A Chaos Cult Revealed
This is a log for our first adventure using the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition system. I've raved about how much I love this system before, and this is strictly our campaign notes and the events that took place before the upcoming campaign.
This adventure comprises of three Reikland adventurers - An off duty Roadwarden who may lack investigative skills but surely makes up for it with shield and sword, a resourceful Coachman whose suspicions both save lives and endangers them, and a Barber-Surgeon who's just interested in making it through one day at a time (and money to make it to the next).
Our intrepid heroes begin in the city of Altdorf and notice several postings for a job paying good money. They arrive at an empty tavern early in the morning for the job met only by a noticeably squirrly man, obviously in a class above them yet not quite nobility. He favors an injured hand, which he states he received during a beastman raid on the nearby lodge where he and others reside. He presents them with his problem, stating that his lord requests outsiders to investigate strange happenings at the manor and suspects that his servants may be responsible. With very few details but the promise of honest pay and then some the party agrees to leave in the morning.
The Path to Grunwald
In the morning a packed coach awaits them at the tavern. The noble-servant paid for their tabs and rooms and headed off to Grunwald Lodge, where the investigation awaits. The Coachman decides to utilize his experience and assist the other coachman who drove the carriage. He attempts to strike simple conversation as well as ask about the lodge, but the grizzled driver answers only in grunts and monosyllabic, monotone words providing no real information at all. The noble-servant attempts to provide more information to the party in the coach, but it's clear that he doesn't know much at all. He states that the staff is acting peculiar and there have been increased beastman attacks on the lodge, but no specifics.
The further from Altdorf they travel and the closer they approach Reikwald Forest, the less that the servant speaks. Eventually they see the lodge in the distance, and the servant stops talking altogether. He's noticeably nervous, and the Grunwald Coachman also breaks a sweat - but not his nerve. Our party's Coachman asks about the matter, and the Grunwald Coachman just mutters, "This forest here speaks danger."
Our Coachman decides to take action with that ominous declaration. He arms himself with his blackpowder handgun and walks alongside the slow moving carriage. He instructs the Roadwarden and Barber-Surgeon to hang on the outside of the carriage and keep an eye on the treeline on each flank of the road. The Coachman jogs from the rear, keeping an eye on the road behind and swivels his head to either side of the road to scan the surrounding forest for any threats.
He notices a brush move, and a branch crackle. He lets the carriage continue and stops to investigate the forest line for tracks. He finds the broken branch, but no tracks nearby that he could see. After a moment to pause and focus he continues back on the road, walking evermore cautious and scanning the treelines.
The Roadwarden stays vigilant to the flank he's responsible for. What was that? He thinks to himself. Squinting his eyes he doesn't see anything, but for a moment he thought he saw red dots glinting in the green canopy of the forest. The carriage is moving too much to get a solid picture of what he thought he saw.
The Coachman hears what he thinks is a snort, but instead of the sound originating behind him like the branch did he hears it further ahead, close to the carriage. He begins to jog faster and tries to warn the travelers ahead.
The Surgeon hears the man behind them, but the noise from the carriage and his distance drowns out specifics in tone and inflection to where it sounds like a yell, but only that. Did he say "No Master?"
There it is again! Thinks the Roadwarden. This time he was looking for it, and this time he sees them for what they are: red eyes.
The running Coachman continues to scream "Go Faster!" but it's too late - angry beastmen emerge from the forest on the sides of the carriage, some even heading in front of them. With guttural bellows and waving axes they dart to the carriage, eager to spill blood for Chaos' sake. The driving Coachman instinctively whips the horses to a full gallop directly toward the Lodge's drawbridge. They're not too far now, they can make it with a good effort.
Without hesitation the Roadwarden jumps off the speeding carriage. Upon landing he unsheathes his sword and readies his shield, taunting the beasts into attacking him rather than the others. The Barber gathers his courage and reluctantly follows suit, loading a bolt into his crossbow.
The coachman uses this distraction to line up his handgun. It's a great distance, but with no distractions and no attention from the beastmen he easily takes down a henchman with a round.
