he also attempted to make his stay in the village more entertaining by chasing after several of the young women...). That night Gustav tried to find out why Moritz is letting the cripple Fallen walk the walls on watch duty, only for a coy Mortiz to explain that the boy is like a son to him and he bravely does his part while seeing out his final days - Mortiz asks Gustav to accompany him on his watch in the early morning.
|How the children of the village imagine |
Accompanying Fallan on the walls, Gustav and Ulrike see the monster emerge from nearby woods. It is over 15 feet tall with gnarled horns and emits a a bestial screech. Fallan waves his torch (fire-blinding our PCs) and the village bells ring to call all to the safely of the inn. When all the PCs are reunited back at their lodgings the absence of Mortiz is noted, so they go to his house to find him. The door remains shut but a young woman answers their calls and says she doesn't know where he is. The stern questioning of a couple of the elder men still in the inn reveals that Moritz is praying in the village temple. When the PCs find him there - shrouded in a dark brown cloak - he explains that since his time in the woods he has developed a connection with the gods and spirits, and prays when the monster appears as a form of spiritual defence. The PCs are unconvinced and growing highly suspicious of Moritz - they leave him to return to the Sticky Thicket, planning to leave Ibsengarth the following morning. Taking a horse and cart by force if needs be.
The GM's Perspective
I put a good deal of work into plotting this part of the adventure and it's worked well... so far... I don't think I could ask for a better group of players. Each of them has really made an effort to develop their character with commitment and humour. I can't say too much more at this point, as we finished the session before this part of their story had fully unfolded... More before too long hopefully!