This is a write up after three RPG session conducted by Google+Hangouts and Roll20. It is loosely based on a commercial scenario for the Pathfinder Game, The Skinsaw Murders, which is the second chapter in the Rise of the Runelords. If playng in that campaign then do not read the write-up below
Jayne – Wise woman and to her surprise, healer
Xavier More – student of mysteries
Lord Amery Flashheart – Down at heels swordsman
Lancashire Jack – Soldier looking for a cause
Robert Poldark – reformed pirate, half naked grass cutting a speciality
Mitchell – because he’s worth it. Dog.
Having left Uffington, they are heading to Dover to take ship for the continent, the group stop off in the village of Wantage. There they learn that there is a start of a hue and cry for the deposed Squire of Uffington, that the cousin if organising a search to apprehend malcontents who raised up the innocent people of Uffington against their rightful Lord.
Also there are stories from France of religious strife and that English ships are being turned back from French ports.
That night, in the Inn, each gets a dream. The voice that drew them all on the quest warns them that the way south is being watched. The ship they are to get will meet them in Maldon on the East coast.
Jayne gets a longer dream with a warning (OOC – The character picked for this was randomly determined. It could have been Mitchell, Xavier, Flashheart or Lancashire Jack. Lucky Jayne)
“You have an admirer, I cannot tell from where the thought comes, but it comes strong, It thinks of you, and it is not a pleasant
“You will learn to love me, desire me in time as she did. Give yourself to me and live forever.”?
With this disturbing news the group turn east towards the town of Abingdon. They notice that the farmers are wary, They follow at a distance and are obviously armed. You stop one group to ask what is going on and learn that there have been disappearances and some deaths . The attacks come at night and the wounds look horrifically like they had been caused by human teeth.
With that awful news you continue to Abingdon and find the normally welcoming town is shuttered up and the doors locked. The only Inn that is open for business is
“The Cleft Skull”, whose seven foot tall owner, hideously scarred, with a rasping voice welcomes you.
The Inn, despite its name and Matt’s failure to pick up on the reference, is wall appointed, the food is wholesome and the bedroom clean.
Fed and watered and settling down for the night, you are interrupted by the town’s Bailiff.
He enquires about any strange sights you may have seen on your travels. When asked why, he says that people aren’t travelling much at the moment, and that recently he caught a madman near some lightly chewed corpses marked with a curious symbol. So, like, weird stuff is going on
“We were assaulted by a deranged man near an ruined house east of the town along the Small Road. The man was obviously sick and insane, his flesh fevered, eyes wild, mouth frothing, and clothes caked with blood. We subdued him, but when they checked inside the house they discovered the mutilated bodies of three men.
“I might not have known them if I had not recently thrown them out of town myself. They were peddlars and thieves. Vagabonds and Mountebanks without a scruple of decency between them.
“I was not surprised to find them dead, but I had thought a knifing in an inn and thrown into a ditch more likely. Not this. They were torn and maybe eaten. Just like the others.
“All marked too. A Strange mark carved into them. A weird kind of deformed star. All three with the same, but carved, not inked. I have them in a cellar if you want to see them, but they were far from handsome men in life, and much worse in death. Plan to bury them tomorrow. Far away”
The symbol is unknown to Xavier or Jayne, though Mitchell knows all about it, as usual. However Xavier, no stranger to Oxfordshire, knows of an antiquarian weirdo near by who might recognise it.
The next morning you find Redvers Brush, who identifies it as a symbol of ancient Babylonian origin, “as recently imparted in the scholarly work Grimorium Verum. It is linked to Lucifer there”, “I have seen works calling it the “Seal of Heylel”, and claiming it heralds a new dawn, both in the literal sense and a metaphysical sense.”
He takes you to a squat round tower surrounded by houses in a grubby, squalid courtyard. The tower is slick and doorless, no break in it at all, not even for stonework, though a kind of relief surrounds it. Among the weird shapes is the symbol you have found.
Despite all efforts, including Jayne taking on the form of a bird to try from above, you cannot get in.