The carriage makes it to the Lodge's drawbridge. The noble-servant screams to have it lowered and to open the gate. The driver keeps his reserve much better, but even he manages to mutter, "Better get that gate open soon."
The beasts keep attacking the lawman, but find it difficult to escape his well placed block and counter attack. The attacks that get through seem to be stopped by his armor and shield. The beastmen who break ranks to attack the caravan find themselves being shot by bolts by the Surgeon, but all it takes is one to live and strike back and the back-alley doctor for him to be in trouble. The handgun-toting Coachman uses his experience-driven discipline to close the distance between him and the beasts, but such maneuvering still places its toll on the body and he can feel the fatigue setting in. All their efforts aren't for naught, as a beastman is felled with every strike they make.
While the fighting ensues the Servant pleads for them to hurry and open the gate. The party can't help but notice how long it's taking, and even see that a lethargic response from the guard is what's keeping the gate from opening sooner.
Through keen tactics the party eliminates the beastman threat. No sooner than that the gate finally opens and the carriage is safely through. The party follows suit and regroups within the safety of the lodge's walls. After the servant wipes his tears he instructs the group to follow him to meet with Lord Aschaffenberg for further assignments. They are also instructed to take a few chests and boxes from the carriage to take into the Manor - they are, after all, investigating the staff. What better way to discourage unwanted notice than to be new members of staff? Well, at least that's the best he could think up.
Exploring Grunwald Lodge
The party is escorted through the courtyard and on the way to the manor. They notice that the guard isn't the only one with lethargic reactions - the majority of the staff seem to shamble through their duties, and hardly notice the party themselves. A few stare at them and share a few covered whispers with one another before being sharply told to go back to their duties by the Servant.
When they make their way inside they notice a man who also directs orders to the staff. He's covered in bandages around his face and right eye, yet maintains a noble posture and a stern voice. This man takes notice of the new arrivals, then quickly reverts back to barking orders to the staff saying something about dust.
Walking upstairs they take their belongings to the guest room and the remaining chests to the master bedroom. In here awaits a boisterous man with a long beard, dressed in the trappings properly fitting of the nobility - unlike the Servant's attempts at fitting them.
He is introduced as Lord Aschaffenberg. He apologizes for treating his guests as laborers, but feels it is necessary to conduct the investigation without giving it away to potential traitors. He explains the increased frequency of activity from Reikwald Forest and the beastman attacks, along with the staff acting odd. The most recent event involved a servant going missing, which is when he directed his underling to recruit help. He hopes it's all a misunderstanding of some sort but gives the crew leeway to perform whatever is necessary to get to the bottom of the mystery. Aschaffenberg also lets them know when dinner is served, and suggests the venison over the goose as the cook is especially good with the venison recipe (it's his favorite!).
They leave Aschaffenberg's room to attend to their personal belongings and injuries. The Roadwarden himself is in bad shape after grabbing the bulk of the beastmen's attention. The Servant follows them and gives them the lay of the land, including names of the staff and their relevant locations. He explains that he simply attends to the Lord's needs, and should they need any detailed information they should ask Gregor Piersson, the head of staff. He can easily be identified by his bandages covering most of his face - this was due to one of the first beastman incidents.
The Coachman and the Surgeon assist the Roadwarden into the next room, which has been made into a makeshift Hospice. A blind priestess of Shallya is attending several wounded staff members, including a dwarf blabbering nonsense and a annoying gardener. The Coachman interrogates the blind priestess to find out more about the staff. He doesn't get much out of her other than the gardener being terrible at his job, and his concentration keeps getting interrupted by the dwarf's screams of an all-seeing eye and oaths of hammer smashing.
A doctor then comes in to check on the patients. The Barber-Surgeon lends his expertise to look after his comrade but notices a faint earthy smell emanating from the doctor. The Coachman and Barber decide to head out and explore the grounds while their ally recuperates, and also tell him to keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior.
Upon walking out of the room they take note of their surroundings and find that the nearby rooms are dorms for the staff. All are open except for one directly across from the hospice, which is locked. They go downstairs through the kitchen to reach the hall leading to the entrance when they are given dirty looks by the cook and a few of the kitchen staff.
