In the recursion of Liberty and Death, the very land itself seems to strive against the colonists. In this adventure, the party will discover the truth behind the haunting of Cotter’s field. The adventure is designed for a party coming to the recursion for the first time. The GM will need some reason to send the party to this place. I ran it as part of the first adventure for my group, catapulting them to the recursion after a run in with a bunch of goons armed with a portal sphere cypher. If your party is higher than Tier 2, you will want to increase the opposition to make the adventure a challenge. Text to be read to the players is in italics.
The characters enter the recursion in the middle of Cotter’s Field. One of them notices a young girl watching the, and when they pursue, she runs off into the corn leading them into a clearing with a creepy, old scarecrow. The thing animates and attacks the party. They should be able to take it down quickly, but notice a dozen more moving towards them. Fleeing through the field, the party finally emerge on a road and meet and old, charcoal burner who gives them the story of the haunting of Cotter’s Field. If they search the old Cotter homestead, they will find clues as to the source of the haunting and how to defeat the thing responsible for at least a dozen disappearances over the past 15 years. Armed with this information, they can return to the field and kill the terror that has taken so many lives and free the ghost of Prudence Cotter to journey to her afterlife.
Prudence Cotter was a precocious girl and her laughter infectious. Her mother passed when she was barely a toddler and with no children her own age in the area, she created an elaborate fantasy world populated with imaginary friends. She was blessed with second sight and often told her father about the things that lurked on the edges of their farm. When Prudence was nine, a terrible thing took root in her father’s cornfield. She named it the Tanglewyrd and could feel it’s evil. She warned her father of the danger, but he chalked it up to her boundless imagination. Exasperated, Prudence decided to take matters into her own hands and armed with a shovel, she set off to dig up the Tanglewyrd and burn it. Little Prudence was no match for the creature…
When her father, Abraham, heard his daughter’s cry, he rushed out to search for her. He roused the neighbors and searched for days to no avail. The mystery of the Tanglewyrd is that it may easily conceal itself from discovery. You must approach it by following a specific pattern, or it will remain unseen. Abraham was distraught, but soon he caught a glimpse of his daughter (actually her ghost) about the farm. He continued to catch site of the girl and eventually worked out how to locate the creature himself. By this time the Tanglewyrd had grown so strong that even a fit man like Abraham Cotter was not able to destroy it.
Years passed. Others attempted to plant and reap the field. Hunters chased wounded game into the old corn. Travelers caught site of a little girl wandering in a lonely field and went to investigate. The Tanglewyrd has claimed at least a dozen victims over the past fifteen years.
The adventure assumes the party has translated to the recursion for the first time and has little knowledge of where they are, other than they are in the middle of an overgrown cornfield. The GM will need to designate one character to see the ghost of Prudence Cotter. Any character with the Conjures focus will make an ideal candidate since they have second sight. If no character Has that focus, pick somebody who resembles Prudence’s father. A big Vector might fit the bill. Read the following to the character:
You glance down a row and see a little girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old in a calico dress watching you. She gives you a coy look and then saunters off down the row. You get the feeling you should follow her. She moves quickly. You can barely keep her insight, though she appears to be walking. After a short time, you emerge into a small clearing. The girl is gone. An old, pumpkin-headed scarecrow stands nearby. From the looks of him, his best days of scaring birds are well behind him. Suddenly, the big orange head cocks to one side and with surprising alacrity, it climbs down off its perch with murderous intent.
Combat will ensue. The party is facing an Animate Scarecrow (see Bestiary for stats). Remember the initiative of the creature is level 4 due to the trepidatious nature of the recursion.
You Better Run
When the combat is over, call for perception rolls. The difficulty does not matter, simply tell the player who rolled the best that they se movement in the field to the north of them. Lots of movement and the occasional glimpse of a pumpkin head amongst the stalks of corn. They estimate at least a dozen of these things are defending upon their location. Flight is the most logical option. The scarecrows are quick and a few move fast enough to catch the party and trade a few blows. This should really be used to heighten tension as the players run blindly through the corn. If they stop and fight, they will be overwhelmed. After a few minutes of frantic scrambling, the players hop a split-rail fence and emerge onto a dirt road. Turning to look for their pursuers, they see the field is quiet. Only a gentle wind rustles the cornstalks.
“My, that certainly is a sight.” You turn to see a thin man, covered in soot appraising you from several yards down the road. “Most sensible folk steer clear of Cotter’s Field. It’s haunted.”
John Woodward: level 3 (level 5 for matters pertaining to his profession and knowledge of the recursion). John has the spark and he tends to know more than he lets on. He is a source of information, but should be played as a somewhat annoying know-it-all. He does have the characters best interests at heart, but will offer no physical aid in the attack on the Tanglewyrd. It’s best to have John fade into the background after he gives the characters the story of Cotter’s Field, only to reappear at the end of the story to help them dispose of the creature’s remains.
The Tale of Prudence Cotter
A round of introductions will likely take place and presumably someone will ask John about the haunting. He’ll launch into the following tale:
“That’s Abraham Cotter’s field. His old house lies over yonder.” He says gesturing to a dilapidated, log cabin a short distance away.
