Episode 6 : The Howling
 

The snow storm lifted and we headed out of town. At the exit gate we saw ahead of us a tall cloaked figure, well over 6 foot, a battleaxe swung by his side, and tufts of reddish orange locks protruded from beneath the hood. This man could be none other than Hannibal the Barbarian arrested only days before, and now escaped {again}. We stood silent as he slipped by the outer gate guards. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt whispered to one, "That's Hannibal the Barbarian!", the guard's only reply was, "Keep thy tongue from flapping and yea might keep it in yea mouth.". We exited and watched as Hannibal headed south. We departed to the west, to Hahndorf, three days journey away. We stopped only once at a small fishing village to sample their tuna knockwurst and the fresh, from Haarendorf, "Corn fed chicken schnitzels.".

We arrived at Hahndorf as the sun was setting. Hahndorf is a small village, surrounded by woodland, the village consists of a series of close knit buildings nestled together about a common central square. We arrived and made a beeline for the only Inn, 'The Stuck Pig'. Here we feasted upon "Corn fed chicken schnitzels.", less their tails, of course.

The morrow was Gottestag, or Day of the Gods, trade and fighting stopped on this day, as respect was paid to the Gods. We rose and attended the services in progress at the common Temple to the many Gods of the land. The village people likewise were moving into the Temple. We entered with the small poultices of wolfsbane about our necks, intent on seeing who the odour offended most greatly. We made our way through the small throng of people to our respective Godly Icons and paid respects. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt spoke to the only herbalist in town, Hilda Rupell, and bought from her some more wolfsbane. While waving it about he noticed one dishevelled and unkempt woodcutter who turned up his nose and made obvious detours to avoid Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and our group. We inquired his name. A Freddy Geezel, a man we would later be hunting with all seriousness. A man most locals shunned and who fell under the suspicion of murder, but the charges could never be proved.

Brother Otto strode to the Oxell icon and prayed. He was approached by an elderly woman, "Young man, is this the statue to Oxell?". "Yes, it is.", smiling. She turned to her equally old friend, "See Matha, I told you this ugly statue was Oxell.", turning back to Brother Otto she continued, "We were never to sure, no one in the village seemed to know which god it was, thanks for clearing that up, your worship.". With that the old women trotted off. Brother Otto mumbled to himself and continued his prays. During these prayers the four priests of the village approached, they made small talk and Brother Otto was invited back to their quarters for lunch afterwards.

At the priests quarters Brother Otto told his tale of werewolves and backed his story up with the letters of mark from Haarendorf. The priests were flabbergasted and shocked. The remainder of the party, except for the gimp, went to the Manor of Lord Helmet Kolst, but were only able to speak with the Lord's elderly scribe. They made an appointment for the next day to speak with the Lord himself. The elderly scribe, Lother Weldronguise, saw us in a den lined with the heads of bears, stags and wolves. Hanz Josephson asked after the hunting, Lother Weldronguise indicated there was not much in the way of stags about here any more, and the bears and wolves were even rarer sight.

The group returned to the village and made discreet inquires with some local children into the whereabouts of Freddy Geezel. At the mention of the name they became sullen and withdrawn, but for money they were able to point out his unkempt ramshackle hut and say they saw him head out of town into the pines only half an hour ago. We followed his tracks into the woods. They were to circle back after twenty minutes and enter the village from the opposite side, near the Inn. Here in the Inn, Gunther Sturmritter had an uninvited guest. Gunther Sturmritter in his full plate and plastered leg had been propped up on a chair by the fire, his sword and shield leaning on him as he warmed himself by the fire.

An unkempt woodcutter is framed in the door. "What brings you ta town?", speaking to Gunther Sturmritter. "Rest.", said Gunther Sturmritter eyeing the man over. "Ivan.", said Freddy Geezel, his hand held out, "Hans Krüger.", replies Gunther Sturmritter gripping his sword. "Be in town long?". "Till the leg heals.", "Fell on it did ya?". "Accidents happen.". "How long till it mends and ya be gone.". "Soon.". "Beware, in this town everything ain't what it seems, and accidents be fatal here.". With that Freddy Geezel left and the Gimp relaxed. We entered the Inn a few minutes later and Gunther Sturmritter relates what happened with "Ivan.", and we relate our search for Freddy Geezel.