On the grounds they notice that the plants and the lawn are very unkempt. Although they allude to the fact that the gardener is in the hospice they recall that he didn't have any serious wounds to warrant special attention, and even if he did the grounds wouldn't be in the shape they are in now - it seems that there hasn't been care for the outside in quite some time.
They decide to start asking with the Carriage Coachman and find him in the stables talking quietly with another young man. They immediately stop talking once approached by the outsiders, although the Stableman becomes warm to their discussion. He mentions that he has noticed strange things, like missing items and most notably his missing blunderbuss. He admits that he doesn't very well pay much attention to things outside the stable, keeping to himself and tending to the horses. The Driver isn't very much of a talkative person from their journey to the lodge, and keeps his reputation by simply stating, "Strange things happen all the time in Reikland," in between draws from his pipe.
Upon hearing loud barks they walk toward a shack and are met with a large man training with two dogs. They begin talking and find that he is the most forward staff member they've talked with yet. He too agrees that something is going on that's bigger than a few simple incidents. Suspicious with the peculiar behavior the other staff members have displayed recently and missing items (now persons) coupled with the increased frequency of beastman attacks prompted this Houndsman to increase his patrols through the surrounding forest and investigate around the lodge. He hasn't come up with anything yet, however. The Coachman is glad to hear that someone has taken an interest in figuring out what has been going on rather than put it off as a strange happening and has inducted the Houndsman into joint efforts of the investigation as an ally. Upon leaving their meeting, however, both the Coachman and Surgeion notice large slabs of hanging, raw meat through the slightly open door of the Houndsman's shack. The Surgeon states his wariness to openly trust him to the Coachman.
Back in the Hospice the Roadwarden is recovering from his wounds while enduring the Gardener's pleas of attention for his pain - although he searches the man for serious wounds he fails to see anything of note that should garner any medical aid. While getting very close to scolding at the lazy Gardener to shut his trap two young men come in to tidy up the room. The Priestess berates them for doing a bad job at cleaning previously, commentating that she still can smell the must and dirt from yesterday. These men roll their eyes and begin to wipe down the furniture and clean the floors (sloppily).While reaching for the bucket they brought to clean with a piece of paper fell from one of the cleaners' pocket. Unfazed the two cleaners left the room. The Gardener was too busy with his eyes winced in pain and hands over his ears to have noticed, while the blind lady stared right at its general direction!
Cautiously the Roadwarden picked up the parchment. Luckily no one noticed. He opened it when he returned to his bed.
"Goose is Good."
He had no idea what it meant.
His comrades were making their way back to the manor when the Barber noticed something familiar. He sensed an earthy smell coming from near one of the unkempt gardens. He followed it until it got stronger and stronger, then stumbled on the source. The overgrown bushes covered up a small herb garden, keeping its discovery from prying eyes unless one was looking for it. The earthy smell was extremely potent here, and the two adventurer's deduced that the herb connected the doctor with the gardener in some way - they just don't know how.
Once they realized that the gardener is still in the hospice they concluded that he is faking his ailments, probably to keep in communication with the doctor. Upon that realization they rush back to the hospice to talk with their injured comrade, and to perhaps gain intel on how the gardener has been behaving while they were away.
They arrive back in the makeshift hospice room to find the doctor checking up on the gardener. The adventures see the two discussing things quietly while the physician inspects would-be injuries, then he leaves the room for the gardener to recuperate. The Coachman asks the Roadwarden if he's well enough to take a brisk walk in the hallway and he obliges.
In the hall they consolidate their findings. The two that explored the grounds informed the lawman of the grounds, their potential ally, the missing weapon and the herbs. The Roadwarden then tells them of the dropped note. They still don't have enough information to make a full picture of what's going on, so they decide to split up and investigate further. The Barber-Surgeon decided to look in the Library for further sources of identifying the herb, while the other two decided to try and get into the doctor's room to investigate his involvement.