“‘Twas fifteen years ago, if I recollect correctly. Abraham’s little girl, Prudence, was out playing in the field. I believe Abe was in the barn when he heard her cry out. He came out to see what was the matter, but couldn’t find hide nor hair of her. Eventually, word got round to the neighbors and we organized a search party. We combed the property and into the forest, but never found a sign of his dear Prudence.
“I’m afraid Abraham Cotter was never the same after that. His wife had passed some years before and his little girl was the only family he had in the world. A couple of times he claimed to have seen her in the field and we got the neighbors to form another search party, but never found s trace of her I’m sorry to say.
“Some time passed and Abraham himself went and disappeared. We all assumed he’d just up and left, though I thought it a might peculiar that he’d not let anyone know he was going. Maybe three years went by, and Horsce Thrush got it into his head to replant the old Cotter field. He disappeared right before harvest time, his oldest son along with him.
“Now these stories grow in the telling, but I reckon at least a dozen people have gone missing in these parts over the years. Not hard to imagine how a place might get a reputation. Of course, none of this probably holds much interest for folks such as yourselves…”
To the character who can see Prudence:
You happen to glance over at the cabin as Woodward finishes his tale and see the little girl in the calico dress watching you form the doorway. She waves shyly and the recedes inside.
The cabin is a single room structure, perhaps ten feet wide and fifteen feet long. It has a fieldstone chimney and a small loft at one end of the building. It has been abandoned for fifteen years and it shows. Small animals have taken shelter in its walls. Their droppings, leaves and tiny bones cover the floor. The rough-hewn furniture is fairly intact. A musket hangs above the fireplace. The lock is rusty and a Standard (6) Intellect task is required to get it functional. There are about a dozen balls for it, but the powder has gone bad. In the loft the characters will find a very special cypher. It is a rag doll, obviously well-loved, but not chewed or disturbed by the animals. The characters will realize that it when activated it will make them invisible to the animate scarecrows for 10 minutes. The GM should ensure the characters find the doll and may place another cypher or two in the house if the characters are running low on them. Atop the table is a child’s slate (chalkboard) and a rosewood box.
The slate has the following on it:
The box contains the family bible. There is writing on the endpapers; a series of dates, times and locations around the farm. The entries are like:
7 August, 11am – near well
30 August, 2pm – hayloft
Perhaps a month’s worth of entries are present and then the note:
I’ve been a fool. It’s been in front of me all along! Her little rhyme. I pray to God I am not too late.
When the notes have been read, the character who can see Prudence hears the following rhyme:
Way, way down at the cornfield’s end,
Stands scarecrow pumpkin-head, my old friend.
But he’s gone bad and it makes me sad.
I want to play; better stay away.
I can get him back if I’m not a-feared,
Follow the path to the Tanglewyrd.
What’s all this mean?
The slate is the key. It contains a map to the Tanglewyrd. If the characters leave the cabin, 32 paces will lead them directly into the cornfield. Then they turn left and pace 16, then left and 16 more paces and so forth. If they follow it exactly they will find the lair of the creature.
Time to Weed the Garden
The Tanglewyrd (see Bestiary for stats)is able to render itself effectively invisible. You must approach the creature by following a specific pattern or you will be unaware of it until it attacks. The creature prefers to ambush prey and would never dare Attack a powerful group like the player characters. When the characters follow the instructions on the slate, they will come to a spot where the cornstaks seem to grow tighter. When they are almost to the last turn, they (yes, the whole party) will see Prudence sitting I the dirt playing some type of game. An old shovel lies nearby. She looks up at them and says:
“Oh, you brought my dolly. That was smart. But Maggie Mae can only keep you safe from Pumpkinhead ’cause they was in love and gonna get married. Pumpkinhead ain’t bad. It were the Tanglewyrd that made him naughty. I was gonna dig it up and burn it like poppa done with the other weeds. It ain’t no weed though… It’s fast and it’s right through there and if it gets ahold of you it’ll suck the life right out of you!” Her voice has been getting more frantic as she speaks and as she utters her last sentence, you watch in horror as she withers right before your eyes.
Have everyone make a Difficult (12) Intellect roll or take 4 points of Intellect damage from this disturbing sight.
You push through the cornstalks into a small clearing. A heap of withered, human bodies lies in the center. You watch in fascination as the bodies writhe, and climb to their feet. Fibrous, plant-like tendrils are wrapped around the limbs and torsos of these unfortunate remains and you realize that some thing is manipulating them like giant puppets. You can see the “puppet master” safely behind these creatures, a mass of writhing vines growing out of the hard, gray soil. The hideous zombies begin to advance and as you ready your weapons you notice the remnants of a calico dress clinging to the smallest one.
When the characters find their way out of the field, the will see the spirit of Prudence Cotter standing in the doorway of her cabin. She waves shyly at the party and slowly fades from view. The charcoal burner approaches them a few moments later.
“I have to admit that I didn’t expect to see any of you again, after you took it in mind to go back into that field.”
If the characters explain that what they fought, he will recognize it.
“Terrible things. Seen them a time or two in the Briarwood. Best to dig them up and burn the roots.”
John Woodward is happy to burn the creature for the characters and invites them to stay the night with him at his camp where he will spend the evening explaining the mysteries of his profession. He is knowledgeable of the area and can give them directions to anywhere the party wishes to travel to next.
Award the characters 2 to 3 XP for this adventure.
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