(Being a series of quick game notes trying to account for the events of many sessions of playing through The Enemy Within using the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e rules.)
Something Rotten in Kislev
- Gottlieb [Witch Hunter] – I 63
- Larry [Mercenary Captain] – I 58
- Othmar [Assassin] – I 56
- Brother Nate [Witch Hunter] – I 54
- Wilfried [Templar] – I 53
The early snows have stopped, and the rains are back and colder than ever. A few days up the Iron River from Kislev they arrive at the landing stage for Voltsara. Deep in the forest, the farming and woodcutting village is serviced by a small dock on the river with a couple of empty sheds beside it. A path leads into the forest from here. The captain of the boat remains with it “in case some damned Gaspodar peasants should take an eye to her”.
Suiting up in full Knights Panther regalia, they wake the slog through the dripping forests to Voltsara proper – a collection of peasant houses along the road between large expanses of fields culminating in the manor house on a hill with barns and craftsmen workshops around it. The crops appear to have been harvested, but the fields have not been tilled or planted for the spring crops yet.
All the doors are barred and all the windows shuttered. There isn’t a peasant to be seen in the fields or street.
Spying a shrine on the edge of the Manorial estate, they walk through town only to be “accosted” by a drunk local stumbling out of the last house along the road.
“Ah-hah-hah-ha! Humble greeting, Olets Furriners, and welcome to .. .” (sweeping gesture) ” … the doomed village of Voltsara.” (Attempts to bow low, and plunges face-first into tbe muddy road.)
“Come to get your arms pulled off, eh? Well, you’ve come to the right place. And why worry? Old Tzeentch is glad to grow you a couple of new ones – any size and
colour you want.” (Belches loudly, looks surprised, tben pleased witb himself. Laughs briefly, then scowls.) ”Don’t know why everyone’s so gloomy. Priests say everything is under control. No problem at all, no, my good fathers. Taal and Rhya protect us poor peasants.
He then presents his lunch for review upon Nathander’s boots, and promptly passes out in the middle of the muddy road.
His wife won’t come out of the house, but insists that they want the house on the hill and the Vladely, not the local peasantry.
Before going up to the manor itself, they pause at the shrine to Taal and Rhya. While fairly close to Imperial cult standards, there is one corner of the shrine that is painted red and has sacrifices of mashed grains and several mostly-melted candles around it.
Before leaving the sacred site, Brother Nathander pulls out his bag of bones and tries a reading and gets something about “ancient and broken, coming from beneath”.
The manor house is home to a young noble, the Vladely (steward) Ivan Ilyitch Hertzen. He greets the group on the main steps to the manor house in ridiculous finery and fresh moustache wax.
“So good of you to come. Things are a bit of a mess here, you know – peasants with bits tom off, half-eaten tots floating in ponds, beehives apparently gobbled whole – quite disconcerting.
The Lady and I have been quite concerned. Handy
as I am with a blade (demonstrating with a few broad flourishes), l doubt I’d be much good against hordes of Beastmen and worse. The priests assure me that we’re safe here with the Manor’s shrine to Taal and Rhya – a certain protection against the servants of Chaos, they say – but nonetheless, we’re a bit … bothered, don’t you know.
“It really started about three months ago, when Alexis – my foreman as was, rest his soul – came back saying he’d found an old stone circle. Never said where. He was digging around, looking for a good site for a charcoal-pit, when he fetched up some stonework, he said. Came home at dark, and set off again the next morning at first light.
“Never saw him again…
“Sent four overseers and a team of labourers, but we couldn’t find Alexis or the place. I was sorry to lose Alexis, but there wasn’t much I could do. A lot can happen in these woods, you know.
“Nothing more happened, not right away. Then, four weeks ago, we found the mutilated corpses of several woodcutters. ‘That’s what got Alexis,’ we said, and started keeping a watch, and restricting travel in the Old Woods. Since then we’ve lost twelve people: five of them children, two of them men taken in broad daylight . No-one has seen anything – at least, no-one who lived to tell about it – but the hoof-marks and tom brush look like Beastmen. Little else with the power to rip limbs off and scoop the guts from a man, except bears, and this is too regular to be bears.
“We’ve not much idea of even where to start looking. Gavril – one of my overseers – has this idea that you should talk to the charcoaler Pyotr Pyotrovich. Says his son is one of them, good chance, and could lead you to the monsters. Not too keen on the idea myself – Pyotrovich is old and senile, and not likely to set you on his own son – but I said I’d mention it to you, and so I have.”
He introduces the group to Overseer Gavril Dolgikh who escorts the group to the charcoaler’s
After being “entertained” by Pyotr’s nearly silent wife for an hour, the charcoaler finally arrives. At first they are cooperative as an extension of their hospitality. Once they realize the group is looking for their son, they get a lot more cagey. They evidently feel that their son (gone 23 years now) is still living in the forest and keeping an eye on them. They also insinuate that he might be leading the beastmen and that’s why they aren’t afraid of being attacked here on the verge of the forest far from the village.
While most of the group heads back to town to see if they can get any clues from the most recent murder scene, Pyotr explains the ins and outs of the ancient spirit magics of Kislev and a bit about the primary spirits that exist here – from simple Domovoy who inhabit every home that has a shrine to them (the colourful red-painted shrine in the corner of nearly every Kislevite peasant’s home), to the bloodthirsty Poleviki who seek blood sacrifices for the grain fields, to the massive Leshy, spirit of the local forest (and these forests are big, so the Leshy is too).
After summoning the tiny old Domovoy of Pyotr’s home and realizing that its range of knowledge doesn’t extend much past the walls of the home, they finally went into the deep woods and summoned the Leshy and his friend Father Bear.
The Leshy is familiar with Georgiy, the son of the charcoalers. “Excellent fellow. A bit daft, you know, and doesn’t speak a word – but terrific with animals. Simply terrific.” Unfortunately, the Leshy doesn’t seem particularly aware of where things are within the vast forests that are its home.
But he can summon him.
But he’d like a favour first. It seems he has a standing bet with the Vodyanoy (a water spirit) that Father Bear can beat any ten mortals with one paw tied behind his back. So if the party will fight Father Bear in this challenge before the Voyanoy, then in turn the Leshy will “gladly” bring Georgiy here.
Father Bear puts a moratorium on the use of magic during this match (as it wouldn’t be fair if he could bring his full magical powers against the group), and promises that the whole thing will be completely non-lethal (with the usual penalties to damage that come from such fights) and he plans to focus on wrestling, not tearing everyone limb from limb.