Another voice from the doorway, this time we did not hear the door open and close. The man had been standing there sometime, listening to our conversation. Willy Geezel spoke softly, "Welcome to Hahndorf, I am Willy, Sheriff of Hahndorf. I best warn you out of towners that you best not go into the forests alone. There have been three bear attacks recently, with a child mauled too. The outdoors can be a dangerous place for those who do not know their way about. Be careful.", with that warning the Sheriff left. Night fell and we fed upon corn fed chicken before retiring for the night. We decided that it might be prudent to have watches in place from now on. The morning came, bringing with it the aroma of hot gruel.

Today we went straight to the Manor of Lord Helmet Kolst where we were presented to Lord Helmet Kolst. Without standing for any ceremony, he took and read our letter which told of our tale of deserters and werewolves. The Lord handed the letter to his adjutant, Rutgar Hausberg with the words, "Tell Walter to help here, the quicker this is over the better. Have Gurmuntt Bakker and Oscar Schew been seen in town?". "No, not that I am aware.". "Well I want these men taken alive, searching the baker's will not present a problem but Gnoll the moneylender may present a problem. You had better be sure of your facts if you decide to search his establishment, but tell him he will answer to me if he hinders your progress and harbours criminals. Inform Walter Krüger, the Lay Sheriff, if someone hinders you doing your job. Rutgar, pass this message onto Walter. Is there anything more gentlemen? No, then get your job done quickly.", with that we left the Lord's presence and returned to town.

At the village we started our inquires firstly with the woodsmen not currently out cutting trees down. Two woodsmen sat on their porch, one with a pig on his lap. "Top of the morning, to you.", said Heinz Meier, "I hear you have had some excitement here of late, with the bear attacks on a child recently.". The two looked puzzled, "There be no bear attack here for many a moon.". "But what of the hurt child?", Heinz Meier continued. "You sure you be in the right town? No child been hurt here of late, and especially by no bear. All this talking be thirsty work.", the man reaches for a jug and takes a swig. "How much for a drink? Will a couple of coppers cover it.", asks Heinz Meier. The men smile, "Aye, pull yourself up a seat, stranger.", handing the Heinz Meier a jug.

"So, if there has not been any excitement with bears, what's the most recent news then?". "Oh, I guess that be Freddy Geezel, some say he killed his cousin with an axe, chopped him to tiny pieces, up there in the woods. Freddy's a strange one. They say he had some involvement with the death of the lay healers husband too, they say he fell off his horse and broke his neck, out in the woods but there is no proof.". "So who are Freddy's friends, who does he hang around with?". "Well there is his brother, Willy, the Sheriff.". "Willy is Freddy Geezel's brother?". "Oh, aye.". "Who else is he close to then.". "I guess there is Olga Schurnbalm, the village's healer, Willy's humping her, you see, and Freddy is always hanging around there too.". "Is Freddy friends with Gurmuntt Bakker or Oscar Schew?". "Sure are, thick as thieves those three, that was until those two went off to the big city. They all get together when they be in town. Seen them all in the woods just a few days ago, headed to Freddy's corner. They come and go to town, when they feel like it.". "What's Freddy's corner?". "Well each woodman has a patch of woodland he usually works it, Freddy likes this here particular corner of the woodlands.". "Well, it has been a pleasure talking with you.". "Well if ya be thirsty again, come on by, ya hear. We got a still out the back here.", rubbing the copper coins together.

We returned to, 'The Stuck Pig', for supper and to plan our tactics based on our new leads. It definitely looked like Freddy Geezel, Gurmuntt Bakker and Oscar Schew were all werewolves and that Willy Geezel, the Sheriff, was protecting his brother. We decided to try and pick them off one by one, we would lie in wait tonight at the bakers and the moneylenders hoping that these men might return home. Hanz Josephson and Heinz Meier lay in wait behind these buildings with the rest of us in front. Nothing happened for much of the night. On the second watch Heinz Meier was startled to find Willy Geezel behind him, "Watching for the deserter?", "Yes.", "I can relieve you and watch till morning.", "No, that's fine, I don't want to miss them if they come tonight.". "I see.", said Willy Geezel and he vanished into the night just as silently as he had arrived.

