Liberty and Death is a cruel recursion. Even a boyish lark can turn deadly in this benighted place. This short adventure can be inserted anywhere along the High Road that runs form Newport to Rackham. It is essentially a fleshed-out “random encounter” and is designed for characters in their first tier. Text to be read to the players is in italics.
The characters are traveling along the High Road, when they are approached by a distraught woman. Her son and his friend have gone missing and she hopes to enlist the characters to help find them. As it turns out, the two boys decided to pay a visit to an old, dilapidated church in the Briarwood. Little did they realize that a brood of harpies had taken up residence in the steeple of the building.
You are traveling along the High Road towards the city of Newport. The weather is foul. A light mist has been falling for most of the morning and you are chilled to the bone. As you pass a small farmstead, you here a cry from the door. Turning, you see a woman waving from the porch. A young boy stands besides her. She hitches up her skirts and makes her way over to where you stand, her boy trails along behind her.
“Oh good sirs!” She cries. “You must help me. My son, Frederick, has gone missing. You must help me find him!”
The characters will certainly ask some questions. The following information should help the GM answer them.
Her name is Carolyn Bradley. She lives with her two sons, Frederick and James. Her husband was killed in a hunting accident about a year ago. Frederick went out fishing early this morning along with a neighbor boy, Johnathan Tubbs. She thought they’d have been back after the rain started. It is long past time that they should have returned at any rate.
About this time, her son James tugs on his mother’s skirt and says, “They didn’t go fishin’ mamma. I heard Johnny talkin’ about goin’ to the old church. Fred said you wouldn’t like it, but Johnny said he was just bein’ yella.”
“Oh good heavens!” Carolyn cries. “I’ve told those boys a hundred times to stay away form that place. That building is about ready to collapse. Please, I know it is a terrible imposition, but would you be so kind as to fetch them for me?”
The Old Church
An overgrown path takes you south of the High Road. The cleared land quickly gives way to thorny bushes and buckthorn saplings and these, in turn, give way to larger trees. Soon the Briarwood engulfs you completely. As you penetrate deeper into the forest, the twisted branches overhead blot out the feeble gray light of the day making it seem as if night has fallen. Glistening, black crows watch interestedly as you pass. They seem to be the only animal life besides yourselves in this foul forest.
After a half hour of walking in the gloom, you spy the old church ahead. Carolyn Bradley was not exaggerating its condition. The roof sags heavily, threatening to collapse at the slightest shock. The walls are covered in thick creepers, and the network of vines may be the only thing keeping the whole structure from crumbling to the earth. The steeple, crowned with an old rugged cross, seems ready to topple. A fenced off area to the left of the church must be the old graveyard. You can make out the markers through the weeds and tall grasses.
As the characters survey the scene, pick one of them and read the following to him:
The rain must be picking up, for you feel heavy drops falling on your back. You feel as if something is watching you, but spinning around you catch sight of nothing. Suddenly, another large drop splatters against your face. You reach up to wipe it away and your fingers come back red – blood! Looking up you see the body of a child wedged in an overhanging branch. One of his arms has been torn from his socket and his throat has been ripped out.
The must make a Difficult (12) Intellect roll or take 4 points of Intellect damage form this gruesome sight.
As the players are still reacting to this horror, ask for Demanding (9) Intellect rolls. Those that succeed will see a figure climbing out of a window in the steeple. At first they believe it to be a bedraggled woman, until the see she sports huge, black wings in place of arms. A harpy! The thing screams at the party as she launches into flight.
“Mine! Get away you bastards. That tender morsel is mine! Come to me daughters, come. Thieves are in our larder!”
The party is engaged by a flock of Harpies (see Bestiary for stats) equal to their number, plus the brood-mother who is one level higher. These creatures erupt from the inside of the church where they have been busily trying to get at young Frederick (who has thus far managed to avoid Theodore’s fate by virtue of being more quick-witted and fleeter of foot).
When the characters defeat the harpies, they will find Frederick hiding in a small, secret room in the rear of the altar. He crawled in through a hole in the wall and the harpies were too big to get in after him (though they’d have eventually worked their way in if the party hadn’t intervened). The boy can easily crawl out of the room, but if the party wishes to gain entry they must make a Difficult (12) Intellect roll to locate the secret door, or spend a half hour with an ax enlarging the opening. Inside, the party will find one cypher for each member of the party.
Carolyn Bradley will be relieved to see her boy again and weep bitterly for the loss of Johnathon. She can offer the party shelter and a warm meal, but has little else of value she can give them as a reward. In fact, the characters realize quickly that leaving her a handful of shillings may ensure she and her children have enough food to last the winter.
Award the characters 1 to 2 XP for this adventure.
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