Yoiks, Scoob! It's a G-G-G-GHOST!
Our session opened with our Gmome, Kemi, in a bit of a difficult spot.
Having broken into the 3rd floor bedroom of Rose and Thorn's house and disturbed the small crib, summoning the spectral Nursemaid in the process, Kemi (Denney Slater) found himself lying on the floor of a dusty bedroom as the skeletal hands of a floating, transparent nursemaid reached out, seemingly floating through the wall and the mirror hanging upon it, to claw at his very soul. At the Spectre's touch, Kemi felt his life drain away, forcing him to recoil in terror from the creature who was grasping his cobolt blue hair.
Seeing her companion in trouble, Elana Silvermoon (Sarah Powell-Veness) stepped from the balcony into the room through the bay-doors Kemi had shut behind him, taking aim with her magic and unleashing a Chill Touch spell. Again, the magic twisted as she cast it, producing a horrific, floating skeletal hand that she could barely control. Forcing her will upon her magic, Elana grasped the spectre attacking her friend.
The nursemaid spectre seemed unaffected by the necrotic magic of Elana's disembodied skeletal hand. Elana retreated, closing the doors once more having not seen the nursemaid simply float through part of the wall to get to Kemi moments before. Sliding back under the bed and seemingly out of reach, Kemi, realising that the bed was no barrier to the nursemaid, looked for a chance to escape. He hit upon an idea.
Casting an illusion of a crying baby somewhere near the crib, Kemi sought to distract the apparition pursuing him. The nursemaid, momentarily distracted by the noise, turned away from her pursuit and saw to the crib. Kemi crawled at pace towards the door and Elana hauled him out as soon as she heard the tapping on the glass from the panicked Gnome trapped on the other side.
The duo, now on the balcony, readied themselves for a fight. The Nursemaid, having found no baby in the small crib, floated through the doorway to the adjoining nursery to check the main cot. Kemi and Elana watched the scene through the balcony window as the Spectre went about it's duties as if it were still alive, checking the cot and around the room for the missing child as if in distress. Eventually, the nursemaid noticed the pair watching her, and she started to float menacingly towards the window.
Having heard the Spectre's shriek and the sounds of trouble above, the Barbarian, Zorg (John Dunning) started to climb the rope towards the 3rd floor balcony. As the nursemaid advanced, Zorg arrived on the balcony and readied his weapons. Elana dashed back into the bedroom and prepared alternative magic in the hopes to bring down this terrible creature. Ben Hart (Nathan Fielding) stayed on the ground to help anchor the rope and to look after the now very frightened Rose and Thorn. Kemi, seeing the maid advance, decided that he would be no help here and got out of the Barbarian's way, hopping over the ironwork railings and attempting to climb safely onto the rope. A showdown with this Spectre was going to happen three stories up with very limited room to fight effectively, and Kemi didn't want to be in the way.
As the nursemaid walked through the wall and window of the nursery room both Zorg and Elana exploded into action. Zorg's weapons passed through the ghostly maid having no effect, Elana's Witch bolt struck home, hurting the Spectre. Steel couldn't hurt it but magic clearly could! Hearing the violence mere feet behind him, Kemi panicked, fumbling the rope and struggling to safely transition from the railing to the rope proper. Staring at a three story drop to street level, the Gnome steeled himself to throw himself onto the rope......as the Barbarian retreated, vaulting the railing and making for the rope himself. Zorg was none-too-gentle, throwing himself at the safety line and knocking into Kemi who was still in the way. Kemi lost his grip on the rope and the rail, and took the plunge to the floor, below.
Sailing down the rope like a zipwire using the haft of his hammer as a handhold, Zorg heard the 'thump' of the Gnome's body hitting the deck far below him as he slid to a stop at the Cleric's feet.
"Ghost" grunted Zorg as the kids moved from the ally to join Ben, hiding behind his body. "Weapons are useless. Needs magic"
Still trapped in the bedroom, Elana carried on trying magic only to draw the ire of the Spectre, who simply floated through the bay doors to get at the Drow. Elana decided to run into the house, and make for the stairs down to the front door. She hoped she wouldn't run into any more beasties in the house itself. Having seen the ghostly nursemaid and the ignoble retreat of the party, the girl, Rose, pulled at Ben's clothes saying, "But that's not the monster...." as the Cleric ran forward to save the Gnome with his priestly magic. Casting a healing spell, Ben stopped the fallen Gnome's bleeding and mended a broken ankle, saving his companion from the embrace of death.
Elana bolted for the bedroom door, ignoring the adjoining door between bedroom and nursery. The door opened to a large landing flanked with suits of black armour. Dust and cobwebs were everywhere, dark oak panelling on the walls and a double red marble staircase gave everything a very opulent look. Taking to the stairs at speed, the Drow moved quickly to escape, ignoring the various doors and ornaments as she passed. The nursemaid was not to be denied, floating through the adjoining walls and onto the stairwell directly, albeit too high for her to make a proper grab for the fleeing Drow.
Detecting that Elana wasn't behind him on the rope, Zorg realised that his companion would likely be looking to head out the front door. Barging the door open, Zorg revealed a small hallway with a large, ornate oaken door at the end of it and black and white square tiles covering the floor. This hall was covered in dust and cobwebs. No footprints had passed over this threshold in a long time. The Barbarian's mind raced - how did the kids get out into the street if not through the front doors. Zorg started to turn to Ben in warning, getting as far as "Cleriiiiicccc...." before Ben ran into the hallway, making for the Oaken door.
Meanwhile, the Drow was bounding down stairs as fast as she could, the icy touch of the Nursemaid hurting her badly whenever she couldn't avoid it's terrible grasp. As Elana reached ground level, Spectre close behind, she focused on the door most likely to lead to the front door and as she reached out towards it and the freedom that should lie beyond the door swung violently open towards her, almost hitting her like a runaway carriage. Nimble reactions saved her from being struck as Ben Hart ran in channelling the power of his God screaming,
There was a flash of Godly might and the Nursemaid started to flee from the Cleric and his holy power, retreating back up the marble stairwell.