At 2 am the baker's light came on and by 4 am the smell of freshly baked bread reaches our nostrils. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and Gunter Hiedricksson's stomachs rumble, "Lets get some food.", they approach the bakers and enter the front door. The smell of fresh baked bread is strong. The Gerhundt Bakker, the baker, comes out and eyes our two people. Gunter Hiedricksson tries to charm him with a spell, the baker says, very loudly, "Please sit down.", and slams an oven door. Behind the building Hanz Josephson and Heinz Meier see the back door open and a man creep out slowly and silently. Hanz Josephson appears from his hiding place, "Stop.", the man jumps up and runs. From the bakers shop comes, "Run boy, run.". Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and Gunter Hiedricksson race through the shop to the back door and begin their pursuit. Heinz Meier stumbles in the darkness, Werner Faßenberg rises from his hiding position and cast sleep, the running man slumping into the snow, just as Hanz Josephson sends a sling slug thumping into his chest. The man is manacled as the lay sheriff and village priests turn up. The man is Gurmuntt Bakker, one of the men we are looking for.

We proceed to search the bakers shop and discover a small concealed space with a cot, some food and water, a dagger with an odd insignia and a pouch containing herbs. Questioning of Gurmuntt Bakker further reveals that he came to the village with Oscar but that they separated. He is to meet up with Oscar in the woods at the end of the month. He also explains that the pouch of herbs provides some protection against bad things. We test the wolfsbane by waving it around him, it serves to put him into a panic. The stronger the odour, the wilder his panic becomes.

We immediately search the moneylenders, just in case Oscar in there now. Gnoll the moneylender is outraged by this high handed action but as we are backed by the Lay Sheriff he allows us to enter and search the premises. Gunter Hiedricksson on first addressing Gnoll, cast question and asked, "Is Oscar inside?", the reply was a simple, "No.". Our search reveals a cellar with a concealed room, the entrance is hidden, Gnoll indicates he will only open it if we turn our heads from the activation mechanism. On throwing this switch the cellar opens up to three times the size and it is filled with chests, carpets, bags and items of wealth. We find no Oscar in our search. Hanz Josephson notices a small pouch slowly moving up the stairs, moving under Pysk power he guesses, but says nothing. Gnoll closes the cellar and escorts us out.

Gurmuntt Bakker is now at the local temple facilities and Gunter Hiedricksson has been questioning him via a series of question spells, the answers lead us to worry. He indicates that the healers husband, Ralph Schurnbalm, was killed by Freddy Geezel in the woods. We are also told that he was acting under the instruction of Herr Sharman the Chief Scribe at the Capital, Hammersdorf. Gurmuntt Bakker also indicates that he knows that the following five people are werewolves, they are,

  • Oscar Schew with whom he fled Haarendorf
  • Freddy Geezel the local Woodsman
  • Willy Geezel the Sheriff of Hahndorf
  • Olga Schurnbalm the Hahndorf's healer, and a
  • Helmut, who is a Haarendorf Deputy City Watchman.

Now we know that four of these are currently in the village of Hahndorf. If we can capture them one by one, we stand a chance against this pack of werewolves. We first hope to first isolate the healer. It is only natural to bring an injured party to the healers presence so we first send Hanz Josephson and Heinz Meier to hide around the back to stop her exiting. With the Gimp in tow we enter her front room and knock at her interior door. "There has been an injury, the gimp has twisted and dislocated his leg again.". Olga Schurnbalm opens the door slightly, says, "I'll be right there.", she closes the door. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt spies Willy Geezel's cloak hanging on a peg. Werner Faßenberg hears the sliding of the lock into place. Time for action Werner Faßenberg raises the Wand of Ice Bolts.

