The Witch's Song
THE WITCH’S SONG
INTRODUCTION TO SESSION FIVE
The tepid morning saw the bulk of the party reluctantly awaken in the damp common room of the Three Hogs, noting that more water and mud and leaked up through the gaps in the floorboards overnight. They would potentially have slept for longer, but lying in sodden straw and a thin film of water was not conducive for sleep, plus the unusually loud noise of hammering pots and pan in the kitchen prevented anyone returning to sleep.
Over a breakfast both cold and undercooked, the gang debated as to what to do next. Many views where shared and proposals announced. Should they leave miserable Faulgimere and travel in search of new adventure somewhere more promising? Perhaps launch a frontal assault on the von Stauffers? Perhaps launch a frontal assault on Witch Hunter Kreiger? Perhaps launch a simultaneous frontal assault on both the von Stauffers and Krieger and his men? Go harass the Swamp Hermit? Go look for the Swamp Witch? Look for clues? Get tanked? Hit people up for money? Set the town on fire? Go wander aimlessly in the swamp?
Lacking clear resolution, the party’s deliberations where interrupted by the now-cantankerous Innkeeper, who announced that the Three Hogs was closing down and that the gang could no longer stay under its roof. The gang had mixed reactions to the surprise news. Alric offered more money to stay on, but was quickly rebuffed. Grom abused the Innkeeper and his establishment, highlighting that the Three Peaks had a much better toilet. Richard grew despondent, expressing that the party “…did not deserve to stay anywhere better.” Forgoing further efforts at generating a plan, the party decided to split up and attend to a range of affairs.
Leaving the Three Hogs (the door slamming shut behind them), the party travelled 50 yards to the town square and saw Tam enjoying a civil breakfast in the courtyard of the Three Peaks. They decide to join Tam and order breakfast and drinks, then proceed to endlessly bitch about getting thrown out of the Three Hogs. Richard insists that they cannot stay at the homely Three Peaks, because they will “ruin it” with their presence. Over breakfast, the gang overhears a violent confrontation occurring in the nearby smithy, but they are enjoying their food and decide not to investigate but instead sit in the warm sun of the courtyard, drink ale, and eat cheese.
They debate once more about what they are going to do. It is a similar, remarkably consistent, conversation to that held in the Three Hogs half an hours earlier – but now involves Tam and involves new key words such as “murder”, “raze” and “on the run”, with some debate as to whether the “fat von Stauffer lady” can use the large sword she seems to always keep nearby. Overall, a general consensus emerges that:
• they don’t know what is going on regarding the mystery of the Cursed Swamp or why Faulgimere is such a “shithole”
• the von Stauffers are “bad” and need to be “taken care of”, but no-one wants to take on Von Schnell (“I’d rather spend six years in a cage with the dwarf than face that pigeon again”)
• if it wasn’t for the witch hunter hanging around, taking care of the von Stauffers would be a piece of cake, and
• it is not generally a good idea to commence expeditions into the swamp late in the day.
After breakfast, the group splits up to undertake a myriad of tasks and plan to rendezvous back at the Three Peaks around lunchtime, whereupon they might head into the swamp in search of the Hermit.
Grom and Alric travel over to the smithy, soon discovering that Bam Weigers had beaten up several zealots and a newly-converted townsperson, assailing him to prevent him making noise while they prayed in the town square. Bram took care of their representation with an iron bar and sent the group packing, the zealots issuing death threats as they left. Grom sold Bram a sword, but the amount of money is such that the party had to settle the transaction later in the day.
Richard and Klaus travel to the von Stauffer manor to obtain their reward from Lady Theodora for killing Old Ned. They immediately discover that Krieger and his men have moved into the manor and are generally unwelcoming of the two visitors. Eventually, Richard meets with Lady Theodora in the filth-lined sunroom, and the two get along famously while drinking wine, Richard discovering newly-revealed powers of conversation. The exchange goes very well, but sours when Richard fails to accept Theodora’s sudden and almost desperate offer to murder the Swamp Hermit, and leaves shortly thereafter. He rendezvous in the foyer with Klaus, who went sneaking around the ground floor of the manor in search of clues and loot, but was now being escorted by Kelmens Grier (one of Krieger’s henchmen). Even though Grier is impeccably tailored, unfailingly polite, and perfectly groomed, he is a deeply unlikeable person.