Zorg followed Ben in, grabbed Elana and fled. Elana hung upside down over Zorg's shoulders, setting up a shot at any pursuer that would follow them out of the house. Ben stood his ground, ensuring the light of his God was held in this place, causing the evil Spectre to flee. He heard a metallic grinding noise beside him, as a suit of black armour struggled to break it's mounting brackets before also fleeing up the stairs awkwardly in an attempt to get away from the holy light.
While the Barbarian and the Cleric were occupied saving the Drow from the Spectre, Kemi had (perhaps unwisely) gotten up and clambered the rope to retrieve his gear. After the flash of magic light and the cries of the Nursemaid reeling from Ben's powerful magic, Kemi quickly realised that the Nursemaid was likely to return here. Taking hold of the rope and getting ready to climb back, Kemi suffered an anxiety attack. He had, after all, fallen from this exact position just moments before but now he was carrying more weight! What was he going to do? He surely wouldn't survive another fall! The Gnome shouted for help,
"Secure the F$&king rope! I need to get down!!" he cried as his companions escaped the house.
Satisfied that he'd stopped their pursuer and hearing Kemi's cries, Ben exited the house and joined the others in trying to secure the rope tightly enough to give Kemi a fighting chance to slide down it. All three party members shouted encouragement at their little Gnome friend while watching the windows for the tell-tale sign of the Spectre coming back. Seeing the Spectre return to the nursery just behind him , Kemi threw himself and his kit at the rope with sudden abandon, somehow keeping hold this time and sliding down the rope to safety as the Barbarian had before.
All four of the group now reunited and in need of rest and recuperation, they turned to find the kids from the house, Rose and Thorn, only to see they had escaped the scene during the kerfuffle. Finding no trace of the kids from a quick search and seeing no activity in the surrounding houses, the group decided to move away from the site, almost missing the fact that their Bard was preparing to burn down the house and everything in it. Only just stopping Kemi in time the party tried to calm down a furious Kemi and prevent him from getting his revenge in the most over-the-top way possible ("What about the other houses?" they cautioned, "We don't want to burn ALL the houses down!"). Begrudgingly seeing the sense in this, Kemi instead burned their rope to prevent anyone else climbing in, destroying their way back on to the 3rd floor balcony in the process. With this done, the group left back the way they came, heading to the crossroads at the eastern edge of the village.
As they headed away from the house and it's unholy occupant, the party heard a handbell, ringing in the streets ahead. Paying it no heed, Kemi wanted reset and food, and the greasy smell of stew on the air was calling him. Ben, on the other hand was watching the source of the bell - an old woman dressed in rags and a sackcloth robe pushing a cart, going door to door handing over black cloth parcels to select occupants before moving on. She spotted the group and turned at the crossroads, moving directly away from the party and the deathly house they were leaving behind.
As the group discussed the merits of resting at an Inn versus trying to find the church they'd seen the spire of over the plains, this old woman chose another door and knocked. A young peasant mother brought her youngest daughter to the door with her to greet the old woman. The old woman held out her hand, as if demanding something. The mother pushed the child towards the old woman then shut the door before her daughter to re-enter her home. While the child tried desperately to open the door, the old woman pulled a sack over the child's head then hefted the sack over her shoulder before depositing the child onto the cart, still in the sack. The old woman then proceeded to secure the sack and it's contents to the cart. Strangely there was no struggle from the sack.
"We need rest!" Started Kemi, noticing the look in Ben's eyes, "We're all injured, we need to get our magic back. Let's not start anything." (DM's note: the look on Nathan's face here was tortuous. He KNEW the old woman could be trouble and that the party didn't have the resources to fight. He also knew there could be evil afoot and didn't want to let this go. Having said only minutes earlier that he had to help Rose and Thorn because they were simply children, despite what it nearly cost the party, here we are again with a child in apparent need of saving. Nate simply couldn't back down and the other players were laughing about this very fact. Barovia is a cruel place, so they say)
"It's another child," said Zorg, "he's got to do something. I'll go."
Kemi walked off in search of food, muttering something as he moved down the branch of crossroads towards the centre of town.
"I'll make sure our Bard doesn't burn down any buildings or start anything he can't handle. We'll meet you at the Inn." said Elana before starting off after the blue haired Gnome.
And with that, Zorg and Ben approached the old woman, blocking her path with an intent to question her.
The old woman at first thought the pair wanted some of her wares. When asked what she was selling she stated that she offered people a little freedom from the drudgery and misery of Barovian life. The smell of baked confections filled the air around the cart, emanating from the row of little black cloth bundles nearest the old woman. When the pair refused to trade and when Ben put his hand on the (apparently asleep) child in the sack, the old woman though she was being mugged instead. Ben struggled to be objective. Zorg, having seen children sold into slavery before, took over the interrogation, revealing the old woman's haggard face with it's whiskers and bulbous, red nose.
"I offer goods to help people escape misery. The ingredients to make these goods are not cheap. I have many regular customers. Sometimes people can't pay so I take their children away from this life of poverty and give them a better one. It is not a crime to operate a business so I can feed myself and my daughters" explained the old woman, holding up her wizened old hands to show she wasn't armed and was no threat.
"Are you EATING the children?!" exclaimed Ben but Zorg pushed past the Cleric's building outrage, explaining that he'd seen this sort of thing before.
"What do you do with the kids?" he asked in a measured tone.
"We give them a better life" responded the crone.
"How do you give them a better life?" continued the Barbarian.