The back door of the healer's house bursts open and three people charge out directly at Hanz Josephson. They are Olga Schurnbalm the lay healer, her nails growing into claws. There is Willy Geezel wielding a broadsword and moving extremely fast. Finally there is a third older man in his late fifties who is quickly transforming into a wolf, claws and snout now in place. Hanz Josephson shouts, "Shit!", as they contact him. He is struck by the broadsword and falls unconscious into the snow. Olga Schurnbalm attacks also but only scratches Hanz Josephson's armour. The third man bounds past and up the alley leading to the forest. Werner Faßenberg cast opening on the door, the door holds against him. He and Gunter Hiedricksson race back around the building.

Heinz Meier leaps from the snowman he was hiding behind and slams his morning star into Willy Geezel, breaking bones and stunning the man as he raised his sword for a coup de grâce on Hanz Josephson. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt races forward and swipes at the healer, who dodges his blow. The healer slashes back, scratching Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt through his armour. Gunther Sturmritter fumbles with his sword and staggers through the snow. Gunter Hiedricksson slams his broadsword into Willy Geezel's back, stunning him. The old man turns and returns to the fray, slicing a vein in Heinz Meier's leg. The snow is sprayed red with blood. Werner Faßenberg raises the Wand of Ice Bolts, fires at the healer and misses. She dodges Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt's next blow.

The old man worries Heinz Meier again, forcing him fully defensive, but jarring his paw on Heinz Meier's armour, he breaks his wrist. The healer nips Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt on the leg causing a bleeder. Werner Faßenberg advances next to the stunned Willy Geezel and fires a Ice Bolt into his chest, blowing his chest cavity open. Willy Geezel drops, dead. The old man, now fully a wolf, bites Heinz Meier's forearm opening a large slash. Heinz Meier drops to the snow unconscious, blood pouring from his wounds. The healer jumps at Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt, her teeth connecting with his neck. Blood spurts everywhere, he drops to the snow unconscious, blood pouring from his neck. All the other party members miss with their blows at the two wolves, all except Brother Otto who slams his sword into the old man causing a bleeder and stunning the wolf.

The healer turns on Werner Faßenberg and with one paw slashes opens up his stomach, removing his kidneys. Werner Faßenberg drops to the snow clutching his innards. This commotion has raised the villagers who have started to gather. The priests begin casting spells at the wolves, but fail to effect. One cleric sends his mace into the healer, stunning her considerably. Brother Otto, Gunter Hiedricksson, and Hanz Josephson fight on. Brother Otto hits the old man doing just enough damage to have him drop unconscious to the snow. Next Brother Otto turns to the stunned healer and with one blow cuts off her right paw, sending her also to the snow. Save for these two fortuitous blows our little party would be no more. The clerics are able to cast flowstop, stopping all bleeding as well as cast life keeping on Werner Faßenberg so placing him in suspended animation so major healings can take place later.

The wolves turn back to human form before the amazed eyes of the local villages. The old man turned out to be a Lynford van Müller, the village's miller. All are taken to the common temple, here the werewolves are searched to reveal each has a pouch of herbs, identical to the one that Gurmuntt Bakker wore. Also on Olga Schurnbalm is a pendant dedicated to Furaam, God of Fell Beasts. The presence of the Lord Helmet Kolst is requested. He and the adjutant soon appear. Walter Krüger, the Lay Sheriff explains what has just happened.

Meanwhile our remaining group inquires of a cleric if he can cast location. He indicates he can. Hanz Josephson pulls forth the pendant dedicated to Furaam and asks if he can locate an identical one here. The location spell is cast and the cleric whispers to Hanz Josephson that, "I don't believe this but Rutgar Hausberg, the Adjutant, is wearing an identical pendant beneath his armour!", the party fans out, Gunter Hiedricksson, Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and Brother Otto approach the Lord Helmet Kolst and the Adjutant. Hanz Josephson and Heinz Meier move to the only exit from the Temple.