An urchin brings word from the Bailiff. The lunatic is lucid, he asks you to come and bring word of this symbol. Xavier and Lancashire Jack remain (I will have a think to see if there is anything else useful that they might have discovered and email you) as Jayne, Mitchell and Flashheart follow the Urchin to Christ’s hospital, a large, monastic looking building with rooms for each patent.
The bailiff meets you with the doctor and a couple of attendants, and a darker skinned man, Gergi Nicolu, who seems flushed and has a bandaged shoulder. Mitchel refuses to go near him.
Gergi is introduced to you as a local labourer of reasonable character though not beyond doing a bit of muscle work for minor criminals. Gergi looks up as you enter, staring at each before raving
“More meat for the Dead Man eh? Beware what you seek to profit by, money or pleasures, the price is never worth it.
“What? Yes. Just a job. Not bad enough. That’ll show them, bot bad enough. They got a message. Who knew they could read. Come to the old house. You will earn silver and maybe a piece or two of gold each if you come. They thought to go, and said that if their benefactor would pay silver and maybe gold for their time then they could take
him and maybe find some more silver and gold where that came from.
“Yes, yes, why do even a dishonest day’s work they said, when a little thought can get the usurer. The usurer they thought, but no, they got the dead man. He surprised us all, we were overcome, and the ropes, like a chicken for the roast I was tied up, then he brought them to the middle of the floor from where he had flung them. They were not breathing well, but they were still alive.
“Then the hands ripped, their flesh, the stench, the sound. No more, no more. The Dead Man grumbled joy. ‘My desires’ It said ‘My desires, She will be mine and all will be made well, the sinful die and I will live’.
Gergi stares at Jayne and becomes excited and agitated.
“It is her, my new Master’s one. M’Lord Maltravers will be pleased. He will love you. He will love you more than me!
Hmm, more than me. NOOOOO!”
The gypsy flushes more, looking inhuman, launching himself at Jayne, she scuttles back out of the road, Flashheart knocks him back and the attendants manage to get a hold of him.
As Lancashire Jack and Flashheart appear here, finished with the tower, Gergi is knocked out, allowing Xavier and Jayne to examine him. In addition to his weird fever, his would is putrifying as if he were already dead, yet he seems as alive as any.
The Bailiff is stunned with surprise
END OF SESSION ONE
We rejoin the group at Christ’s Hospital in Abingdon Jayne having endured the attack of a raving madman, whose body has a wound that seems to be rotting, not festering, but rotting, yet is marvellously intact.
In the ravings the madman mentioned the name of “M’Lord Maltravers”. They could have asked the Bailiff, but they did not want to avoid the authorities in case they ended up in trouble like their actions a few days ago removing the Squire of Uffington leading to a price on their heads.
Jayne made enquiries of one of the attendants and found that the Maltravers had a house south and eat of Abingdon, a strange place surrounded by woods, which was a place of ill-omen. There were vague, dark stories but the only concrete story she got given was one about one of the Maltravers Lords going mad, murdering the household and killing himself. The Maltravers’s home, Ffion Manor, was abandoned for years before a relative came to take it over a few years ago, though it has been a while since anyone saw him in town.
With no further ado, possibly due to the shortage of time for the players, they headed through the locked up town, through the farmlands, past the suspicious farmers and to the woods.
Since everyone in Lancashire is a poacher (apparently) Lancashire Jack was sent to scout out the manor, with Mitchell for company. The others scouted around the wood.
Reluctant to go through though they were Jayne decided to explore, taking the form of a badger. She descended down and snuffled through a hole that lead straight on, as close as she could tell straight towards the manor. There were branching tunnels but she ignored them. After about 300 yards she came to an open space, with a few more branching tunnels, and reckoned that the ceiling was about 40 or 50 feet below the surface, given to slop to get here.
She continued on towards the exit in the same direction, which appeared to be heading up, when she heard a noise and a manlike thing launched out of the hole and battered her backwards.