Obviously uncomfortable, the old woman shifted her gaze between the two men and stated, "These kids are often malnourished when they come to us. The families are poor. Conditions here are bad. We feed them, make them healthy again before we find a..." she looked at the Cleric nervously, "...new home. For them"
The old woman took the sack containing the little girl from her cart, laid it at Ben's feet, opening it for Ben and Zorg to see into.
"See. She's perfectly safe. I have not harmed her. You can take her back to her parents if you like. They live 5 doors down...." the crone pointed at a door where she collected the girl from.
Zorg casually bundled the girl back onto the cart. "You misunderstand us, madam..." he bagan. The old woman cut him off.
"Listen, how about a deal? I give you a taster of my wares in return for my time and my health. You take my goods and leave me to go about my evening unharmed. If you like what you taste, I will be here again soon enough and will happily trade for some more. Instead of standing here harassing harmless old women newcomers like you should be worried more about things that will really hurt you" The old woman looked ominously up the the cliff or rock in the near distance, atop which sat Castle Ravenloft.
Ben accepted the 'taster' and the old crone handed him a small baked sweet-mince pie.
"We know," he said, "We've met him"
The old woman responded curtly, "He's not the only problem in these parts, you know. Even the Vistani spy for him. And there's worse out there."
Unsure how else they could hold this woman and get to the bottom of what she was about, Ben and Zorg stepped aside for her. The old woman used this dark lull in the conversation to make good her escape and went on her way, waving at the two men as she went to wherever she was next dropping off.....or picking up.
Looking behind them to see if anything had been following them from Thorn and Rose's house, the pair decided to rejoin their companions and set off for the Inn. Zorg looked at Ben quizzically, the Cleric was clearly hatching a plan.
"We'll let her go for now. We can always trace her later with this" said Ben, holding up the pie that he had been offered by the old woman. Slowly coming to the realisation that Ben's faith granted him many mystical powers, some of which included location prayers, Zorg nodded in agreement.
The Pilgrim's offer
After their retreat across the plains, picking up camp supplies in the process, the group of hunters, still led by the Mercenary Captain, set a defensive formation for their camp. Surviving the afternoon without incident and watching as the mists on the grass burned away throughgout the afternoon, the nervous campers grabbed a much needed rest after their frightening ancounter on the grassy plains.
After tending the wounded, it became apparent that the camp had a guardsman that had been bitten in the melee. When the Bard remembered a tale or two suggesting that once bitten, people can turn into Werewolves at the touch of the moon, the party argues with the Merc Captain on the best way to deal with the potential imminent threat. Not fully believing them, the Captain placed the Priest and the Bard in charge of looking after the wounded guardsman with orders to only harm him if he started to turn.
With one half of the team looking after the Werewolf-to-be in their midst, the Barbarian and the Drow were both asked to help build a massive fire to keep the wolves at bay and then rest up. Refusing on the basis that she had better night sight than all of the Mercs in the camp, the Drow took her turn in the watch cycle. As the sun was dying over the plain and the moon started to rise behind the trees of the High Forest, the camp's peace was broken by the arrival of an unexpected visitor - a lone Dwarf from the missing party.
Approaching withour armour or weapons, seemingly fleeing from something behind him, the Dwarf approached across the plains only to be stopped by the Drow. After a testy exchange where the Dwarf insisted to be let into the camp and that he was being chased, the Drow summoned the Merc Captain. The Drow, although she recognised this Dwarf, did not trust him.
The Dwarfs story was that his group was fighting off a couple of Werewolves in the high woods. He escaped with his life (barely) and was being pursued. he wanted reinforcements to help his kinsmen. The Drow demanded the Dwarf tested himself and after the usual complaints about Werewolfism being a human disease and some arm-cutting the Dwarf was let in. The Drow convinced the captain to have the Dwarf stationed in the 'infirmary' tent where he could be 'seen to' if neccessary. The Merc Captain, unsure of why there was so much paranoia, at least understood that the Drow wasn't to be ignored lightly and agreed to her plan. Thus, the Dwarf was taken to the tent where the Priest and Bard sat watch.
Once stationed with the rest of the Party, the Dwarf made idle conversation and seemed to relax significantly. He took great interest in the priest's 'patient' and once it was revealed that the man had been injured by a Werewolf, the Drawf fished around in his trousers and offered the Priest a glass phial containing a silvery liquid 'cure'.
"If he's been bitten, this should help. It'll stop him from turning" claimed the Dwarf. After asking the Dwarf why he was prepared for Werewolf attacks in this way the Dwarf replied,
"We knew we'd be hunting the beasts. We ran into some Vistani on the road and they filled us in before we got to Yartar"
After figuring out that thje Dwarf actually meant the Gypsies (Vistani being the real name for them), the Bard and Priest had a heated debate about what to do with this cure (while the players had a less physical debate about how far they could trust the Dwarf and his words. Something was clearly off here. Wasn't this one of the Dwarves that hated the Gypsies?) which ended in a wrestling match for control of the phial. The Bard won. The Dwarf looked to defend himself from the mistrustful priest by brandishing one of the Drow's daggers, trying to keep the knife between himself and the potentially advesarial Priest.
"If you really want to do this, I'll let you, but on your head be it!"
exclaimed the furious Priest to the Gnome Bard as he exited the tent, off to summon his other friends. The Dwarf relaxed, left only with a 'friend' and so lowered his weapon. Holding the phial in hand and weighing up the options, something occurred to the Gnomish bard and so he asked,
"If the Dwarves can't be werewolves anyway, why would you be carrying a cure?"
The Dwarf agrily muttered to himself and in response to the question, attacked the lone Gnome, knocking him out.
