Session two of the brave monster hunters of Errinsford. Play online. One player had dropped off the web for days, the other had technical difficulties at the moment, so there were now four instead of six on the mission: Reinaldo the Chaotic Cleric of Clobrek, Stanley Blackbook the shady magicker, Reynard the shifty padfoot, and Eostre, the peg-legged, but solid fighter.
The stage is Errinsford, plagued by a mysterious monster, “the beast”.
We had just talked to the sole survivor of the only definitely proven beast-attack to our knowledge, and learned interesting details about the beasts abilities and characteristics. So our next stop was with Gwendolyn, the apothecary.
She owned a very well-to-do store that did good business, with Mother Brocklebank’s wonderful snake oil going off the shelves like freshly baked bread, and shiny glass vitrines full of valuable items. Reynard and Reinaldo both wondered strongly if there might be an opportunity to pilfer something, but alas, all was stored in a way that made it difficult or obvious to get near enough. But then, that was fine, for she turned out to be really nice and helpful.
She was young but well-connected, called the old wood witch a “friend” and the fabulous Mother Brocklebank (of Haybrock, a town that used to be the “Edge of Nowhere” before Errinsford was built) her teacher and master. She played coy and deflected praise for her healing and her skills, pointing towards others to praise instead. And asked what she knew about sulphur and vinegar, she played the “I am only a chemist, not an al-chemist” card.
Reinaldo made sure she understood that we gave an owl’s hoot for labels like that, only results, and suggested she might just try some experiments to see if she would not “accidentally” stumble upon the right formula of the beast-poison, and thereby invent a counter. She agreed to try that, but sadly not for science for its own sake; rather for a price to be taken out of our beast-slaying fee. Still: Really nice that she did not demand payment up front.
No science without funds
Her medicine was quite pricey though, which explained the prices her customers charged off harmless travellers like us. But one of us, Stanley Blackbook, just so happened to lug around 38 gold pieces, so he could afford 1 healing salve (20 gp) made out of “black tomatoes”. Reinaldo inquired about the price of such tomatoes, for the off chance of us finding any to sell to her … 1 gold piece for the pound, she said.
By Clobrek’s cloven hoof, it really pays to go to the university and learn pharmaceutics. But at least as a small field priest it might be possible to mush down some tomatoes and sell them in tiny doses.
Either way, Gwendolyn was sure that Vivian of the Woods would be a better help than she, wrote us a letter of recommendation for the wit…woodcarver, and also warned us of the nixies of the pond near to Vivian’s, who demanded toll from travellers, but that was just a trick.
Next we went to the priest, a lawful cleric, short and round, with a tall conical hat even while he is at lunch, and a big black square beard. He was very welcoming and helpful and even allowed Reinaldo in, despite our differences in matters of faith. He only drew a line at Stanley with his sketchy grimacing and his black rune dagger with red glowing eye-slits.
Offering us food and drink, he told of the healing of Riffin (arm was actually still on him when he came and had to be amputated in the village. That explains a bit of his survival.) and unpacked the lore of the beast, about which he knew a good deal more than the Innkeep. The beast is not simply a dangerous monster, it is a cursed entity, and he is sure that the new beast is not the old beast, revived, but rather a new beast based on the same curse.
176 years ago, a Beast terrorised the countryside. Many tried to defeat it, but failed until pious young adventurer called Erin gathered a company of heroes that ventured out to meet it.
Warriors Erin, Brandon and Myrddin;
The Cleric Alfred;
and Wizard Wyllt
Realising that this was more than a mere monster, Erin visited the hermit St Arthur (not, a beautiful Fae princess, whatever the peasants say!). Arthur sought divine aid, and asked that the adventures lay their weapons on his altar and join him in a vigil
Sir Erin – sword
Sir Alfred – mace
Sir Brandon – bow
Lady Myrddin – axe
Sir Wyllt – staff
Their devotion was rewarded, and each weapon was enhanced with divine favour, allowing them to defeat the beast. Erin and his surviving companions were richly rewarded, granted land and rewarded. Eventually, they were buried with great honour alongside St Arthur in a shared barrow.
Father Willam has sent Friar Dirk to retrieve the magical weapons of the entombed heroes of legend, a few days ago, so it is still realistic to expect him with them. Dirk is a man in his late 40ies, round-bellied, in a firar’s habit. He has a bit of a bad history and was sent here from elsewhere to atone. But he was the best man for the job at hand because he was an expert in relics.
Carmel the Cursed
The priest knows more:
1 year before the beast showed up, a legendary bandit plagued the land, Carmel the Cursed. He disappeared forever from human ken when he and his band took up all the valuables they had stolen and conquered, and marched off into those very same mountains where the beast was encountered. And nobody ever saw them again.
Is Carmel the first beast? Or is someone who touched the cursed treasure the beast, or are both beasts that? Or is that just a random coincidence? Nobody knows.