In badger form she headed back the way she came, with all speed, launching out of the hole where Xavier, Flashheart and Robert were waiting, thus warned Robert slammed his falchion on the thing as it appeared, that seemed to break its back but it still crawled forward, moving, Xavier hit it his sword, lopping a bit off. Then, from further away, in bounded Flashheart, his blessed rapier shining with God’s holy love as he put the coup de grace to the thing.
Jayne returned shaken, but managed to pull herself together long enough to remember herhealing arts and examine the man like beast. It seemed like a rotting corpse, but the flesh was holding together well, much better than it should have, and the fingernails and teeth were elongated and there was something undefinably odd about the eyes, like they were bulging out.
Meanwhile Lancashire Jack had a longer journey to pick up the path as he wanted to scout out that route. He saw an overgrown way, the only reason it was distinguishable was because the woods were more thick with undergrowth and the overarching trees prevented the plants growing too high. Eventually he came to fields of the small plots and gardens that served the manor. They too were over grown and the nearest outbuildings fired.
The house itself was obviously in disrepair and, in places sagging, but was otherwise still intact. Mitchell, brave though he is, was reluctant to go closer until reassured by Lancashire Jack, and the thought occurred to Mitchell that, as he could outrun Jack, he’d have a chance to get away as whatever was inside ripped Jack apart. That cheered him somewhat.
Jack was cautious, and circled the house looking for signs of movement, but saw none. He looked around and about but could find no tracks save for some old wheel tracks fading into the soil.
Gingerly Jack prodded the door open, to find an empty hall, little decoration apart from a few portraits, of different people, not the same person repeated, and one of the wall tapestries covering the floor for some reason. Mould and decay was rife, and he was sure that somewhere he could hear sobbing, as of a child or a woman.
At that point the others, fresh from their rather one sided fight with the thing, arrived.
END OF SESSION TWO
The group arrived to the rotting manor in the woods, first Lancashire Jack with Mitchell, then the others following up. They found themselves in the entrance hall, lined with family portraits, badly stuffed animals and mismatched suits of armour.
As soon as they entered in to the building they heard sobbing coming from further in, a child’s sobbing, a small girl by the sound of things It seemed to be coming from under the building.
Xavier noticed a pattern of fungus and rot on a tapestry on the floor, it seemed to be acting as a conduit for a malign will, which he resisted, perhaps divining more of its nature than it did of his,
There was a whole house to search, but the group were rightly concerned with the child. Two doors seemed to promise a way downstairs. One lead to the head of some stairs, though they found this out by smashing the door down the stairs, the other lead to a cloakroom, and, upon one cloak spike,a corpse. They removed the body from the heard, just to be on the safe side, and converted one of its leg bones to a torch by the use of one of Jayne’s spells.
Lancashire Jack led the way down to the cellar, once a well made cellar, flagstones on the floor and lined sides to the walls. There were many doors leading to other sections. The first one checked seemed to be a windowless room for a child. There were sparse furnishings, a bed, a chair, a toy box, what looked liked a box for clothes.
The only light in the room was the Femur of Illumination that Jayne had created.
There were feelings of disquiet here, nothing over powering, and the toys in thee toybox were charred, though nothing else in the room was. The sound of sobbing continued, leading the group on
The next door examined was sturdy and locked. Lancashire Jack tried to shoot the lock off but ended up damaging his own pistol in the richochet instead. Robert Poldark tried the same but to no avail. Instead the two of them shoulder charged the door until it opened. They will have some bruises in the morning that will affect them, but today they are OK.
This room looked like a ruined workshop. Benches, mouldering books, broken beakers, smashed vessels, abused periodic tables, that sort of thing. The most noteworthy feature was a pair of stained glass windows, one showing a man intent on something, the other showing him in a state of decay, yet somehow triumphant. The child sized cages along one wall did not fill the group with any joy.
These proved to be doors leading to winding staircase down. This was a stair that was older than the house, whose steps did not seem made for human feet. IT lead to passageways in the rock, this was some porous material, and the water had seemed in to made the floor damp, with puddles in places.