Outside the tent, the Priest and Drow went looking for the Barbarian while the Merc Captain organised extra guards and weapons in case the Drwarf spoke true about a pursuer. As the Priest and Drow compared notes, the three party members quickly made for the tent, picking up the Merc Captain along the way. They were goiung to interrogate this Dwarf - something wasn't right. As they arrived back at the 'infirmary' tent, the canvase exploded outwards, as the massive form of a Werewolf tried to free itself from the canvas. Lying on the floor with knife in hand, the Dwarf lay, terrified, desperately brandishing his dagger against the beast.
"Werewolf in camp! To arms!" went up the cry and battle was joined.
The Party hurried in, attacking the Werewolf as it freed itself from the tent remains. It was clear that the Gnome was unconcious and strapped to the back of the Werewolf for some reason. As most of the Party surrounded the beast, the Drow quickly made her way to the Dwarf and pressed her crossbow to his head. Sarah (the Drow's player) calmly said,
"I shoot him in the face" justifying her action with the statement that the Dwarf clearly couldn't be trusted. The other players were suprised at this but the Drow followed through, denying them a chance to interrogate the Dwarf or persuade the Drow to do something else. The massive injury caused the Dwarf to grow, gain hair, teeth, claws and a tail. The Dwarf was indeed, a werewolf, and was changing before their very eyes.
Waking up to find himself strapped to a bucking Werewolf which was trying to leap free of the camp, the Gnome started to wriggle free of his bonds until he realised it was better that he use those same bonds to make a real nuisance of himself and try to make it difficult for the werewolf to move easily. Pulling on his bonds in ways that would hamper the mobility of the wolf, allowing his friends a chance to catch up and bring it down.
After a few of the Barbarian's blows came close to striking the tied Gnome Bard and realising that he couldn't unleash his God's might against the Werewolf as he'd catch the Gnome in the magical blast, the Priest dove forward with the intent to touch his friend and administer magical healing to ensure the Gnome could survive a stray shot. Miraculously, this desperate ploy worked and with the Gnome more healthy, the group laid into the wolf while the Gnome pulled on his bonds with all his might trying to slow his captor down.
With the Dwarf-Werewolf being brought down mercilessly by the Drow and the captain, the escaping Werewolf had little chance to get clear, hampered by the camp and by the Gnome's efforts. Before long, it too was brought down and the Gnome rescued. Swiftly, the party decapitated their foes, collecting the heads.
After discipline was restored to the camp (and after letting the Gnome bard jump up and down shouting, "I TOLD you people could turn into Werewolves!" a lot) the party chgecked that the three werewolf heads they had collected by now had reverted to their original form. Sure enough, the faces of the bitten human, an unknown human and the Dwarf stared sightlessly out of the sacks they kept the heads in. With these identities confirmed, the party returned to their watches only to receive a second visitation: three more Werewolves circling the camp at just over 100 feet outside the camp in the gathering darkness.
The camp was roused a second time. Weary men gathered weapons and armour, but no attack came. Instead, an old, bald pilgrim walking heavily on a big stick and wearing wooden rosary beads approached the camp, passing through the circle of roaming werewolves without harm. He stopped short of the camp and when nobody apprached him he called out,
"It is rude to not come a greet a messenger, is it not?"
Using the Drow's Message spell, the Party asked questions of this figure. Who was he? Why was he here? Was he aligned with the Werewolves? This figure was keen to answer and asked to app[roach the camp if the camp would not approach him....if the party agreed not to knife him, that was. Parlay was called and the figure approached to talk.
The Pilgrim didn't know his name. he was ancient, silver eyes, sunken facial features, bald skull but silvered whiskers. he proudly identified himself as the leader of the hunt....just not the hunt the party were involved in. Accusing the other humans and the Dwarves of interfering with his hunt, the pilgrim revealed that the party were to test the werewolves by participating in a hunt where they are the prey. Werewolves against the party. He also revealed that the Dwarves were encountered but so far were elusive, the one Dwarf that was turned had strayed from the Dwarven camp to take a bathroom break and was easy to take - no sport in it. The Wolves were only interested in a fair hunt to test their mettle against the wolf-killers, the Party themselves.
Offering to cook for them and to let the others go without harm, the pilgrim told the party to meet him and his followers in the High Forest the following evening and they would share stories about themselves to better get to know both hunters and hunted. The following day the Wolves would give the party a half hour start into the forest and the Wolves would follow. There was no sport in hunting out on the plain - it was too easy for the werewolves to make good use of their mobility and strength.
Trusting that the party would follow his invitation and providing instruction on where to resupply at a farmstead the wolves had already raided, the Pilgrim simply turned and left, also trusting that he wouldn't be struck down. taking his Werewolves with him, the Pilgrim simply departed. Half the camp had seen the exchange and questions started to be asked. Many thought the Party should just go to spare the rest of them, some hary Merc planned to use the Partry as a distraction while they struck. The party were ordered to the Captains tent, where they plotted their next move.
The Pilgrim had inadvertently given the party and the Captain a lot of info. They now knew that there were 5 wolves, only 2 of which could actually be stalking the Dwarves (as they had seen the other three here tonight). They also knew that the other Dwarves were yet to be taken, meaning there were 4 well-armed and pissed-off Dwarves in the woods. They knew that the wolves would hunt the day after tomorrow and they knew where the wolves would be. This was an oppertunity to get them all!
The plan the Captain concocted with the Party went something like this: Send the most weakened and less able back to Yartar, as if the camp was breaking up and leaving the party to the hunt. Send the partry to meet the Pigrim and the wolves, keeping them busy. Send a group of more capable mercs to deal with the two wolves and rescue the Dwarves, adding them to the group. use this better fighting force to set an ambush for the wolves. have the party lead the hunt into the ambush, turning the tables on a much reduced fighting force. Return to Yartar as heroes. Get paid a veritle f**k-tion of loot, claiming extra danger-money for the underestimated risk and the abandonment of the Waterbaron's men from the hunt. It all sounded so possible and very profitable.
