Ravenmere: Part 1

Played this Monday just gone, and we’re back to playing Monday nights now, although no game next week because of holidays. This session kicked off the Curse of Ravenmere adventure, which I wrote a lifetime ago and recently revised. It’s a small adventure, but we should get two (maybe three?) sessions out of it.

What’s Up with Jacob?

Upon their return to their village, which helpfully coincided with market day, they bid farewell to Barton, but hung on to Jacob and Horace, both who were happy to join the party as allies; for a share of whatever treasure they might find on their adventures.

While Magnus and Callum headed to the market to buy goods for themselves and the party, Horace and Jacob tagging along, Alf headed off to see his mentor/ally/co-watchman to get the latest gossip. Old Man Willow, as he was known (tall, greying, a veteran from somewhere other than the village), filled him in on the latest: not much going on, but a shepherd had spotted smoke from a fire, likely a camp, up in the ruins of old Ravenscar, an ancient castle said to have been the seat of power of the legendary Raven King. A statue of him stands in the courtyard, but other than adventurous children and the odd shepherd taking shelter with their flock, it is rarely visited. Also, one of the regular farmers from the nearby village of Ravensmere had failed to show up at market, which was highly unusual as he was there every week without fail, and had been for years. In fact, Barton (the trader they helped at the inn) was meant to be taking some cattle off his hands, and was a bit put out that he wasn’t there.

Joining back with the others, Old Man Willow in tow, Alf discussed it with the others, and they decided to head off to Ravensmere to see if there was any trouble: everyone was thinking that more of those rat-goblins might be causing trouble.

Since it was still morning, and the village was less than a day’s travel along the banks of the river, they headed off straight away, following the narrow river until they reached the stream that would take half-a-mile or so to the village. The journey was pleasant enough, the day cool and sunny, the chill of early Spring still in the air.

When they reached the village there was immediately a sense that something was up. There was a foul smell on the wind, and none of the villagers could be seen out and about, nor in the fields they passed. The first buildings they saw were two farms, one holding fowl, the other sheep. As they walked up, they could see that the sheep were lying dead in the field, butchered, blood staining the grass a deep crimson. Overlooking the village, on a low hill, stood the old church, with a lone raven sitting atop its roof, watching with its beady eyes. It cawed as the party slowly made their way through the village.

They stopped briefly at the fowl farm, finding bodies inside: a woman who had been stabbed in the back, a young girl with her throat slit, and a man tied to a chair and tortured to death. They had been dead a couple of days and smelled bad. A couple of more ravens watched them from the rooftops.

At the smithy they found another body, head staved; and in the corner, the blacksmith, curled up, but alive! He saw them and screamed in rage and madness, charging towards Callum with his hammer swinging! The woodsman dodged and brought up his newly bought reinforced shield, bashing the smith to the ground, long enough for Magnus to turn his petrifying gaze on him, freezing him in place so that Horace and Jacob could pile on top of him and hold him down while Callum tied his hands and feet. The blacksmith started cursing and threatening to murder them all, so they gagged him too.

They stood watch over him while Alf and Callum went to check out the church, and Magnus wandered around the church grounds where graves were laid in rows along the hill. From there he could see the small lake that gave the village part of its name. The lake was drained, and a large hole was in the middle, piles of earth around it where it had been dug out. Three bodies, face-down in the mud and obviously dead, lay around it. He returned to the watchman and mercs, keeping an eye on the ravens that watched from the rooftops, nearly a dozen now.

In the church, Alf found an acolyte nailed to the wall behind the altar. His belly was opened, his guts spilling out and reeking. On the altar itself was an ancient spear, the shaft worn and the blade chipped but intact. It had an odd sheen to it, and in the sunlight coming through the narrow windows it gleamed iridescently. Alf liked the look of it and swapped it for his own spear.

In the backroom was a study, and the dead body of the priest, who looked like he had killed himself. Books lay open on the desk, and a cursory glance informed them that it was a book on the local history of the village and surrounding area. Callum took it with him as they exited and joined the rest of the party by the large barn that also served as a tavern, and occasional inn for travellers.

The barn turned out to be another murder scene, with several bodies cut, hung and all dead at, as far as they could tell, at each other’s hands. As Magnus led the search inside, Horace called out suddenly: he was sure he had seen one of the bodies in the dry lake twitch. They went to look, but the bodies were dead and none seemed to be moving about. They kept away from the hole, but could see if led somewhere. Alf did take a look down the well, and he was sure he could see a door down there, just visible in the dwindling sunlight.

It was then that Jacob started to act oddly. It started with a few snippy comments, but then came angry outbursts, complaints, and he argued at every opportunity, unhappy about something, but refusing to be drawn into a discussion. He seemed particularly annoyed at Alf. Horace too, seemed to be acting strangely, but he was more jumpy, kept thinking he could see movement out of the corner of his eyes, or hear things; but there was nothing there. Magnus also thought he saw, whenever he turned away, Horace making a rude gesture or throwing daggers (not literally) at Magnus, but denied it and no one else saw anything untoward. There were a few more ravens on the rooftops too, and Magnus, when he concentrated on them, felt a foul magic shrouding them. He didn’t like it.

They decided to move out of the village, regroup, and have a think. Hoping that the strangeness would pass (it didn’t seem to) they made camp by the river, half-a-mile from the village. At one point the tied blacksmith (Diggory, Willow called him) tried to run off and dive into the river, but Callum tackled him to the ground and they trussed him up good and proper. He soon fell asleep, from exhaustion.

They set a watch and settled down for the night, keeping an eye on Jacob. The merc just glared, especially at Alf, but kept his watch without issue. He slept soundly, but Horace was restless and had nightmares. In the morning they woke, the blacksmith still asleep, and thought that Old Man Willow was uncharacteristically quiet. Magnus thought he saw a raven in the trees watching them, but when he shot it out of the tree with his new bow, it turned out to be nothing more than a sparrow. Still, he was certain he could hear them cawing.

They sat down to break their fast, and looked south to the village, just visible in the distance. What would they do next?

End of Session

An enjoyable session, with lots of tension and mystery. The players all seemed to enjoy it, especially the snarky Jacob and twitchy Horace. But what was going on?