The Coachman and the Warden saw the doctor go into his room when he left the hospice. In a fit of impulse the Roadwarden decided to press his ear against the door to hear if anything was going on. Not two seconds after he had his face on the door did the Doctor open it.
"What are you doing?" The doctor asked. There was a tense air filled with awkwardness, and what was a few seconds of silence seemed like an eternity as the three stared blankly at each other.
"Please excuse my very retarded friend here," the Coachman said. The Roadwarden then began to make a moan, and the doctor stared strangely back, confused by the encounter. He chalked it up to a concussion from the day's battle and went on his way, but not before locking his door and giving one last glare at the two weirdos.
After scolding his partner for recklessness the Coachman decided they should meet up with their unaccredited surgeon. When they turn around the bandaged man named Piersson was up the stairs and right behind them, surprising them. He stated that he hopes that they haven't been disturbing their important staff members, and that if he were to recall correctly they were supposed to be laborers on staff. The Coachman told him that Aschaffenberg gave them the day off to recuperate from the earlier battle. Piersson smirked and walked away.
Meanwhile the Surgeon went to the library to attempt to identify the herb. He has worked with medicinal herbs before and could reference them through research even if he was unfamiliar with the specific plant. He entered the quiet library to find only one man there, sitting behind a desk that faced the door, who was preoccupied with an entry in his journal that he was writing. As he walked closer and made his presence known the Librarian quickly closed his book before the guest could see what was being entered. He then happily told him where the books that he's looking for should be, but then eagerly went back to his journal without a second glance.
The Surgeon explored the area of reference books. He noticed it was dusty and not a lot of books get read in the manor. He found an herb catalog and quickly identified the herb to be schlaf, an herb that created side effects such as sleepiness, lethargy, and docility. He concludes that this is what is being used to make the staff act they way that they did, and it extended to the soldiers on guard at the gate. Before leaving he noticed that although all the books around him were dusty, nearby there was a shelf whose dust had recently been wiped off, indicating that a book was taken. Using his knowledge of the Empire Dewey Decibel System (alphabet...) he discovered that the books that moved the dust were out of place, and that one was missing. Upon reading their titles he saw that not only did these books not belong, but they are banned books by the Empire telling tales of sympathy for demons and Chaos!
He then heard footsteps approaching, and in a dash of wit decided to shred out pages from one of the books before placing them back on the shelf. The Librarian came around the corner just in time for the Surgeon to place the herb book in his hand and leaf through it. After soliciting his aid in his search for more books the Librarian left to go back to his desk, but not before shooting one more curious look at the Surgeon. In a glance he looked past the Surgeon to the shelf containing the profane scriptures. His eyes widened slightly and pupils dilated. When they made eye contact once more both of them knew the truth of what happened, but neither acknowledged it.
(Somewhere in between this the Roadwarden snuck into the library behind a shelf overlooking the Librarian's desk while the Coachman kept lookout. While the Surgeon was off reading books, the Warden watched the Librarian and his journal. Sneaking closer and closer - and almost getting caught - he finally was able to see the Librarian drawing grotesque creatures, with mixed body parts of different animals and man! The Warden stepped back out once the Librarian left his desk to check on Dr. Pepper.)
The Warden and Coachman pretended to walk in the library looking for Dr. Phil, intending to tell him to get ready for dinner. They all met up and left for the hall, noticing a nervous Librarian attempt to converse with them about food without sweating. Before the door fully closed the Roadwarden looked one last time back inside and saw the Librarian speedily walking toward a large carpet and bend down.
Dinner with the Cultists
The group walked back upstairs to the hallway in front of their room to discuss their findings when they heard the dinner bell go off. Staff members began trickling out to the hall to attend dinner and the group moved to their room. They had about 4 minutes before their absence would go noticed so they had only moments to figure out a plan.
The Doctor had the schlaf identified and the evidence of Chaos influence. The Roadwarden had the note. The Coachman put all the evidence together to deduce that the staff were involved with Chaos and are drugging non-members for some plan. The delivery system was the food, specifically the goose.