The question is, would the party dare to put themselves in harms way, marching to what would possibly be their very last supper?
How to lose friends and influence people (to believe there's werewolves among you)
The party had saved the Gypsies from (Dwarf-sponsored) violence and were welcome in their camp for the evening, allowing them to take in the comforts of the caravan lifestyle and hear a little of their hosts' history. The group spent a long tie debating the relative merits and moralities of what to do with their captives, with the Barbarian (Dee) simply looking to murder them but everyone else having progressively less harsh views on what to do from the bloodthirsty Gnomes call to torture these thugs for info to the Priest's negotiation tactics to let them go. In the end (after the party patched up the thug that the Drow had shot) the Barbarian tied the thugs to a tree, hanging them by their arms, barely able to stand on their tip-toes. Certainly a pleasant way for them to spend an evening. At least they'd be no trouble.
An evening of strange things commenced, with the Gnome learning some new songs from the Gypsy minstral, the Drow getting a fortune reading from the old gypsy woman, Madame Zostrya, and the Priest and Barbarian both being told a tale of woe by the camp leader, Stanimir. Stanimir's story was one of an unknown Prince, deep within enemy territory who came to the Gypsies for help one night. As Stanimir spoke, the fire in the camp seemed to form images, highlighting his tale. The Gypsies hid the man, not knowing he was a Prince, and shielded him against the hunters and soldiers of his enemies. In turn, the Prince defended the Gypsies from the violence of his enemies when the time came, and was safely delivered home where he offered the Gypsies a permenent safe haven in his realm, one they could come and go from however and whenever they would like. Stanimir finished the story in a melancholy mood: since forming a bond of friendship with the Gypsies, it seems this Prince has fallen to a dark curse and has become cruel and harsh. The Gypsies roam all realms sending heroic and capable adventurers back to their Leader, a Madame Eva, in the hopes that someone will be able to rid their once noble prince of his darkness.
Winding up his tale, Stanimir suggested that the group had been kind and thus-far heroic, protecting the Gypsies without being asked in their moment of need. Perhaps they should see Madame Eva and see what they can do to help? The riches of their people could be their reward for doing so. While this story was being told, the fortune telling reading was not going well, with the old woman trying to hide her activities from the other Gypsies. Stanimir warned the group that it would be bad luck for his mother to do a reading if the party wanted to get a full reading from Madame Eva, who could accurately predict fortunes but the party allowed their Drow the reading regardless. The reading ended with a peculiar twist - one of Zostrya's cards had been defaced, the image of a wolf-head scrawled onto the ripped card in charcoal. This seemed to surprise the Gypsy who fearfully turned the next card, revealing a Paladin stabbing a defeated beast through the skull. This led the old woman to cry out in joy, repeating the words "Wolf-killer" and handing the Drow the defaced wolf card, tearing it in two before she handed it over as some sort of odd keepsake.
After partying with the Gypsies for a bit and sleeping in the camp, the party helped the Gypsies pack up in the morning. Stanimir offered to meet the party on the plains beyond the staging grounds for today's hunt in a couple of days after his people had gathered supplies and the Gypsies moved out. The party then gathered their prisoners and started their march back to Yartar, intending to hand over their captives to the guards. This was a plan the thugs didn't like!
Bartering hard for their freedom, the thugs convinced the party to let them go in exchange for their take of the pay for the job. The thugs had no interest in the party - they were just doing a paid job. Surely the party understood that? Confident in their ability to take out these two thugs easily should the need arise, the Priest armed one of them with a mace and untied them (much to the disgust of the Barbarian!) and then had the Gnome pay them a few gold for lodgings from the thug's own take for the job. The group then walked past the guards at Yartar's gates with the thugs before parting ways peacefully as agreed. The thugs took off once in the town, eliciting questions from the guards and making the group suspect that their captives were trying to report back to their employers before the party could.
The party had the morning to spend in Yartar. After confirming with the Dwarves that the bet was still on (and secretly finding out if their captives had informed the Dwarves of how the party had foiled their violent plans), paying the halfling pie trader for yetserday's trouble and acquiring materials for a clockwork cow toy and a bag of stale meat ("werewolf bait!" exclaimed the Gnome), the group joined the other hunters at the staging grounds, as the high sun burned what remained of the morning mist off the plains. The hunt was on!
The hunt began well enough with the various teams of hunters and their assigned handlers simply getting on with it. As the groups approached the farmsteads and came withing sight of the eastern High Forest things went a bit screwy. As the groups camped in relative safety, another chilling mist rose from the grassy plains. The party were awoken to the sound of far-away howls and got up to investigate. Noticing wolf tracks passing their tent and moving in towards the camp, the party followed to find that the tracks led to another groups camp, a matter of yards away. 5 tents stood, one was collapsed. The team split up and investigated. The standing tents had occupants sleeping in them. The party retreated from these, trying not to wake the sleepers. The collapsed tent, however, had signs of violence in it with three vertical slashes down the side of the canvas. The party were convinced a werewolf had been here and their Gnome bard raised the alarm with his lute.
After the chaos of 10 or so groups all arming quickly and looking for a non-existent enemy, the mercs who were part of the hunting groups silenced the Bard and demanded an explanation. It looked like the group were going to get throttled for raising a false alarm until the Drow quietly said "What if the wolf didn't come in. What if the wolf was already in the camp?" Sarah rolled a persuasion check, getting a perfect 20. Those around her were convinced - they had harboured an enemy without knowing it! Anyone here could be a Werewolf in disguise!!
After letting that possibility sink in to the angry mob of armed men, the Barbarian followed it up with a plan that would cause Logic Death to chuckle to himself. Dee's Barbarian proclaimed, "There's only one way to be sure - we test everyone!" offering to cut people with the silvered weapons they were all carrying to see the effect. Finding the wolves that way would surely be obvious?
