Events went south in Fauligmere quickly after the horrible death of Pirn van Beek. The witchhunter Krieger rounded up the entire village and stripped every man, woman, and child naked to expose any mutations. One poor soul with a scaly rash along his side was summary put to death. Krieger finally put two-and-two together: Saskia (who had vanished from the town) had recently healed each and every one of the mutants uncovered within the village: Saskia was in league with the witch!
With perfunctory judgement, Krieger had Janna van Beek hung above the still-burning corpse of her mutant-husband (she admitted she knew) and remanded Pirn’s son, Jan, into the custody of Sigmar (which meant, at least of the time being, that he would be cared for by Wandelina van Stauffer, the baron’s wife). The villagers began to turn on each other, pointing accusatory fingers at each other and quickly filling up the make-shift dungeon in the baron’s cellars. Seth Reizbar fed more rumor, more and more outlandish, to the witchhunter regarding the villagers’ monthly rituals at the Knochenfpütze (peasant rituals to Manaan, though Reizbar refused to acknowledge that possibility: Heretics, every one of them!). Krieger, apparently determined to finally see the Knochenfpütze for himself, took a coterie of his zealots with Reizbar leading the way and marched out of town, leaving it in the care of the Heroes.
The villagers locked in the baron’s cellar saw the witchhunter leave town (along with the elven woman, Lady Voluria). Deciding to take action against the zealots left in town, they began a break-out. However, Esmé convinced them breaking out of the cellar and attacking the zealots would only seal their fates in the eyes of the witchhunter when he returned from his expedition. Would they kill him to? And then what? Would the Holy Order of Sigmar just forget about rumors of witchcraft and mutants in Fauligmere?
The day, therefore, continued quietly until late in the afternoon when Seth Reizbar returned to turn, battered and bloody, and stark raving mad. The witchhunter’s expedition had met with disaster at the Knochenfpütze, attacked by the Beast.
Baron Eldred commanded they head to the Knochenfpütze to see if there were any survivors or at least recover their bodies, reasoning (correctly) that if Krieger vanished mysteriously in the marsh, the Holy Order of Sigmar would only send another witchhunter, one who might be even less tolerant than the implacable Krieger. Freeing the villagers from the cellars so that Fauligmere could be properly defended and leaving his mother Theodora in-charge, he lead a handful of militiamen, bog hunters, zealots, and the Heroes towards the Knochenfpütze.
Arriving at the Knochenfpütze just before sundown, the party found a terrible sight: bodies and equipment strewn every where (though not as many bodies as there should be) and the waters of the Knochenfpütze foamy and red with blood.
Climbing up the small escarpment to where the hermit’s cave was, they noticed across the river, on the other bank, a collection of boxes and barrels that weren’t there before. Wading across, the party found a cache of valuable smuggled goods, a boat recently repaired, and the nearly dead Matthias Krieger. Delirious and suspicious, Krieger reflexively shot Cy, though not wounding him severely. Mortified by his error, the witchhunter beckoned the party to him, coughing and spitting blood, revealing that, yes, his man had been destroyed by the Beast. He and Lady Voluria had climbed up the Hohlenhügel to escape it, when they found the cache of goods and the boat and the newly revealed secret passage - the mysterious and oft-whispered-of Mouth of Morr - into the depths of the Hohlenhügel. He then surmised the witch, the Beast, the passage, and the smuggling were all connected: We’re dealing with an entire coven of witches, a secret cult, powerful enough to summon an unnatural demon of Chaos to serve them!
But his wounds were not from the Beast, but from an unknown assailant - the witch himself, Krieger presumed, who stabbed him from behind as he and Voluria inspected the smuggling cache. Of Volura, Krieger feared for her life as the witch must have taken her. Pressing his pistol and blessed bullets into the hands of the halfling he shot, he begged the baron to track down the witch and save Voluria. The baron agreed and ordered the zealots with them to carry Krieger back to Fauligmere, his militiamen to stand guard at the mouth of the passage, while the baron, Jacco de Valk, and the Heroes took the boat and entered the Mouth of Morr.
The Mouth of Morr proves to be dwarf-made tunnel, ancient and disrepair but arrow-straight, and miles long. Hours pass as the party floated deeper into the darkness. A mundane disaster - a calamity of drowning - nearly brought their entire endeavor to a ignoble end, but a timely and seemingly minor miracle of Shallya pivoted the odds into the Heroes’ favor.
Emerging into the dark night, somewhere near the sea, the Heroes surmised they had found a secret passage from the sea to the inner lands of the Empire. And soon they also surmised that a magical battle was ongoing nearby. Rushing forward at the baron’s behest, the Heroes found the witch and Lady Voluria locked in combat while Saskia was sinking helplessly into the quick mire. The witch already bore a terribly wound from the wicked-looking dagger wielded by Lady Voluria, though she was currently entrapped by the witch’s marsh-magic. They each yelled to the Heroes to help. The witch claimed this woman is evil and begged the Heroes to give him back his mother’s ring. Lady Voluria claimed here was the witch, a servant of Chaos!
Cy shot Voluria and put an end to the argument.
Knocked out and bleeding badly, her disguise fell away. She was no High Elf, but something darker and more sinister (though no less beautiful). Her golden hair but a wig over short-cropped ash-white hair. Her shimmering blue samite gown covered intricate and wickedly-designed leather armor beneath. Her weapon, a foul dagger coruscating with Dhar, lay on the ground beside her (Cy snatched it up).
