A Clue at Last!
Around noon, one of Baron Eldred’s bog hunters, Jacco de Valk, returned to Fauligmere with news. He and his erstwhile friend, Boerman, had found the witch’s abode. Well, Boerman had, anyway, and paid for it with his life. Jacco came upon his crushed corpse near the crumbling remains of an ancient ruin in the swamp. Against the ruins, there was a ramshackle lean-to made of sticks, peat, and grasses. Inside the shack, Jacco found evidence of witchery: dried animals, herbs, odd trinkets, and a bubbling cauldron of a foul green liquid. He rushed back to Fauligmere at once and reported his findings to the Baron and Matthias Krieger, the witch hunter.
The Baron summoned the heroes to the manor, and Jacco related his tale to them. Herr Krieger conferred with the Baron and they decided to put the Baron’s plan into action: the Baron, with the heroes, would lead a large contingent of the village militia and available hunters into the swamp, following Jacco’s trail, to locate and apprehend the witch. Meanwhile, Krieger and his men would fortify the town against any further attacks.
On the morning of the 24th, the hunting party set out into the swamp after the witch, twenty-four strong. Saskia van Oort joined them. However, even with Jacco as a guide, the heroes soon found themselves struggling against the implacable obstacles of the Cursed Marshes. For hours, they struggled against the marsh - against bog octopus attacks, swarms of biting flies, the ever-present risk of disease, fleshslugs, and latent corruption.
Despite these challenges, the hunting party found the ruin and (alleged) witch’s shack, just as Jacco had described it, bubbling cauldron of glowing green fluid and all. Initially, there was no sign of Boerman’s battered corpse, but a quick search of the nearby bog found it interred just under the water, weighed down with stones, and marked with pole festooned with handmade trinkets of marsh animals.
Esmée and Torvald found the site deeply disturbing - corrupted and dangerous - though Cyonee gleefully stole some of the putrescent green fluid from the bubbling cauldron, spilling some on his hand and getting a nasty scar in the process - perhaps foreboding worse things to come for him.
Fresh bare human footprints lead away from the ruin - clearly, someone had noticed their coming and removed themselves from the site. With the alleged witch out there, somewhere, the hunting party made camp for the evening, standing a good distance away from the corrupted ruin. The witch, however, did not appear during the night.
The next morning, despite the fog, the hunting began tracking the footprints. At first, the hunting party wandered aimlessly and disaster seemed impossible to escape. With Symé suffering from the Puke (contracted the day before), and almost a third of the hunting party sneaking away out of fear, the worst happened: one of the militia, a stout man by the name of Theoderic, suddenly succumbed to the corruption of the swamp, mutating and seemingly turning inside out, with long purplish tentacles sprouting from his head and anus like a finger being shoved through a tomato. The hunting party descended upon the unnameable thing that once was Theoderic and quickly dispatched it. The Baron ordered the corpse burned immediately. Saskia was especially upset by this death, for she had only two weeks before healed Theoderic of a significant foot injury.
Pressing on, a hour or two later, an eerie song of indecipherable words rose up from the bog around them. They had found the witch! A green coruscating light ran across the reeds and water around them, and on a sharp rise above them, a globe of light formed.
The swamp seemed to rear up and attack them at that moment, as a great beast of mud and muck rose among them and began to attack. It loomed above them, yet the heroes stood fast. From atop the nearby hillock where the light glowed, an arc of dripping green flame flew across the sky and exploded at the heroes’ feet, setting the water itself on fire with green flame and scorching anyone near the explosion with vile fire, just like what had happened to poor Pirn van Beek in Fauligmere.
While Esmée and Torvald sought the singer on the hillock with the assistance of the militia, the heroes and the baron engaged the swamp-thing. Sonja, Gilles, Symé, and Cyonee surrounded it and dealt telling blows, but the monster seemed impervious. With a casual flick of its wrist, it dealt a devastating blow to Cyonee, smashing his jaw and ripping tongue and teeth from his head. Cy slipped unconscious into the muck as Saskia ran to his side to drag him away from the fight.
Esmée closed on the witch, now bristling with green flame and clearly visible from his vantage point - a young man, dressed in bones and furs, feral-looking and fearsome wreathed in his witchcraft. With a magical word, the witch turned into smoke and shadow and blew away on the breeze. Esmée and Torvald could not find him. He had escaped.
The swamp-thing was dispatched with after several telling blows. As it disintegrated into pustulant muck, the Baron saw something glinting inside it. To his stunned amazement, he fished out a ring - his ring - that he had given away many, many years ago. The Baron told his tale.
The Baron’s Sad Tale
As a young man, naught but twenty, the Baron had fallen in love with fisherman’s daughter, Heidrun, who possessed a remarkable beauty. He desired to marry her. His parents, the old baron Ulrich and his mother - mostly his mother, truth be told - adamantly opposed the marriage. This did not stop the young Eldred and Heidrun. Heidrun was pregnant and Eldred had no intention of throwing her away and dishonoring her. Sneaking away, they asked the old priest of Manaan, Marbad, to marry them in secret. To seal the marriage, Eldred gave his signet ring to Heidrun. Intent on running away, they took a skiff that Marbad gifted them, with the intent to float down river to some happier place. However, his mother’s faithful lackey, Lenko Sepp, collared Eldred and Heidrun at the docks before they could slip away. The powerful man dragged the newlyweds before his parents; Lady Theodora who flew into a rage. Lenko dragged Heidrun away somewhere and his parents carted Eldred off to Altdorf “to go to university”. He never saw Heidrun again. When his father died a few years later, he returned to manage the estate. His mother told him that the new priest of Manaan, Father Salzig, had annulled the marriage soon after Eldred was sent to Altdorf. As for Heidrun’s fate, Lady Theodora said she had heard that Heidrun married another man, some Strigany from Salfen or somewhere equally unimportant, and left Fauligmere.
After the Baron related his story, Von Schnell appeared and landed on the Baron’s shoulder, clutching a note from his mother, the Lady Theodora. Come quick!, she wrote, Herr Krieger is out of control!
Esmée, hoping beyond hope, asked the Baron that if Von Schnell could find the him, perhaps the pidgeon could find the man they now all believed to be the Baron’s son, the witch himself. The Baron has no idea, but ordered the bird to fly away and find the witch.
With that, the hunting party built a litter to carry the still-comatose Cy and began the hard trudge back to Fauligmere to see what challenges the witch hunter has wrought for them.
The Meta is Strong With This One
Overall, we all seem to be getting the hang of the rules, but, as usual, something still tripped us up. This session it was Fate points and when and what they can be expended on. A straight reading of the rules-as-written implies that one can spend a Fate point to shrug off any damage by extraordinary fluke (see How Did That Miss, WFRP p. 170). This rule is just slightly different enough form previous editions as to be a little snaggy. It is therefore reasonable that Cyonee would have avoided the devastating damage - not just death - he received. Thus, if Kevin wishes, he can spend a Fate if he wants and Cyonee will have a full, if somewhat miraculous, recovery. Yes, his teeth will grow back. It is absolutely story-appropriate. Everyone knows that Saskia is a miracle worker anyway - ask anybody in Fauligmere.