Someone around the table suggested that this was like John Carpenter's "The Thing". I agreed with a devious smile. (Lesson #1: Do not trust a smiling DM).
While it seemed reasonable to some, others in the camp weren't happy about being corralled and injured intentionally. Once they got a testing regime going, things appeared to settle.....until it came time to round up the Dwarves.
"Stupid Human - being a Werewolf is a HUMAN problem! Who ever heard of a Dwarf Werewolf??" cried the Dwarf leader. One of the crowd responded,
"That's what a werewolf would say!" and the militiamen running the hunt moved in to capture the Dwarves and have them forcibly submit to testing. After a few failed rolls here and there (with common sense failing against the mounting paranoia) the Dwarves decided to defend themselves and a fight broke out between them and the militiamen of Yartar.
Logic Death was seeming loving this. I let the players roll the Dwarf attacks while I rolled for the militiamen. Thanks to Logic Death messing with their dice rolls (which my long time players of mine know only too well), not only did the Dwarves win the fight, they pretty much murdered 90% of the Yartar forces arrayed against them. The remaining Militiamen ran off, fearing reprisals now they were seriously outnumbered. Bruised and disgusted that Humans would accuse them of being monsters, the Dwarf leader angrily tested himself to prove a point, then cut each of his followers in front of the still shell-shocked crowd before marching off to hunt the Werewolves without these stupid humans. The Dwarves angrily left the camp and all the chaos they had just caused.
With the obviously battle-capable Dwarves having left and most of the militia dead, the rest of the hunters began to break up. Many groups, fearing they would no longer be paid now Yartar's guards had been killed or had abandoned the hunt, decided to pack up and call it a day returning to Yartar with all haste. Amidst the exodus, the leader of the Mercs took control of the remaining people, calling for hunters to remain and see the job out. He had a plan, he wanted to be paid and the hunt was very much still on. With the Mercs, some farmers and the odd hanger-on left, battleplans were laid and morale boosted, despite the hunt now being half the strength it had originally been.
Choosing a location, organising a formation and timing the march like a soldier on a campaign, the Merc's leader used the assets he had left as wisely as he could, organising a search line with the intent to collapse the line on any given Werewolf to surround their prey swiftly and bring it down without remorse. The following morning saw the grassy plains shrouded in mist but knowing that any more setbacks could fracture the hunt still further, the Merc pushed the hunt on, keeping the less-capable Farmers back with their supplies and carts to keep them safe as the more seasoned combatants got to the serious work of hunting monsters. With the double line spread across the pains and the adventuring party situated in the best positions to make use of their powers, the hunt came across it's prey in the mist of the morning.
Seeing only eddies and a shadowed shape in the fine mist, the group encountered their first Werewolf out on their right side. As the line started to curl in to attempt to surround the beast, a second shape in the mist on the left become evident. As planned, the hunting line split like a worm cut in two, and two new lines were formed, each facing it's own Werewolf.
Combat was brutal and swift with both Werewolves using their considerable size and power to leap into the hunting line, take out a target and leap back out, seemingly uncaring of the damage they were taking as a result of their reckless assault. Spells flew, arrows were loosed spears stabbed and swords swung but these two beasts took every blow and shrugged them off. The Werewolves were obviously more than a match for the hunters, even despite their silvered weapons.
After losing 4 of their defenders, the hunting lines started to get a bit desperate but then the unlikeliest of things happened. The Gnome Bard, staying central to his line and trying to inspire the troops, stopped playing his song and stepped up towards the Werewolf towering above his companions, clearly relishing toying with these weak humans. Carrying his sack of meat, the Gnome hurled this sack over the line of human hunters and scored a critical hit! Clearly Loigic Death was not done with the party yet! Blinded by virtue of having a sack of meat on it's head, the Werewolf tried to shake itself free but the distraction offered the hunters the chance to surround and attack the confused beast. Taking wound after wound, the Werewolf shook free of the sack and it's contents and tried to leap free and retreat in pain. Not wanting to let it get away, the Barbarian hurled a spear at the fleeing wolf, scoring a hit and bringing his target down. The hunters had done it! They had killed a Werewolf!!
The other Werewolf, seeing what had happened, fled into the mist, no longer to risk toying with it's hunters. The Hunters took this as an opportunity to retreat back to the Farmers and get a defensible camp made away from the scene of the battle. Sadly, the Farmers were found eviscerated by an unknown assailant - maybe there had been three Werewolves? Gathering supplies, the remaining hunters beat a retreat across the plains until they felt safe enough to slow down and regain their composure.
With the hunt now depleted still farther, but a Werewolf kill under their belts, would the hunt continue or would discretion be the better part of valour this day?
Registration for the Hunters
Our story began with a small band of adventuring bretheren who all have their origins in the wrong side of their societies: An ex-criminal Priest of Life trying to go straight (Nathan), a Rock Gnome Tinkerer/Bard on a greedy quest for money to help his society later (Denney), a rebellious Drow Noblewoman with a knack for channeling magickal energies out to break centuries of segregation and tradition (Sarah), and a rage-filled Barbarian from the fringes of the civilised world who's likely solution to any given problem is direct and savage violence (Dee). This motley crew found kindred spirits in one another and while they were worlds apart in outlook and abilities, their outsider natures meant that they worked well together - each understood what it was to be outside of societies norms.
Running out of cash and with no leads on any jobs, the group jumped at the chance for easy money on a hunt sponsored by the current Waterbaron of Yartar. Summoned to the town square for an open-air briefing, the party arrived early and watched the crowds gather around them.