"The note said Goose is Good, so they must mean that their plan to poison the goose was successful! We need to stop them from serving that food any way we can."
They were so busy discussing (loudly) about their findings they barely were able to contain their words when they noticed Piersson approaching them. He raised suspicion as to why they weren't downstairs yet, but the group covered their bases and Piersson went to overlook dinner services.
The Coachman decided that he needed to warn Lord Aschaffenberg of the plot. The other two decided to stop the goose from being served.
The two dinner deviants go down the stairs that lead to the kitchen. Since they were upstairs for a bit the dinner was already plated and ready to serve, walking out in hands above the wait staff's shoulders. The two adventurers hastily try to get through the kitchen to stop the dishes from getting out, which easily draws the attention of the cook - who is not too happy that these two strangers are attempting to ruin the dinner she's been working on all damn day. When she finds out what they're trying to do she pulls out a butcher knife and threatens to cut them where they stand should they try anything.
Being that it's two against one they decide to split up. The cook stays with the Surgeon while the Warden gets away and bolts straight toward the wait staff holding goose dishes - who are steps away from the dining hall.
The Coachman reaches Aschaffenberg, who is shadowed at the head of the table by both the Nobel-Servant and Piersson. Attempting to alert the Lord of the devious plan without anyone else knowing was going to be difficult and asked to speak with the Lord in private. That's when he heard loud crashes from the kitchen.
The Warden managed to spill over a few dishes and enrage the kitchen staff. Piersson, in a fit of rage, demanded to know the reasoning of this. The two adventurers in the kitchen came out with the cook right behind, who screamed about madmen ruining her work.
The Coachman had no choice but to explain their actions to Aschaffenberg with both Piersson and Noble-Servant present. He explained their discoveries and how they're linked to the staff's strange behavior, as well as how they're possibly linked to the missing weapons and now staff members. He withholds naming the doctor or librarian, however, as they were present and had no hard evidence at hand that they were involved.
"So you're saying the goose is poisoned?" Asked Aschaffenberg quietly.
"I find that preposterous! You've no real proof, and you've only been here half a day!" declared Piersson.
The Coachman asked to not serve the remaining goose just as a precaution and serve something else alongside the venison. The cook begrudgingly said she can whip up soup rather quickly for the remaining guests. Aschaffenberg reassured the staff that sat there bewildered that nothing was wrong, and that those who were to be served the goose can choose either venison or soup instead.
The cook hurried back to the kitchen to prepare the soup as fast as possible while wait staff took last minute orders. Being guests at the table Aschaffenberg offered the adventurers to order first. The Coachman said that he'll just eat bread, and the other two followed his lead. The Noble-Servant was confused as to what was or wasn't possibly poisoned, so opted to follow their lead as well. Aschaffenberg went with his original order of Venison as it was his favorite anyway (boy, he's glad the newcomers found it wasn't poisoned!). Piersson ordered the soup. When asked, he said he never put his original order in as he always waits until the staff receives their dinner first before taking his dinner order to make sure the staff get what they want.
The Coachman found this suspicious. He wondered why he was always around the party at peculiar times asking about their whereabouts and generally gets a creepy bad guy vibe from him. He confronted Piersson about the dinner order and how he could be involved with the poisoning. Piersson, of course, denies any knowledge of tampering with dinner. The Coachman then dares him to prove it and to eat the goose.
Piersson obliges. He orders the waiter to bring a plate of goose to him. He stares directly at the accuser while he cuts into the goose, never breaking his gaze. The party watches him as he eats the food without hesitation.
(The Coachman PC then screams "I knew it!" lol... if you're familiar with the module then you'd know that "Goose is Good" means that it's good to eat, not that it's poisoned!)
To Be Continued...
After Dinner Massacre
The staff finish dinner and Aschaffenberg heartily grabs his stomach to state how delicious it was. He mentions getting tired and dismisses the staff from dinner, then quietly asks the party to visit his room before going to bed.
Everyone that's not kitchen staff go to retire. The party notices that those who ate the venison are moving much slower than those who ate the soup. The Noble-Servant complains about not being satisfied with just bread.