A sign goes up in the marketplace seeking help for a village in trouble. Meeting in “The Happy Highwayman” tavern on the south road towards Durholme, a group of adventurers set out upon a mission that would bring terrors and uncover a great evil done to a small village.
The adventurers who gathered at the tavern were:
- Ranger Wulfric of the Berwickshire Medium; Godman Armstrong of the Scouts Guild;
- Pestopheles and Henryk of the Guild of Physicians;
- Mother Brigit Wooller of Crowa; Tungdil Stonehammer of Tralda;
They were met by Niels who hired them to investigate reports of a village in trouble and to locate his missing man – a Mr Strücker. A scout he had hired to go to the village had returned with no report, only that “it was above his pay grade”, which had led Niels to seek out the help of adventurers.
A couple of hours down the road from the tavern and down a small track they came upon an old building with the walls carved with spirals. This had once been a shrine to Krygan, Brigit sure it having been deserted for a while, but with the talk on the road having been of dark god followers to avoid it seemed an ill omen. They set off down the path is skirmish order, looking for a way to the village through the undergrowth. They came upon a tunnel through the rock that was filled with undergrowth – but then horror of horrors they found a person imprisoned by the living branches that seemed to have grown hands. Hacking them off the villager she was carried back up the tunnel where Pestopheles, Henryk and Brigit were. Healing the villager and reviving her the trio were able to learn some of what had befallen the village whilst Wulfric and Tungdil worked at clearing the tunnel of any more suprises.
As they reached the village they came upon some wooden automata masquerading as scarecrows and bound villagers made to look like scarecrows. The group were able to untie the villagers and heard more of the woes of the village. Several days ago a man named Strauman had come to the village. He had seemed pleasant enough for a foreigner and had been conducting some experiments out in the woods. But that was when people began to disappear – first the woodcutters, then the foragers, then the people who’d gone out to look for them. Then Strauman had returned with a bunch of scarecrows in tow and had rounded up the villagers, taking a few away a day for them never to return. One of the villagers asked if they had seen her cousin, a local scout, who they agreed to look for and the adventurers set off out of the village to track down this Strauman and the missing villagers. At the edge of the bridge was a bewitching trap that ensnared Wulfric and sent him off into the woods. Concerned, Brigit went after him but lost him swiftly in the darkness. Spotting a shape watching her from the woods she went back and took Henryk and Pestopheles with her out into the darkness, leaving Tungdil to destroy the bridge to prevent others becoming bewitched.
In the woods Brigit gathered her courage and stepped off the path having seen the light Wulfric carried in his belt off amongst the trees, but she spotted a shape behind a tree and drew her sword. A man, a local scout it seemed, greeted them warily and they made the usual introductions people make when meeting under suspicious circumstances – who are you, what are you doing here, are you going to put that weapon away? etc. But the light attached to Wulfric moved off and Brigit asked the scout for his help in tracking him. The four of them scaled the slope only to lose Wulfric yet again, but eventually Henryk was able to corner him and get some sense back into him. The next words that came out of Wulfric’s mouth were the most alarming – there was a figure on the road heading back to the village. And they’d left Tungil alone.
At that they heard a cry of “Tralda” and Brigit urged the nimble scouts and physician to go to Tungil’s aid as she sought a safer path down towards the river. As she and Pestopheles reached the river they found Tungdil and a moving scarecrow. Brigit told Pestopheles to run and planted herself in the way of the monster knowing she had no weapons that would harm it. They came to blows and the world went black.
Coming round Brigit found her companions mostly in one piece sharing information, the local scout at times furious and anxious for his family, at other times in disbelief at the state of the supposed “heroes” who had come to help. Brigit was able to smooth things and offered their aid, asking him to help them with his local knowledge of where Strauman might have gone. They turned to leave and found another scarecrow had popped up in the path whilst they were talking.
More scarecrows kept appearing along the route – some still, some swaying in the breeze, some moving, as the group followed the river. They came upon a mage passing rags to a Raggedy Man and leapt into battle, though not before the mage was able to turn Wulfric’s mind against them. The foolish mage was not able to escape the dwarf however, whilst Brigit turned to find Wulfric driving a dagger into the unsuspecting Pestopheles and turning on Henryk and Godman. Henryk was able to fell him and Brigit patched up their Ranger as Godman questioned what the hell was going on. Henryk and Brigit had a brief disagreement over healing Pestopheles and Henryk threatened Brigit for interfering in his work – at which point Tungil hauled the physician aside and had some stern words accentuated with the edge of an axe blade.
With tensions running high the adventurers headed after the mage and entered into the beginning of a nightmarish game. A voice that seemed to speak to them from everywhere taunted them with the promise of a little “game” and being given a “purpose”. More scarecrows and a grisly find – that amidst the straw was flesh. Brigit vomited when Wulfric pointed out this discovery and confided in her his suspicions – that Strauman had been using the villagers to make automata, and that they had probably been killing what remained of the villagers they had come to save. The voice continued its taunt, drawing them ever onwards until an eerie light appeared before the company and a ghostly face contorted and screamed at them. Tungdil swung his axe at the apparition but it passed straight through it, and the woods around them became full of the sound of shuffling feet and moans, with the light and face reappearing amongst the party. Brigit turned her gaze heavenward and prayed aloud to Crowa to calm her own fears and to remind the others that they were not alone, but when they were out of the enclosed space nerves were clearly beginning to shred.
A raggedy man, a fae that collects flesh and cloth, was picking over a corpse – which the party fought off and destroyed though Brigit found herself yet again bleeding out on the floor after having provided the most tempting target. They then fought a group of Kryganites who were seeking the “ultimate warrior” – Brigit, Wulfric and Tungdil unwilling to let the heretics get away to cause more mischief elsewhere.
Then on towards the bridge and the conclusion of this gory tale. The voice returned, praising them for following through its little game, but introducing Strücker, who had been remade and repurposed as a more powerful scarecrow. They fought this creature and advanced on the speaker who unveiled his greatest work with pride – the true reason he had come to Berwickshire – a scarecrow possessing great strength and bearing a two handed sword. Cursing, the adventurers prepared to fight the creature but Brigit’s shield was swiftly cloven in two and the company scattered as they tried to harry the creature and heal wounds or simply get out of the way. It was eventually destroyed, though not until many of the company’s weapons were destroyed also, and Tungdil and Wulfric rounded on Strauman.
Brigit kept out of their conversation, but took Godman aside after the twisted man taunted the scout with the knowledge that his family were dead and urged him to hope, to believe, to not give in until the proof was before him. With the mage gagged and tied up, they explored the site which had clearly been his workshop. It made their stomachs turn at what they found and agreed that a Kharachian was needed swiftly to give these poor souls the respect they deserved. They stayed in the village until dawn to protect the villagers and to see what could be done for them before escorting those who chose to leave back to Newcroft. Godman found evidence that his wife was dead and returned with them to the tavern on the Durholme Road, the ties he had to that place now gone.
Niels was dissatisfied with their efforts, as his dead man was no use to him, but the stuff that had been recovered from the final automata proved enough to cover their costs for repair and replacement of equipment. Strauman was handed over to the law and the adventurers returned to Newcroft, a little patch of Berwickshire somewhat safer than it had been before.
But Brigit’s heart breaks for the people they had failed to rescue and one can only wonder if there were others out there doing similar dastardly things beyond the “safe havens” guarded by sturdy walls.