The group weren't the first there. A band of Mercs and several militiamen were already in the square. The mercs were obviously talking cash while the militiamen spoke of the hunt. At one end of the square, erected over a fountain, there was a makeshift wooden platform with a ladder running up it's left side. Several of the Waterbaron's personal guards stood on and around the platform, resplendent in their polished breastplates, plumed helmets and fanciful spears. In another corner of the square, three fancy, painted gypsy caravans stood unattended with their 6 horses tied to nearby plumbing features.
As the group awaited their briefing, others started to fill the square. A group of rowdy dwarves too up residence behind them while farmers, armed with whatever they could find, came in from the right side of the square. Groups of thugs and ne'er-do-wells occupied the space at the back of the square with a small group of cloaked Elves stood at the back corner, farthest from the stage and watching the crowd for someone. The rest of the square was occupied by townsfolk and adveturing types, curious or eager for employment. Most of the gathered crowd were armed in one way or another.
The party listened to the hubbub of the crowd for clues on what was going on. The Farmers were afraid that the Waterbaron wasn't going to run these wolves out of their land - they were genuinely frightened. The Dwarves were upset at the appearance of the Gypsies and were being openly racist towards them, despite the fact no Gypsies could be seen. The thugs were looking for a way to avoid work and claim reward while the Elves were looking for their 'Dark cousins', a reference to Drow, perhaps?
Before the party could act, the Waerbaron took her place atopp the stage and addressed the crowd, laying out the threat they were to hunt. Gypsy travellers and Farmers had encountered Werewolves, east of Yartar, coming out of the High Forest. With no apparent assistance from Elves, Druids or the Emerald Enclave it was up to the Lord's Alliance and the people of Yartar to save their lands and livestock from this menace. All Werewolf carcasses taken by the hunt were to have a bounty paid upon then to ALL members of the hunt, regardless of who made the kill. Local militia were to run little groups of hunters with multiple groups to hunt in concert until the threat is eliminated.
After putting down some heckles from thugs and the Mercs, the Waterbaron offered registration to any in the square looking to join the hunt. Her smiths would silver weapons left with her guards to combat this menace. She was definately taking the threat seriously and had liquidated some of her own assets to raise the funds to pay for this hunt. With the mission and it's pay announced, the Waterbaron retreated to her chambers while her guards started the process of registering the hunters and taking weapons.
While the crowd started to form a line, the party intercepted the farmers and quizzed them about these Werewolves. The Farmers insisted that the threat was real and thet their lands had already suffered. One of their number was sporting injuries from an encounter already, it was clear they thought the threat was real. During this talk the party failed to notice an old Gypsy woman approach and as the farmers moved to the registration line this old woman started to point at the party and clap her hands together in glee, shouting something in a language none nearby knew.
This ruckus attracted the attention of a taller Gypsy man, who came running out of the caravans, and the Dwarves, who were openly hostile to the gypsy woman. As the man approached the old woman, the Dwarves pushed past the party and surrounded the gypsies, stopping short of drawing weapons but clearly taking an aggressive stance. The party intervened, trying to diffuse the situation before the Gypsies got hurt and somehow earned some respect from the Dwarves, despite the fact that the Dwarves clearly had no love of the Gypsy couple and that the Gypsy woman was obviously fascinated with the party itself.
As the Priest and the Barbarian led the dwarves away to the queue with the promise of beer and dead wolves, the Gypsy woman latched on to the Drow, leading her away to the caravans. The Elves, having never joined the registration line (never really having intended to), watched the exchange between Gypsies, party and Dwarves and decided to send one of their number away through the streets to somewhere in Yartar. Seeing this, the Rock Gnome Bard decided to follow and see what he could find out while the queue for registration remained large.
It didn't take long for the Gnome to get into trouble. His little legs couldn't keep up with the almost supernatural grace of the Elf as he followed it through the marketplaces beyond the town square. Twisting this way and that, the Gnome ran into a costly deay when a Halfling pie-merchant get in his way trying to sell him some wares. Brushing the seller off as politely as he could with a promise of a sale later on, the Gnome had to choose a direction to go - Alleys on the left, on the right or try some of the buildings nearby. Choosing an allyway, the Gnome advanced, stealthily followed by a thug.
Once in the alley it was clear that the Elf hadn't come down this way. Trying to turn back the Gnome faced the thug following him, as two others dropped down from their windows to block the Gnomes path both forwards and back to the Marketplace. Faced with a mugging and now topo far from his friends to call for help, the gnome used some magic to try and distract the thug following him so he could dodge past and escape......but sadly got thumped for his trouble. Stabbing his assailant in the inner thigh, the Gnome took a chance on a wild dash and broke free of the alleyway, things in pursuit!
Thinking fast, the Gnome ran back to the pie-seller saying, "My friends are behind me. They REALLY want some of your pies!" before running off. The Halfling, assured of an excited sale or three, started to load some wares onto a tray and offered the full platter to the incoming thugs, inadvertently blocking them in the process. Desperate to hide their weapons, the thugs tried to be tactful but when they got angry and forced their way over the halfling and his wares someone in the crowd yelled, "Knife! Assault! Guards! Guards!"
Thinking better of facing the law over a simple mugging, the thugs retreated and our Gnome got back to the square safely, just a little battered for his adventure.
While our Gnome was away playing 'Metal Gear Solid' with an Elf, the Gypsy woman was busy trying to entice the Drow back to the caravan. After warning her fellows that she'd need help if not back in 15 mins, she proceeded to follow to the old woman's caravan, only to be blocked at the door by the Gypsy man.
"is OK now, I take care of her. You go wolf-hunt" said the man in broken common-speak. Clearly not a native of a close country. After hearing some happy cries from the cabin beyond of "Wolf-Killer!" the woman reappeared having hunted through the cabin for a deck of cards. She proudly showed them to the Drow, trying to entice her in. The Gypsy man resisted, and insisted that he would take care of his mother - nothing to worry about here. Making a note to possibly revisit later for a fortune reading, the Drow joined her follows in the queue.
