[WFRP 1e] The Gathering Storm 6

[WFRP 1e] The Gathering Storm 6

On the morning after the great gale, the party was met by Captain Kessler who summoned them to Burgomeister Adler’s office. Kessler told them that the burgomeister had another proposition for them. What he had to say was of great significance to the well-being of every man, woman, and child in Stormdorf. When the party encountered Adler in his office, he was sitting behind his desk wearing a grave expression, although he had spruced up since their last meeting and evidently taken a much-needed bath.

Sitting opposite Adler was a middle-aged man dressed in the attire of a country gentleman, with a bald pate and a neat, black beard, his face drawn with worry. The burgomeister introduced him as Herr Gubo Ackerland, a farmer from the community in the uplands south of Stromdorf. But before talking about Ackerland, he wanted to slip the party a little warning.

It seemed someone around town had been calling out the Holtz family as chaos worshippers, consorting with beastmen. Adler thought the party might want to get out of town for a little bit while rumors died down. This went a little further in explaining Denise’s initial reluctance to join Zarkon at the Hogshead the other night.

After pointing this out, Ackerland explains his predicament to the party.

For the past ten days, farms bordering the Blitzfelsen Hills have suffered from a serious spate of rustling. “The thieves come,” said Ackerland, “when night falls.” If the thefts continued, the farmers would be ruined within a month. With the produce in the granaries ruined by the recent storm, and the bad weather making road and river travel slow and dangerous, Stormdorf faced a food shortage if the farm produce failed to reach its citizens.

Captain Kessler offered to send some of his militia to investigate, but Adler wanted ‘professionals’ for the job. For this reason, Adler asked the party if they wanted the job. He offered 50 silver coins each, and threw down a leather money bag onto the table – half the reward. They will get the rest when they bring the rustlers to justice.

“I pray to Sigmar that after this I have no further need of your services, or the town coffers will quickly empty.” Adler’s lips cracked into a smile at his joke, perhaps the first time he’d done so for months. “Oh, and I’d like you to bring down the brigands’ leader, so you should follow the rustlers to wherever their lair is hidden. Best cut off the problem at the source, eh? I want that fellow hanging from the gibbet tree by the end of the week.”

As usual, they were ready to go quickly without any questions. They left just after midday, journeying on Ackerland’s horse-drawn cart. The cart crawled along; the incessant rain had turned the country roads to slough. Sometimes they had to help heave a wheel from a deep rut. Everyone was soaked to the skin in the back of the cart in short order. Fields of barley flanked the road, the monotony broken now and then by small farm houses and stables.

Two hours into the journey, a low hill rose about a mile to the east. Clouds seemed to gather dark over the hill, and lighting crashed down upon it with angry intensity.  Ackerland made the sign of Sigmar’s hammer when he looked over at the hill. Rolf asked about the place. Ackerland mentioned it was called Tempest Knap, a place of haunted ruins where nobody ventured. He said that over a week ago, maybe two, well after dark, he saw spectres whirling round the top of the hill. They danced for hours, lighting up the summit with a dreadful blue light. He said it was a terrible omen, and the weather in these parts had been getting even worse since then. He didn’t want to say anything else about it, other than “no good will come of it.”

Ackerland did answer some other questions the party started asking. He said the raids had started seven days ago. Each night, rustlers had stolen several animals at a time. Despite bringing the livestock closer to the farm and employing farmhands to guard them, the thefts continued right under their noses. By morning the constant rain had ruined any tracks.

The patrols tried to use dogs, but that first night they simply ran yelping back to the farm, completely useless. After that, the dogs refused to go outside at all after dark. Ackerland and his farmhands patrolled in shifts from dusk to dawn. Everyone on the first shift was always exhausted when they were relieved an hour after midnight.

Before the raids, there was no problem from predators, apart from a sheep taken now and again by a wolf.

