All is Not Well
After spending the night in the marshes after fighting off the witch, the heroes began the journey back to Fauligmere. The Baron, upset by finding his signet ring in the marsh-thing’s remains and having received a note from his mother, the Lady Theodora concerning events happening in the village, was very anxious to return. As the hunting party trudged back to the village, it began to rain: a constant, grey, soaking rain that lifted a fog out of the marsh and made for slow going. Cyonee, with the help of Saskia’s poultices, recovered from his injuries from the previous day remarkably well. Though bruised and battered badly about the face - and somewhat, if temporarily, hideous to look upon - it was all only a flesh wound.
About half-way back to Fauligmere, the party came across the body of an elf. Unlike the fair and lovely Lady Voluria, this rotting elf was alabaster-skinned and raven-haired, clad in wicked-looking elaborate leather armor of an unknown design. Her throat had been cut and she appeared to have been laying in the bog for perhaps a week or two. The body had no other weapons or items on it. No one knew what to make of it.
The dead elf seemed to portend worse. As the heroes came close to the village, they could smell burning wood and meat. Outside the village palisade, hanging from the gibbet tree, they found a disturbing sight: three villagers - a man, woman, and young girl - had been hung, probably the night before. The girl’s body was mutilated: burned, beheaded, and hung upside down. Her head was nailed to her naked chest by a spike through her mouth and into her heart. Upon closer inspection, Sonja discovered the reason: the body possessed a rat-like tail. She was a mutant, uncovered by the witch hunter and executed. The Baron recognized them: they were the Eidelbrooks: Hugo, Cordelia, and Rosanne. Father, mother, and daughter had all been executed together. Saskia wept for the girl, for she had only a few weeks ago tended to her for a serious foot injury - she had stepped upon a nail while playing behind the smithy. With haste, the heroes headed towards the manor to confront the witch hunter.
Most the villagers stayed in their homes as they passed through the muddy streets towards the manor hill. Those that were out huddled together and whispered as you passed. All of the village militia upon the palisade and at the gates had been replaced by Kreiger’s zealots. The village smithy, normally active, was shuttered and cold.
Four zealots were dragging and beating one of the village bog hunters through the village common, Johann Schaffer, spitting on him and calling him a mutant. When the heroes confronted the zealots, they stripped off Johann’s shirt and lifted his arms. From each of his armpits sprouted short, thick, purplish growths.
At the manor, you found all of the Baron’s pigeons gone. Inside, Mattias Krieger had turned the Baron’s dining hall into a make-shift courtroom. Krieger was interrogating Bram Weigers, the village smith, who had been accused of heresy by Seth Reizbar, the village cobbler (and local Sigmar fanatic). Reizbar had apparently been proving a reliable source for uncovering heresy and mutants in town. His naturally suspicious nature had lead him to, over the years, build a list and document anything heretical or suspicious he noted in the villages. He now had the witch hunter’s ear and he was bending it. Reizbar had, after all, correctly identified at least one mutant, the maiden Rosanne Eidelbrook, in town. Her parents were executed for harboring a mutant.
The interrogation of Weigers did not lead to any immediate conviction, though the smith was incarcerated in the Baron’s cellars for the time being. The zealots dragged Schaffer into the hall and threw him down before the witch hunter. After intoning a prayer against corruption and slipping on heavy leather gloves, Krieger inspected the growths under Schaffer’s arms. Summoning the ever-present, ever-note-taking Clemens over for an additional inspection and a short conference, Krieger summarily ordered the man’s execution. The witch hunter called an end to the day’s interrogations and began to relax and speak to the heroes directly while the screams of Schaffer burning to death rose from outside.
The zealots quickly transformed the make-shift courtroom back into a dining hall and brought a tureen of mushroom and octopus soup for all to eat. Seth Reizbar had a place at the table, and passed Krieger a list for the next day’s interrogations. The heroes asked to see the lists as well, and Krieger saw no harm in it. The van Berkels, Hedwig Eisenhauer the village weaver, Father Salzig, and Cyonee the Half-Man were on the list. Krieger dismissed the accusation, for the most part, as Cyonee, like himself, had only recently been sent to the village, by the will of Sigmar. He gave Reizbar a stern warning not to turn his holy inquisition into a vehicle for petty grievances. He was also open to - one might even say pleased - to the offers by Torvald and Esmée to act as vehicles of Justice and Mercy during the inquisitions. After all, Sigmar is just and merciful to the devout and pure.
The Baron demanded to know what had happened to his pigeons. Krieger informed him that he had them captured so that they would not disturb the inquisition, and that he had ordered them well-cared for behind the manor in the garden. Once the inquisition was completed, they could be released again. The Baron was mollified somewhat, but also put-out by another fact: the Lady Theodora had seen fit to displace her son to a guest bedroom and move the witch hunter’s belongings into the Baron’s room.
Torvald took a moment to question the Lady Voluria about the strange elf they found dead in the bogs. She expressed surprise and ignorance to the meaning or import of the find.
With the day drawing to a close, the heroes returned to The Three Hogs for much-needed rest. Symé, however, couldn’t sleep until she tried to investigate Johann Schaffer’s hut in the village. Unfortunately, a zealot stood guard over the hut and wouldn’t allow her in without permission from Krieger.