Later on after registration and being taken to the staging grounds where they should meet at noon the following day, half of the party decided to find their Dwarf 'friends' to drink with them, get friendly and make some money by wagering the outcome of the hunt. After tracking down the racous Dwarves to a seedy bar, they found themselves interrupting some sort of transaction with a hooded and pointy-nosed human. Letting the Dwarves have space for their business, the party sat and made merry with their new friends. Meanwhile, back at the inn where the party were staying, the other half of the group observed a hooded, pointy-nosed human come and sit with his fellows at a booth, distributing coin from a Dwarven purse and whispering information to one another. Hearing the chink of coin and having nothing better to do while his Barbarian chum drank himself to death, the Gnome decisded to investigate.
"Have you heard about those Gypsies then?" said the gnome, acting upon a mad instinct. The men weren't impressed at the interruption and they gently persuaded the Gnome to go bother someone else. Catching sight of bandoliers full of knives under their travelling cloaks (and under a warning from the Barbarian) the Gnome complied. The hooded man and his compatriots left, saying something about "not being able to talk here". Sadly they took their coin with them.
Back with the Dwarves, the Priest and Drow were gettiung into it with the Dwarves, having made a bet for a quarter of the hunt's take for the group with the most kills. Drink was flowing and all was merry when the hooded man suddenly reappeared. Offering to excuse themselves from what was obviously a business transaction, the hooded man warmly said,"it's no trouble, just need to chat a little business. It's nothing secret."
Turning to the lead-Dwarf (Modrin), the man continued, "The delivery will be made tonight. Had some problems but shouldn't stop the delivery. If you want to inspect the goods, just come down to the waterside after dark", The Dwarf, seemingly satisfied, nodded curtly and dismissed the man, before returning to his drinking comanions with a n apology for the interruption. As he left, the hooded man bought a round for the Dwarves and the group for the interruption before he rejoined his companions outside of the bar.
The Gnome had followed the hooded man and his associates, and the Drow came out of the bar, seeing the men and the Gnome. After a swift exchange of information after the men moved away, it was clear that there may be a clear a present danger to he Gypsies. Gathering the group together, the party planned an intervention.
Once reunited, the group sent the Gnome out to gather weapons (as they'd handed theirs in for silvering). Then the approached the Gypsy caravanst o find they had packed up and were moving out. After a friendly exchange with the Gypsy horsehands and conveyance of a warning, they were invited to the Gypsy camp outside of Yartar's walls for an evening meal. Accepting, the party joined their new friends.
Once they'd joined the camp just after sundown, the party found themselves welcomed by the man they had met in the square. Identifying himself as, Stanimir, and his mother (the old Gypsy woman) as Madame Zoltyr, he thanked the group for their help and showed they were willing to defend against any threat that may come. Sure enough, as the sun went down a cry across the grassy plain the Gypsies had camped in came, "Help me!" came a pathetic cry from the silhouette of a man, limping towards the caravans.
Sensing subterfuge, the group indicated to the Gypsies to stay at the camp and defend. The Barbarian moved forward, ready to meet any threat head on. The man in the darkness collapsed with a pathetic plea for help. The group weren't fooled. Seeing other shadows ring the camp, the Drow used a dancing lights spell to highlight a hidden figure that had been creeping around the camp. Puttingh two and two together and expecting 4 assailants, the group started looking for others when a crossbow bolt wistled through the camp, missing everyone. A voice from the plainms, difficult to locate boomed out.
"Look, we've no quarrel with you. We're here to taech these filtly Gypsies a lesson. They brought evil to our land. They deserve what's coming"
The group were having none of this so they moved on the two men they had seen. Assuming they were under attack by fighters allied to the Gypsies, the hooded men drew weapoins and fought. Sadly for them, it was a very one-sided fight.
The Priest moved to the "help me" man to find himself set upon by a knifeman. Hissing at him from between gritted teeth even as he attacked, the man said, "Just stand aside! We're not here to fight with you. What's it to you what happens to these scum?" replying that the Gypsies were under their protection, the Priest fought back somewhat ineffectually......and then the Barbarian arrived, sinking two axes into the knifeman, killing him instantly. Flicking the blood from his axes the Barbarian simply said, "next".
With the Drow seeking the shooter with her superior night vision (shooting their would-be assailant even as he was shooting at her), the Gnome started up an inspitational song only to get toe-to-toe with an an attacker. Attempting to hit his foe with his instrument (and being easily blocked) the Gnome found himself stabbed gleefully by one of the men he recognised from the inn even as Stanimir and his men closed in to help. Taking another mighty swing, the Gnome connected with his clockwork lute (reinforced for such things, don't you know?) and quickly started to hog-tie his unconcious assailant.
The Priest rushed the leader, whom had appeared in the grasslands now knowingh stealth wasn't going to work. Briefly lighting his position with a Searing Flame spell, the Priest tackled the leader to the floor before letting the man roll him over and sit atop him. They struggled with the thug's knife, even as the heavy footfalls of a chargiong Barbarian came ever nearer. As the thug drew back his hand to deliver a death-blow to the priest beneath him, the parbarians axes sheared through the thug's outstretched knife-arm. Shock registering on his face for a moment before he bled out from the severe trauma, the man died without ever seeing what had hit him.
Seeing a chance to loot the man quickly, the priest reached up from under the fresh corpse but only grabbed a handful of genitals. Satisfied with his kill, the Barbarian simply lifted the body aloft, looted it thoroughly and cast the body aside like a used towel. Meanwhile, the Drow had hunted her prtey and secured a surrender from the hidden crossbowman. Efficient and effective.
With two kills and two captives, the party discussed how to deal with the Dwarves, who had obviously hired these men to do a dastardly deed. Question is, what will the party do now?