Cast: Archibald, Ranthin, Gohma, Konrad, Dellin, Choppy, Cedric
Characters follow tracks back to the Vivisectionist’s lair. He’s built a laboratory and living complex inside a natural cave system in the rocky highlands area. They discover that further in the cave, the floor becomes flag-stone, support timbers reinforce the ceilings, and lanterns provide lighting. They encounter a jail-like area first, with strong iron cells lining both walls, and two corpses (missing various body parts) in two of the cells. There is evidence that this area is usually guarded, but perhaps the guards were the ones killed by the party earlier. A stout iron-bound hardwood door separates the outer jail area from the inner portions of the laboratory. Needless-to-say, the door is locked.
When the players fiddle around with the door, a voice asks if they’ve completed their mission. Choppy blathers something while Gohma replies “Arp.” The voice from the other side of the door says something about this being an “interesting development.” Gohma uses his skills to open the door and a few of the characters enter to face the Vivisectionist.
He is an older man standing behind a desk cluttered with papers, a cryptic tome, etc. Behind him along the wall is a case containing a few other books (Gohma recognizes one with Arcane lettering on the spine), vials and other glassware, sample jars with floating bits of anatomy, and so on. The rest of the room looks like an operatory. There are three iron tables with corpses manacled to them. There are blood grooves in the tables that drain into pans beneath them. Each table has a side-table with sharp knives, pincers, and other pointy tools. Finally, the characters can’t help but notice that in a large alcove next to the entrance is a huge humanoid figure dressed in leather armor, standing at least 12’ tall and looking “stitched together” in a manner similar (but on a completely different scale) as those encountered earlier. The monster isn’t moving, but nor is it chained up. It does not seem to be dead or zombie-esque, but does have a certain troll-like quality in the shape of certain features. (In other words, it’s huge and hideous!)
Cedric, the erst-while hypnotist (who is now pursuing the Charlatan career) engages in banter with the Vivisectionist, who is actually Doktor Paetre Toltevsky. What is learned/becomes apparent:
- Toltevsky sent his minions out in an “aggressive defense” because he was expecting an attack from another of Jonas’ abominations.
- When it wasn’t his returning minions but the characters he heard on the other side of the door, he thought instead that they must be envoys of Chancellor Rupricht Pohlmann.
- He tells them that the Uber Soldaten project is proceeding according to the revised schedule and that if Pohlmann wanted to help, he wouldn’t send clueless envoys to interfere with the project, but would rather send a cadre of trained guards to prevent Jonas or anyone else from distracting him.
- His is impressed, albeit a bit disappointed, that the “Mark II’s” didn’t fare well in combat with the characters, apologizes for the misunderstanding, and assures them that the Mark III prototype is ready (with a gesture to the enormous humanoid being hulking in the corner).
- Toltevsky claims he is a loyal servant of the Empire, and has served for decades to be able to restore lost limbs to injured soldiers, advance understanding of injury and healing, and help create more powerful soldiers that can protect the Empire’s borders from incursion. He can’t fathom why so many people are upset with him, and why he was asked to leave the University at Altdorff due to the unsavory nature of his investigations. “To really understand how the human physiology works, one MUST study it IN-VIVO!” and “It is a sacrifice that a few make for the greater good” (and similar stuff).
- Turns out that many years ago, a child with remarkable regenerative capabilities named Jonas, was discovered by Toltevsky. Jonas was the vivisectionist’s principle experimental subject for nearly 20 years before he escaped. It is understandable that Jonas hates Doktor Toltevsky. It is understandable that Jonas would sell his soul to dark powers — anything he could do to gain the power to avenge himself on Herr Doktor. (Yes, we are talking about the very-same Jonas Whitespore).
- When informed that the characters killed Jonas, the Doktor wonders if they’ve been paying attention? Leaving him to the rats will not kill Jonas Whitespore. (Confirming Mix Riggen’s assessment from the previous adventure.)
- Word has it that Jonas is recruiting the destitute to his cult at a facility near Nuln, and that he seeks a magical gem to dramatically increase his power. (Thus it is crucial, if Rupricht wants the project to continue on schedule, deal with Jonas! Why hasn’t he done so already?)