Gunter Hiedricksson asks, "Lord Kolst our group wishes to know if we have your permission to attack any werewolves we find in the village?". "Permission granted.". With that Gunter Hiedricksson draws his weapon and advances on the Adjutant. Rutgar Hausberg leaps away towards the exit, Hanz Josephson and Heinz Meier block his departure, while Brother Otto moves behind him and slams his shortsword into the man's back, bringing him down. Hanz Josephson and Heinz Meier follow up sending him unconscious to the floor. Gunter Hiedricksson pulls forth the pendant from around Rutgar Hausberg's neck. "Walter arrest that man.", cries Lord Kolst, "Get all these werewolves manacled. Strike the warning bell, a town meeting is in order.".

At the meeting, Lord Helmet Kolst explains to the village the werewolf menace. He tells of how Freddy Geezel and Oscar Schew are being sort and are to be arrested on sight. We find from the meeting, that both have left the village and are now presumed to be in the woods. We also are told by the woodsmen that they know Freddy's corner of the wood and can lead our party there to find him. We accept the offer but will not act to search the woods until the morning. A runner is sent to the next town to bring a Priest of Lumina who has sufficient potency magical spells to heal Werner Faßenberg.

Meanwhile we search the rooms and houses of the four werewolves we have captured. The search reveals hidden chambers and rooms, mostly holding only the pouches with the distinctive herbs. The Adjutant's holds a small library, the books all in Dark Tongue, a small shrine to Furaam and a human bone. We also take possession of those magical items we can find. There were a balm of pain, a balm of unpain, the pouches which protect against the effect of wolfsbane and also act as times two menatalist multiplier, the necklaces dedicated to Furaam which act as a times four mentalist multiplier and include the magic brilliance list, a ring of magical protection dedicated to Furaam which act as a times three channelling multiplier, a quill of the bards, and a magical longsword called 'Berserker', which allows the wielder to go berserk, on command, if he is strong enough or immediately on drawing if not.

Questioning of the werewolves via Gunter Hiedricksson's question spell provides the additional information that Freddy Geezel would be held up now in his cave in the wood with Oscar Schew and an old hermit named Leo who would also be with them. Freddy has a magical broadsword and Leo, a magical staff. They are all rangers and would use spells from the mentalist spell lists against us.

Having a little time before dark the fighters try to control the longsword, 'Berserker'. They first tie themselves to a tree, draw the sword, and each was to remain in a frenzied state until they dropped unconscious from exhaustion. Only Gunter Hiedricksson and Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt are able to control the longsword and not be controlled. Gunter Hiedricksson takes the longsword, 'Berserker'.

As the sun set, the reinforcements requested from the neighbouring town arrive. They have in their midst a High Priest of Lumina. The High Priest was able to cast spells that reconstructed Werner Faßenberg's kidneys and were able to stitch and knit together his wound. He rose and thanked the High Priest most enthusiastically for his life, having believed that when the two major fighters dropped our group would soon be meeting again in the hereafter.

Later as night was falling, Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, had finally returned to the Inn with the pouch he had found in the moneylenders. Gunther Sturmritter examined the pouch, it was to contain only three clear crystals, red, blue and green, with multiple flat sides, dice in fact, but ones with no numbers. Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, rolled the crystal dice, nothing happened. He rolled a second time, this time the green dice became gaseous and we saw in the mist a grey Dragon with six legs and a barbed tail, hanging from a cavern ceiling, talking with four creatures that must be trolls, who were nodding intently. The vision vanished Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, spoke up, "It's simple all you have to do is roll and force the dice to work for you.". Brother Otto rolled, nothing happened. Hanz Josephson rolled, nothing happened. Heinz Meier rolled, nothing happened. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt rolled, nothing happened.

Hanz Josephson rolled again and thought of his sling, this time something happened. This time the green crystal vanished, a mist appeared, then cleared, revealing the green crystal again as well as six shiny new sling slugs. Hanz Josephson rolled again, again the vision of the Dragon and the trolls returned. Hanz Josephson rolled again, thinking of Freddy Geezel, a hidden gully in the woods was revealed, the vision passed up it, past a tripwire between two trees up to a small cave entrance in the side of the gully. We retired for the night and would begin our werewolf hunting exploits in the morning.

 

 
(c) 1998 Hammerstein Rolemaster Campaign Journal by Ross Stopford  
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