Chapter 3: Session 1 “What lurks in them thar woods?”
Cast: Ranthin, Dellin, Archibald, and Bronan
Characters are staying at Castle Ostermark. The Duke of Ostermark (Braden the Elder) has a contentious argument with his son (Braden the Younger, who is now pushing 50 years old). The argument occurs in the castle temple, after normal service hours, and is overheard by Archibald who is praying in a quiet chapel room off to the side, unnoticed. Braden the Younger is a smooth-talking courtier who feels his father was quite foolish to get involved in the Toltevsky affair. More than two-dozen of his elite guard have perished, and Einhorn and Pohlmann will certainly figure out Ostermark’s involvement in the attack. Braden the Younger clearly is eager for his father to abdicate his title to his heir, and feels that his clumsy attempt to regain former battlefield glory will cause great harm to the Empire as a whole. (Inciting civil war, etc.)
Meanwhile, Sergeant Bronan is tasked with investigating a bandit issue at a farmstead a day away. Bronan is to take his squad of 8 Ostermark soldiers with him, and he’s welcome to have his friends go with. Ranthin is approached by one of Ostermark’s men to visit the Duke’s alchemist, who has made great strides developing a new weapon for the military. The alchemist is named Britt Veebel. His lab is a few miles away from the Castle, safe from prying eyes and ears. The project is secret, but the Duke trusts his new friends and wants their “independent opinion” on the progress of the new weapon.
So the characters go to visit Britt Veebel and then onwards to the farmstead. Veebel’s lab is in a fortified keep. Veebel is eccentric and scatterbrained, but apparently also highly skilled. He is thin, balding, and energetic. He resents anyone indicating that all alchemists do is to try to transmute lead into gold. His main project is designing a “cannon.” There’s all sorts of challenges in developing the right chemical mixture for the explosive powder, forging the metal cannon, designing an appropriate wheeled platform, choosing the right type of shot, etc. The characters get a demo of the cannon more-or-less working well, but the backfire destroys its base and burns one of the assistants — not quite ready for prime-time is the general assessment. While in the Alchemist’s shop, Dellin notices a lodestone, and he is given one as a gift. Britt Veebel asks the characters to report that he needs more supplies…including two more assistants and lots of butter.
The characters proceed to the farmstead. They interview the town elder who complains of bandits, livestock mutilations. Tracks indicate at least one of the bandits rides a huge Klydesdale-sized horse, and that other bandits must be ex-carnival workers who train pigs to dance…
Characters investigate, follow tracks, and chase someone in the woods. It turns into an ambush, but the bandits are not human. They are mutant beastmen, and a desperate battle ensues. Half of Bronan’s squad are killed, a few of the characters are lightly injured, but all the beastmen are killed — including the brutish boss, an enormous beastman whose legs were like a Klydesdale’s. Ranthin brought down this brute in a single round with two well-placed shots and a dose of Ulric’s fury!
The characters collect the heads of all the beastmen and the entire body of the brute. They report back to the farmstead that they’ve dispatched the bandits. They take the “trophies” as well as the bodies of their fallen comrades back to Castle Ostermark, to report on an apparent new threat to the realm.
Each character earns 200 xp.