Saskia was saved. The baron, now completely sure that the witch was his son, revealed himself as the young man’s father and embraced him. And the witch, Krijyn is his name, and Saskia revealed the story.
Krijyn grew up in the swamp, alone with his mother. When she died, his grief and loneliness so overwhelmed him that she came back, as a creature of the swamp, to continue to protect him. Together they survived into his early adulthood, when one day he encountered Saskia foraging for herbs and materials in the marsh. They became friends, and Krijyn began to share with her his wild-magic healing potion and drugs, which worked with amazing efficacy (though ultimately ruinously), cementing Saskia’s reputation as a miracle worker in Fauligmere. Then the elf, “Lady Voluria”, appeared. She captured Krijyn and tortured him, asking him about the location of the Mouth of Morr and details on the human inhabitants of the marsh in Fauligmere. Krijyn managed to escape and fled to Fauligmere to seek help from his friend Saskia and warn the inhabitants of the wicked elf-woman asking about them. But the villagers attacked him - Pirn van Beek struck him with a spear - and Krijyn used his natural and prodigious talents to defend himself (wounding Pirn and sealing his ultimate fate) and setting the town a-light to frighten the villagers and cover his escape.
His tale was interrupted by the sound of low-trumpets, a baleful sound, coming towards the party. Coming through mists, the Heroes witnessed a black elven corsair, bristling with crossbows and lead by a naked sea-hag clothed only in rippling Dhar. This was not a fight they could win and baron ordered the party back to boat and into the Mouth of Morr to escape back to Fauligmere. The corsair pursued them, but fortune favored the Heroes and they managed to get back to the Hohlenhügel ahead of the black elf ship. Thinking quickly, the Heroes piled the kegs of blackpowder up against the entrance to the Mouth of Morr and Gil, having familiarity with trap setting, blew them up successfully, collapsing the cave entirely (and blowing Cy into the treetops).
One problem remained: how to confront Krieger now that the witch was “apprehended”. The baron suggested lying to the witchhunter and hiding Krijyn, but the Heroes concluded they would rather face Krieger with the truth: Krijyn was the baron’s only son and heir, a true and powerful wizard who was not evil and deserved to be taken to the College of Magic in Altdorf so they he might have at least a chance of becoming a powerful, legal wizard in the service of the Empire. The Heroes were unanimous and the baron trusted his son’s fate into their hands.
They returned to Fauligmere in the morning and presented all the facts to Krieger. But the witchhunter could not be swayed and he drew his sword to cut the young witch down. Esmé cast herself between them, prepared to accept the blow, and as the sword arced towards her neck, a booming voice cried out STOP! and Von Schnell flew down into Krieger’s face, scratching at his eyes and faltering his cut. It was the silent hermit, Lenko Sepp, speaking. Krieger, still undeterred, lifted his weapon again to strike down Krijyn, and Esmé if he had to, and Sepp boomed again, IN THE NAME OF MERCY, STOP!, and this time his weapon burst into white flame, burning his hand, and forcing the witchhunter to drop it.
By Shallya, May you never bear another weapon towards the innocent!, cursed Lenko at the witchhunter. And it was so, for he could not pick up his sword without feeling the searing white hot fire again. Infuriated, the witchhunter and his zealots withdrew to their black barge and departed Fauligmere. Sonja collected the pretty sword.
Lenko Sepp brought the truth with him back to Fauligmere, and told the story of how Theodora had ordered him to kill the old priest Marbad for the crime of marrying Eldred and Heidrun. This he had faithfully done for her, though it damned his soul. When Eldred’s father Ulrich sent Eldred away to Altdorf, he had only wanted to separate the young lovers. A bastard noble child sprouting from teenage love was not an uncommon event in the Empire, and typically a little money and a little time solved the problem for all involved. Ulrich intended to send Heidrun away to Marienburg with a stipend to support her. Then, perhaps in a few years, when Eldred was properly wed, the child could be collected and raised within the household (though he would never be officially recognized). Unfortunately, Theodora had other plans, and she ordered Lenko to kill the girl and her unborn child and dump their bodies in the swamp for the snakes and spiders to eat. Lenko couldn’t bring himself to kill a mother and child, though. He hid them deep within the marsh and took up the life of a penitent of Shallya, watching over them from afar.
Enraged, the baron turned on his mother, but could not bring himself to kill her. He banished her from Fauligmere and his life, sending her to a nunnery for the remainder of hers. Lenko Sepp, his crimes revealed and his penitence completed, hung himself.
A week passed as Fauligmere begins to return to normal.
The baron wrote the Heroes a letter of introduction to his cousin, the Crown Prince Hergard von Tasseninck, and pressing into their hands a recent flyer from the Crown Prince asking for heroes of their caliber. In addition to the letter of introduction, he rewarded them each with 5 crowns (literally the remainder of his family’s remaining wealth), his father’s ornate breastplate (Eldred is not a soldier), and a handsome young Hagersdorf Blue, the spitting-image of Von Schnell.
Finally, Eldred entrusts the life of his son Krijyn - who has decided to start calling himself Ulrich II von Stauffer - to the Heroes. They are to escort him safely to Altdorf into the care of Magister Heironymous Vosch at the College of Magic.
And so, our Heroes begin their return to the heart of the Empire.