More Troubles Ahead
The next morning, the inquisition resumed and the van Berkels were summoned before the witch hunter. Nadia immediately accused the Emma de Goede of casting spells and hexes upon them. Torvald defuses the situation by invoking Verena, forcing the van Berkels to soften their accusations against the de Goedes. Krieger once again issued the warning that he will severely punish anyone who tries to abuse the holy proceedings of Sigmar. The van Berkels were cowed, but Seth Reizbar interjected: he had seen Tomas dancing naked at the Knochenpfütze under the full moon - which is obviously heresy - and that he had seen Tomas in the presence of the old hermit - who obviously is a witch - when they came back to town a few days hence. Tomas admitted he had taken part in the ritual at the Knochenpfütze - but that it was to invoke the blessing of Manaan, not heresy. Krieger said he would be the judge of what was or what not heresy and he agreed, at the very least, that he needed to interrogate this hermit and learn more about this Knochenpfütze place and ritual. Tomas, for his own protection, was remanded to the Baron’s cellars. Krieger ordered another hunting party, lead by Gilles with twelve of the zealots, to track down the hermit in his cave, clap him in irons, and bring him back before sunset. Gilles and the zealots left immediately.
Father Salzig was next on the docket, and the Manaanite appeared with a young acolyte boy in tow. The priest immediately pointed a finger at Esmée, accusing her of heresy (against Manaan) and - in so many words - being possessed by a lascivious demon or in fact being a demonette of the Lord of Pleasure herself. The acolyte corroborated Salzig’s lurid tale of Esmée beating and mounting the priest while he lay on the temple floor, actions which Krieger agreed seem unusual for a Sister of Mercy. Kreiger ordered Esmée and Salzig to be imprisoned in the cellar while he called for a recess so he could pray for guidance.
Symé asked for and received Krieger’s permission to enter Schaffer’s hut and investigate it. She found a broken hunting spear and Schaffer’s torn and bloodied leather jack - apparently, Schaffer had recently been wounded by a large octopus while hunting. Stretching the witch hunter’s permission further, she investigated the abandoned Eidelbrook home, finding a small clay compact with one of Saskia’s poultices in Rosanne’s room.
Back at the Three Hogs, Cy received a visitor: a villager seeking some medical aid. Cy rendered aid, but learned that Saskia had, somehow, snuck out of the village sometime during the morning’s proceedings. When the heroes alerted Krieger that Saskia was missing, he ordered the heroes and the zealots to turn out every house and hut to find her. This lowered the villagers’ esteem for the heroes, who they now were starting to see as tools of the witch hunter’s inquisition, not as heroes come to save the village.
Another bog hunter returned during the day and word quickly spread through the village: another mysterious and bizarrely dressed elf body was found in the marsh.
Gilles apparently couldn’t remember the way back to the Knochenpfütze and the hermit’s cave. After several hours of thrashing about the marsh and the Chaos Moon rising with the falling dark, he turned his zealots around and returned to Fauligmere.
In the early afternoon, a scream and the sound of a fracas arose from the manor. A few of the zealots had decided that mushrooms and octopus weren’t to their tastes and had spitted and roasted the Baron’s pigeons. The Baron, infuriated, had attacked them, but was badly beaten down by the zealots. Sonja found herself siding with the zealots and pulled some pigeon meat of the spit for herself.
When Krieger appeared to investigate, he was non-plussed. He ordered the Baron to his chambers for breaking the peace. He sent Cy to tend to the Baron’s injuries. As for the zealots who had disobeyed his orders to protect the pigeons, he judgement was brutal: anyone who had mishandled the Baron’s pigeons would lose a hand, and anyone who had eaten of the Baron’s pigeons would lose five teeth. The guilty zealots submitted to their punishments, which were immediately carried out by the other zealots. Sonja did not admit to anything.
As Cy tended to the Baron’s wounds, he found that the vial of glowing green ichor he had taken from witch’s cauldron was no longer in his bag where he knows he had placed it. Someone had stolen it.
In the cellars, Esmée confronted Father Salzig, calling him out before Tomas and Bram.
The Deadly Moon
As night fell and the pale green light of Morrslieb lay across Fauligmere, Gilles and his party of zealots stumbled back into town. As he entered the village, he saw Pirn van Beek stumbling through the common in a panic. Arising from his back, a great black ape-like arm clawed at the Chaos Moon in the sky. The zealots immediately shouted the alarm - MUTANT! MUTANT! MUTANT!- and Gilles and the zealots tried to engage Pirn. The poor young man screamed in terror, begging for help. Gilles decided the best way to help him was to end his misery.
The arm swung wildly from Pirn’s back with a mind of its own, beheading one of the zealots with its razor-claws. Gilles threw his net over the arm, succeeding in binding it but binding himself to it as well. The zealots were able to beat Pirn into a pulp with their flails, screaming prayers to Sigmar as they did so.
Gilles disentangled himself from the mincemeat that a minute before had been an unfortunate terrified man. Then, without warning, the mass erupted. A thing of chaos rose the pulpy remains of Pirn, all tentacles and teeth. Gilles, Symé, and several zealots were overcome by pure terror and fled. Sonja, undaunted, drew her sword and struck at the thing. Other zealots arrived with their flails and clubs to help her.
In the manor, Krieger came out of his rooms, prepared for battle and loading his pistol with bullets marked with the twin-tailed comet of Sigmar. He, with Cy and the manor retinue, began to make their way towards the commotion in the common.
In the common, Sonja took a deadly-serious blow from the thing that knocked her to her knees. Spitting blood and bleeding from a terrible gash in her arm, she rose, swearing by Sigmar to continue, and struck again at the thing. Around her, the zealots rained blow upon blow upon the thing while it responded, whipping tentacles and teeth through their ranks, turning zealots into meat.
Sonja persevered and struck the telling blow, knocking the thing down. The zealots descended upon it with their flails and clubs. Krieger arrived and put a single holy bullet into it, then ordered the creature burned.
Without a word, he placed his approving hand upon Sonja’s shoulder, then turned away back to the manor. As the zealots dragged Pirn’s wife and young son to the manor, the Baron suggested everyone return to their homes and get out of the accursed light of the moon.
The fire burned all night.