Anyway, the area that the beast mostly haunts is the mountains and the north, up to the Barrow, where the hero party is laid to rest. Most of the victims so far are, thankfully, cattle and deer, but also 3 travellers not native to the area.
[Zut! thinks Reinaldo. There goes my idea of “investigating” the houses of those lost to the beast.]
And then, of course, the 4 mates of Riffin’s. And three farmers have disappeared, but their bodies have not been found. And, not to forget, the six dwarfs of the mine, all brothers. They were the first to disappear… which is why some think that the dwarfs dug too deep and freed the beast.
[Hope! The theory may be just bogus, and then there may be the coins the six brothers earned, stashed away in the mine or nearby.]
While we talked about that, Stanley walked around the graveyard and located a tool shed with pickaxes and shovels. He saw a couple of fresh graves and one large stone tomb: “Here lies Egbert, the Reeve”.
Finally we left, and Reinaldo was almost at peace with things, as the priest was the first one yet to ask for no money. Yet, the man spoiled it in the last seconds, offering his help whenever we needed it … in return for donations. Well, there ya go.
We felt that the day was aged too much to go to Vivian right now; we would rather do that on the next morrow. So we hatched the idea to go around the area and get a feel for the lay of the land. More than one of the crew hoped that this may also offer some opportunities to profit in some way. Some even thought we might find the caravan, but Reinaldo only snorted. “The caravan will hardly just be standing around on the road, ready to go. I should bet that the Goatmen have it, and will not readily part with it.”
The Innkeep had assembled several men ready for hire as local help. One of these was a former caravan guard, but he always wanted more money than we were willing to give, even worse, we wanted to tie rewards to successful profit, while he wanted money regardless of outcome.
Finally we offered the other people in the room what he did not want: 1 silver if nothing is found, 5 gold if the carvan would be found and reward from the Reeve collected. (He had wanted 10 gold or at least 5, for half a day, if no caravan would be found, and a share of the reward if collected. Ha! I’d sooner shank him.)
Three were interested in the silver piece: Albert and Ephew, and a former con-man and pickpocket called Colbin. While Eostre quickly hired the former two, Reinaldo hinted at opportunities later on for Colbin. Although Reynard the Thief hinted at that even stronger, and Colbin and he shared some common understanding.
We made sure that the town watch would let us back in, then marched north until the sun was close to setting and we finally reached the bridge — a serious two-span affair of sturdy stone across a wide and deep river with a strong current. The only bridge far and wide too, and Ephew shared with us that the ford that lent its name to the town was no more, it had been washed away in a storm, so the bridge was the only means to cross the river.
No tracks of any wagons were found, which meant that the caravan never even got here, as expected. We decided to hoof it back home before we would be forced to stay out in the wilds for the night. On the way back the locals explained some about the wildlife. They spoke of wolves and magical beasts, normal predators of the land, and of legends about unicorns here in these woods, which were obviously bogus, they said. Unicorns, haha.
Eostre addressed the elephant in the room: Why are magical beasts normal, but unicorns bogus?
Answer: Because these two had not seen any unicorns themselves yet, so that made it bogus.
Suddenly we heard the rustling of leathery wings, and backed off well and wide, and indeed, hound-sized mega-bats came out of the forest. However, we stayed away or held still, and none attacked, hoping that we were too large to count as prey and that they would just bugger off … that worked, they buggered off and we went home without trouble.
Back in town, Reinaldo went to enjoy some food and drink, then go to sleep.
Eostre trained with Albert a bit, hoping to help him gain level 1 status, but he was a bit on the lazy side and liked the idea of training, but not the actual work going into it, spoiling his good relations with the motivated fighter.
Reynard & Stanley slunk away in the back and paid a visit to the graveyard again.
Reynard kept watch at the silent road — it was curfew after all — while Stanley went to work on the stone slab of the tomb. The deal was that Reynard would get all things shiny, and Stanley whatever he wanted .. which would be his to decide. Stanley used the tools from the shed and managed to dislodge it and found a skeleton in a fine robe, and with a valuable necklace. He left the robe, packed the bones in his backpack, and haphazardly put the stone slab almost nearly back. Then he left, gave Reynard the necklace as promised.
The next morning the group tried some fresh hiring, but Colbin the pickpocket was troublesome, Albert wanted only easy money, and other nuisances.
Reynard, now freshly come into money, hired Gerd the caravan guard for 7 silver per day.
Eostre hired Ephew, Stanley hired Balda, a man who claimed to be the seventh son of a seventh son, and that is not something to pass up lightly. Reinaldo hired Defre, a follower of Silvanus who wanted to become a missionary. Well, we can work with that. A quarter share was offered for his aid in whatever was to come.
With this settled, the party went out to seek Vivian, the woman in the woods (and avoid the greedy nixies).
Header Photo by David von Diemar on Unsplash