Tam goes shopping at Reizbar’s Shoemaking and Tinkering, but discovers Seth the store owner lying on the floor, near-crippled by the beating meted out to him by the smithy earlier in the day. Tam offers to help, and walks once more to the Apothecary Saskia in search of more medicine, but instead finds Saskia injured and in tears. Saskia’s residence has been ransacked and vandalised by Kreiger’s zealots and she has been badly beaten. Seemingly oblivious, Tam abruptly asks the injured apothecary for medicinal assistance of his own, then strangely announces to her that “…after eight years of college, I fail to understand women.” He then return to the shop and announces to Seth that he was unable to assist him before helping himself to several items while the injured storekeeper throws curses.
Their chores done, the party returned to the Three Peaks and leave the village. They find Oliver and his bog hunters waiting since dawn for the gang to join them and go witch hunting, but Grom tells them to “fuck off” and they run away. The gang then headed out to the edge of the Cursed Swamp, reaching the edges of the bog just before lunchtime. Fortunately, Klaus has become more familiar with the swamp over the last three days, and whereas their journey to Old Ned’s lair does not encounter danger, it takes a long a looping course that consumes most of the afternoon. Seeing Hermit’s Hill from the top of Old Ned’s Lair, the gang plunge into the swamp once more and start trekking as night falls within the swamp. They are tired, tense, and a little fearful by the time they reach the base of Hermit’s Hill.
The Hermit is waiting for them, complaining about the noise the gang has made over the last several hours crossing through the swamp. The gang then heckled the hermit, noting that he had previously asked them to leave him alone and that he couldn’t to tell them anything; instead demanding that he tell them everything or they wouldn’t leave him alone. Threatening to blockade his hill until he complied proved unsuccessful, and our gang – so adept at a life of violence, survival, excess, intimidation and immediate gratification – proved unpersuasive and unable to get the hermit to tell them anything seemingly useful. However, they do learn about a sinister swamp mushroom and its malign properties, and soon make a link between the mushroom and von Schnell’s regular diet of that particular fungus.
In the morning, the hermit leads the sullen party back to Faulgimere for the second time, constantly batting away the party’s questions and demands that he tell them what they want to know. Almost at the village, the group is surprised by the sudden appearance of a group of bog hunters, who spy the hermit. Anxious about being seen, the hermit melts away into the swamp once more and the bog hunters go about their business.
The party then sit in the edge of the swamp and work out what to do next. The gang is frustrated with the complexities of the situation – not just the mystery, but also the strange machinations of the von Stauffers and the complicating presence of the witch hunter and his formidable cadre. Some of the gang again advocate leaving this miserable part of the Empire to its miserable fate, but they at least want some gold to show for all the misery and risk they have experienced.
While hiding in the swamp, the group plots different ways of trying to get to Baroness Wandelina, who owes them gold for receiving the message. Arguing back and forth, Klaus sarcastically speculates that if they could only teleport into the manor, their problems would be over – to which Tam announces that he can do that very thing. There is a moment of stunned silence, then the gang turns on Tam and calls him a range of foul names.
However, a plan is subsequently hatched: the gang will sneak up to the edge of Faulgimere, then Tam will teleport to the top of the pigeon tower, sneak down to the Baronesses’ room, get some coin from her, and potentially help her out of the dire straits she appears to be in. If in distress, Tam’s signal is to smash out a glass window and the rest of the group will run into the manor.
Tam’s proficiency in spellcraft is well-demonstrated, and be calls upon the winds of magic to send him to the top of the tower, with resounding success and a sudden explosive cloud of startled pigeons. Successfully sneaking is way through the manor, Tam finds that the Baroness is a prisoner to the twisted von Stauffers and their sadistic pigeon, with her room a sparse prison. She begs to be rescued, which Tam agrees to, but his rescue is interrupted by the sluggish arrival of von Schnell, who corners the terrified Tam in the room.
Tam moves to attack von Schnell, but the pigeon explosively changes form into a twisted, perverted monstrosity beyond easy description, attacking the screaming and panicked Tam. Attempting to break the window with a chair, Tam discovers that the glass in the Baronesses’ room has been thickened, and his spindly arms are unable to break the pane, while his screaming (and that of the Baroness) is muted by the glass. Von Schnell’s newly grown beak proboscis lashes out at Tam and drinks deeply of his blood, and it soon becomes apparent that the wizard will be defeated by the pigeon. Struggling to concentrate, Tam leaves the shrieking Baroness to the hunger of the blood-drinking monster and teleports back to the group, landing on his back with a splash in the swamp behind the gang.
Tam quickly revealed his discovery through chattering teeth. The party then decided to initiate a frontal assault against the manor – a full and complete description of the plan – and begin tearing down one of the support beams holding the rickety palisade surrounding Faulgimere together. And it is at this moment of high action that tonight’s session begins….