The farmhouse was surrounded by barns on the south and west, fields on the north and east, and a watchtower in the middle. The party was welcomed into the warm kitchen. Ackerland’s wife, Meg, offered food and drink. Marien, their attractive 16 year old daughter fancied Caius. Kleb, the 6 foot tall son, gave the party a surly nod. Nine other children clamored for attention. A sheepdog curled by the roaring hearth, whimpering occasionally.

The first idea was to bring the sheep in closer to the farm. Kraft helped a shepherd move the sheep out of the far (east) field. Rolf immediately gave Ackerland a talking-to for the large stack of stones he had dragged into one corner of the field. He said it would be a perfect place for something to hide.

Sure enough, a check around the rock pile turned up a damp husk on the ground. When opened for further investigation, some spores came out of the husk, to no effect on the examiner. One of the farmhands, however, did mention that the smell reminded him of the odd smell around the farm at midnight. Rolf instructed everyone to wear masks on patrol. With this information in mind, the party went to examine the long (north) field.

The long field had a copse of trees on the northern end, where more damp husks were found. A husk was stowed in Rolf’s pack for further examination later.

At that time, Zarkon caught up with the group, completely dry as opposed to their soaking wetness. He remained inside the house. Rolf gave him a husk to try to identify. As it wasn’t quite a plant, Zarkon wasn’t able to identify the strange husk. He was able to set it off, though, and showed by example that the spores inside caused drowsiness and lethargy. He was out while guard preparations were made for the night.

Nim placed himself up in the tower with his bow and two ranch hand guards. Kraft watched from a barn centrally located, where she could see both fields. Caius, Rolf, and Hektor swept the perimeter throughout the night. Around midnight, the goblins struck.

Three goblins lofted spore husks at Caius while he was in the far field, with no effect. Two goblins threw husks up into the watchtower and put Nim and friends to sleep. Three more goblins entered the long field from the copse. Hektor was able to see them and shout a warning to Rolf. The goblins had no interest in fighting and beat-feet to the hills in the south. Hektor was in pursuit.

A few minutes into the hills, Hektor was able to catch up to the slowest goblin and knock it to the ground. The pathetic creature knocked out his front teeth in a hard landing. It tried to claw its way across the ground as Hektor tied it up and slung it over his shoulder. The goblin also tried to bite through Hektor’s arm, but couldn’t get its remaining teeth through his leather jacket.

Back at the farmhouse, Zarkon was coming out of his stupor. Everyone else had made it back inside and were being treated as heroes…except Nim. Nobody could figure out what was keeping Nim.

Hektor showed up with the captured goblin, and Zarkon used Gift of Tongues to talk to the creature…which was still difficult due to its missing teeth. It spoke of boss Gobspite and a troll “Bulge.” The goblin agrees to take them to the big boss if the party lets him free afterward.

Around that time, someone remembered to check the watchtower for Nim and the other farmhands.

The next morning, the party led the goblin outside so he could show them where to go. The goblin ran back inside, complaining about the bright light (in the overcast sky). He was given no quarter, only the option to lead them or die.

The party reached an overrun farmstead in a few hours. In a small valley, enclosed within a high palisade of sturdy stakes, stook a half-timbered farmhouse with a thatched roof, surrounded by several outbuildings. A stone gate house guarded the entrance, and stone tower rose protectively from the south. Because the farm was in a valley, they were able to get a good view from their current position. There were a few goblins on the other side of the gate, and a few more in the tower. Other than that, one group of goblins roamed the farmyard.

Inside the fence, the were able to see a few full stockyards, the watchtower, the farmhouse, a small garden, a large barn, a smithy, and some stables. In the end, the plan was to send the toothless goblin to the front gate to demand to be let in. To that, Zarkon added a fireball on the back side of the front gate (which wasn’t enough to blow it open). Finally, Rolf, Kraft, and Caius charged the palisade beside the gate, chopped through the bindings keeping the stakes in place, and burst into the yard to brawl a dozen goblins. Nim climbed the palisade and shot from his high perch. Hektor followed behind the fighters once he could squeeze through, and Zarkon followed once they had formed a wall of safety.

The goblins tried (sorta) hard but never really stood a chance.

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