Lancashire Jack led the way, heedless of danger, finding a small chamber in which four rotting, animate corpses were. These were far gone, covered in the same sort of fungus as the tapestry above. They lurched towards the characters, four of them. Lancashire Jack dealt one a terrific blow, knocking it back. Not to be outdone, Robert Poldark blew another’s head off, slowing it down somewhat.
Mitchell scampered forward, seized one by the hem of her rank skirt,and pulled her around, so that her back faced the group. Xavier traded blows with a fourth.
Lancashire Jack then felled his staggered opponent, whereupon Mitchell leapt onto it, bit through the next, seized the skull out of the corpse and ripped it out, trailing the spine with it, launching it upward with such great force that it flew out of the body. From almost nowhere came the deeply spoken word “Fatality!’
Robert Poldark’s finishing off his opponent with a heavy blow from his falchion was more business like, and Jayne and Xavier managed to hold off their opponents. Surrounded now though, the remaining two were easy meat and soon despatched.
Cleaning themselves up, the group passed into a much larger chamber. This was vaulted long, and at the opposite end was a throne and before that an altar. A dessicated corpse sat in the throne, though its eyes were lit by baleful fire. Manacled to the altar was the body of a small girl, dead, though it was obvious that the sobs they had been hearing came from her. Jayne, with her Shamanistic vision, saw that the spirit of the child was still bound to its corpse.
Xavier recognised the seated body for what it was, a Lich, an undead sorceror still clinging onto existence, though in this case the body was too far gone for animation, and it had to work through others. Perhaps that is why it needed the spirits of others, to fuel the exercise of its will over a greater area. Perhaps not.
Striding purposefully to the altar and throne the group suddenly became aware of a shuffling behind them. At least twenty more animate corpses of varying stages of decay and fungal infection had filled the other end are were coming forward.
Jayne started readying a spell, Lancashire Jack leapt into action, seeking to destroy the skull in whose sockets such baleful fire sat. Lancashire Jack was transfixed. First Robert Poldark, a sad relic of the child they had found before, a scorched doll, in his left hand and then Xavier tried the same, but with the same result. The three men were frozen, leaving only Jayne and Mitchell and the undead horde.
Jayne continued with her spell but, inspired some impulse, told Mitchell to free the child’s corpse from its restraints.
Lancashire Jack and Robert Poldark managed to break free of the hold of the Lich’s gaze, and Jack decapitated it, though that didn’t seem to affect it much except to make it shorter and on the floor instead of on the throne.
At this point, Jayne released her spell, a wriggling swarm of worms rained down from the ceiling of the vault. This Rain of Worms concentrated onto the Lich’s head. disrupting its concentration somewhat, having little flesh to anchor its spirit to.
******** THE BIG REVEAL ***********
Xavier, through his contact with the fungal tapestry above, had a connection that he understood, the Lich had no working body, through his binding spells the whole house was an extension to his body, and he sought power to extend that reach.
He already had his diseased living dead, like those that had been terrorising the countryside, and animated corpses, but with the power of a young Shaman, bound to his will, he could extend the borders of his control further, maybe one day to over all of England, Wales and Scotland!
The shuffling packs drew closer, some more came at that back, these looked fresher, stronger, faster,more like the ones seen outside or which had chased Jayne when she was in badger form, if they got past the clumsier ones at the front, then all hope was gone.
Robert, guided by some connection from the doll to its former owner, knew that the right thing to do was to free the child from the rune and symbol engraved manacles holding it to the altar. With Mitchell at one end and Robert at the other, the manacles were soon off.
There was a childish sigh, a breath of clean air in this dank place, and an unspoken “Thank You”, unspoken but felt. The eyes of the Lich went out. The corpses fell and moved no more and the whole area felt cleaner, tragic now rather than horrifying.
The group left as soon as they were able, getting back to the Bailiff they had spoken to. He arranged for trees to be felled, for the tunnels to be filled with fuel and for the whole lot to be torched. An unholy miasma hung over the woods for days before dissapating, leaving the world a cleaner place, terror averted and Jayne freed of the attentions of a deranged, dead sorceror. They have done good work by which they can hope to redeem themselves and carry on down the Path of Kane.
Onwards to the Port! ………. Another day