- Those with Heraldry in the party recognize that “Chancellor Pohlmann” refers to the Emperor’s Hand…the man who works behind the scenes on the details required to run an empire. So “in over one’s head” might be an understatement for the party’s current position.
- The conversation gets tense when Cedric demands where the little girl is and the Vivisectionist denies any such knowledge. Cedric doesn’t believe him, and the conversation gets more challenging, so to speak. Cedric claims he has a “message from the Emperor” and reaches for a knife!
So what happens then? Well, combat ensues of course. Cedric, with his lightening reflexes tries to tackle the Doktor and fails. Konrad rushes in to help, but the Doktor manages to “activate” the Mark III Ubersoldat, which emits a terrifying (literally) howl and rushes into combat. Many of the characters fail a “Cool” check and lose it, running from the room. The Mark III slams at Konrad and fumbles, hitting a corner of one of the operating tables instead.
[Note, I’m omitting some of the combat details in what follows, but here’s the critical elements]
Dellin is able to throw his net on the Vivisectionist, and Cedric, having drawn his sword, wounds the Doktor severely. The initiate, apparently unafraid of the giant, runs into the room and sinks his sword into the monster’s mid-section. A blow that would have eviscerated any normal human, but just serves to anger the beast. Konrad readies his flail, figuring that the extra damage will be necessary in this fight. The Mark III smashes Archibald, picking him up by the leg and crushing his ankle. He then uses Archibald’s unconscious body as a club and smashes him against Konrad, causing Konrad to take a serious blow that dazes him for a few rounds.
The Vivisectionist, seeing that he’s likely to die in the next moment at Cedric’s hands (because he’s still trapped in the net), but also that his Mark III is laying waste to his opponents, desperately shouts a deal — a truce. He’ll call off the Mark III and heal the initiate if the characters spare his life and leave his laboratory. At this point, most of the characters are still frightened by the beast, and of those that aren’t, Archibald appears unconscious with a smashed ankle and broken back, and Konrad is highly vulnerable. The PCs agree to the truce seeing now other way out.
Archibald is healed by a potion poured down his throat by Toltevsky after everyone but Dellin leaves the operatory. Once outside the operator door (back in the “holding cell area”), the thick door closes and locks itself — and Gohma intuitively knows that his “trick” to open the door won’t work a second time.
The characters leave, but it takes significant persuasion to get Cedric to give up. Cedric’s highest priority is rescuing the girl, and it shakes his foundation to realize he/they have no power to do so. Failure is hard to swallow. Choppy, on the other hand, is entirely glad to get as much distance between him and the Mark III as possible, and sees no personal benefit in risking his life over a matter that doesn’t really concern the party.
The party members head back to town, some stopping by the farmer’s house to give him the bad news that they couldn’t rescue his girl. On the other hand, they don’t know for sure that anything bad has befallen her. So perhaps there is some hope. Other party members head for the Healer’s abode, both to tend their own wounds and to inform Markus about the events. The party reconvenes and heads back to the town center of Wattleburg.
At the outskirts of town, they notice that the stables at the lone inn are full of horses sporting the livery of the Iron Cloaks and also (partially obscured) of the Nuln City Guard. They decide not to risk going into town, and they find a suitable trail to “get lost in the woods.” There they discover Mix Riggens, who also apparently is avoiding the soldiers.
Banter ensues, the characters talk to Mix around a camp fire about what happened. He provides additional sage advice from his years of Monster Hunting. In fact, he indicates he keeps a field manual in his pack full of his lore. Archibald asks to read it, and Mix refuses, saying something along the lines of “are initiates of the light entrusted to the full set of holy scripture on day 1? Of course not. When you are ready, you may read the book.” Archibald understands and assents.
Choppy sees the light and realizes Mix could teach him a great many things. Choppy’s world view has been radically altered the past few weeks, and now that he knows Monsters exist, he wants to know how to kill them. Mix charges Choppy with learning his letters, and if he does so, Mix will teach him his craft. Dellin also sees that his experience as a Bounty Hunter has been but a prelude to his life’s calling…he too will become a Monster Hunter / Witch Hunter.
And so the day’s story ends. The heroes by the camp fire, world a bit shaken, wondering where to go next, while at the same time burning with new convictions.