Raid on Black Goat Wood (via Shane Mangus' One Page Dungeon. Good stuff, check it out!)
Forest outside of Campbelltown, a small village near the Hudson in Southern New York.
The party is composed of the previous three eighth level characters.
They are joined by a fourth member, a French exile from New Orleans.
James Marcus (played by Ben)
Campbell is a heavily armed and well trained former soldier. A dangerous looking man, he is loaded down with a few pistols, rifle, saber, bayonet, and a set of silver brass knuckles.
Father Patrick (played by Susan)
Father Patrick is a catholic priest who is not the nicest priest in the world. Described as 'sorta evil' he's a conniving and dangerous man who will apparently do what he needs to and manipulate people to get his way.
Allistair McCord (played by Kevin)
McCord is a scarred up ugly bastard with an old blunderbuss, and itchy trigger finger, and a bit of battlefield medicine under his belt. When not blowing hell out of things with his blunderbuss he'll be chopping away with his hatchets. Scottish, possibly a bit mad.
Guy LeFleur (played by Grant)
A French mercenary from New Orleans. He's proven to be a capable and dangerous man with musket, knife, and hatchet. This is is first encounter with the supernatural and strange and he is coping well.
PART III: THE RAID
Guy is travelling through the forest when he is set upon by bandits and knocked unconscious.
He awakens several hours later at night with only his clothes and no boots or weapons. Wearily he makes his way through the woods towards the road to Campbelltown.
Trudging through the moonlight he hears the beat of horses' hooves. He spies three riders in black riding down the road. Feeling uneasy he hides behind a tree as they pass. All three are riding powerful black horses. The leader is a tall pale man with long black hair. The other two riders appear subserviant and have their heads shaved. They take no notice of him and soon disappear into the gloom.
Emerging and a bit spooked he makes his way towards the town, it's lights dim in the distance.
In town the raiders decide to resupply and rest for the afternoon and evening and start out before dawn. They have their supplies gathered and everyone heads to spend time with their family and friends. Father Patrick, Marcus, and McCord get cleaned up and spend the evening with Bob's family eating and visiting before retiring to the barn.
As they are bedding down Guy hails the house and barn.
He is checked out at musket point and invited into the barn. Bob gives him an old musket and boots and the PC's give him a knife and hatchet. He cleans up, eats, and they catch some sleep.
Before dawn they are up and meet with Ramsey and the three surviving militia members. They all ride out on horseback to the edge of the woods where the horses refuse to go further into the woods.
Ramsey is chosen as the first in line, much to his chagrin, and they begin to follow the mile long trail to the blighted sinkhole. Everyone is on high alert and nervous.
They soon hear the almost inaudible piping and fluting as they come to the blighted woods. The trees become dark and twisted as the ground becomes rocky and foul with mold and decay. The stench makes a number of the party ill.
The sinkhole itself is a 15 foot diameter hole in the earth with a moldy shaft leading down into the dark below.
The three militia members and Bob refuse to come within thirty feet of the foul hole.
As the PC's and Ramsey lean over the hole, peering in through rising vapours, they spot an ancient large rusty iron ring set into the ground and a knotted rope tied to it, leading into the hole.
A lantern is lowered into the shaft, revealing that the shaft is over thirty feet deep, leading to a rocky cave floor covered in slimy dead leaves, mold, and other debris. An old moldy boot lies nearby.
As they are making plans Guy notices movement behind one of the blighted trees nearby. A dark hand is withdrawn behind the trunk as he warns the others.
A large Goatman bursts from behind the tree with a rusty sickle. Charging wildly towards the party he is cut down by volley fire from the militia and the PC's.
Reloading and collecting themselves they tie off a new rope and lower Guy into the hole while the rest cover him with muskets pointing down.
He brushes the side of the shaft on the way down dislodging a clump of mold and disturbing small grub-like creatures which fall onto his arm. They immediately begin to eat through his shirt and begin to burrow painfully into his arm. In great pain he lets go of the rope and drops the last fifteen feet to the floor below. He tries to pull them out but they are in too deep to get a good grip. At the urging of his companions he dumps oil on his arm and lights it on fire. The grubs shrivel and withdraw from his flesh. Holding his burned arm he looks around the first level of the sinkhole.
The chamber is a rough circle shape over sixty feet in diameter. Nearby is a ten foot tall pyramid carved from the natural stone. Another shaft with iron ring and rope is also nearby. Faint greenish vapour rises from below. Four rusty torch holders are laid out on the walls. The torches in them look to be fresh and useable. Along the northern wall is a massive pile of old bones, animal and human, as well as moldy clothing both colonial and indian. Some of it looks to be very old.
Above Guy the party is preparing to send Marcus down next when they spot Minister Evans and several angry looking townsfolk bearing muskets approaching. The militia, Bob, and the PC's prepare their own firearms not liking the look on the approaching men's faces. Ramsey is sent out to see what they want. He obliges and when he gets close to the Minister the townsfolk and Ramsey open fire on the raiding party. Several shots are traded killing the three militia members and two of the townsfolk. Under withering fire Marcus descends into the sinkhole, careful to avoid the sides of the shaft. Bob is panicked and frozen until he is pushed down the hole by McCord whom then swings down after him.
Father Patrick plants his feet and begins to methodically fire at Minister Evans as musket balls fly around him, nearly striking him. He calmly fires a pistol, drops it down the hole to McCord whom catches it, and draws a fresh pistol to keep shooting. He finally hits the Minister whom drops to the forest floor clutching his side. Firing one last shot which fails to discharge, Father Patrick flings the useless pistol into the hole where it bounces off the stone floor. He then hastily swings down the rope as Ramsey and the surviving attackers charge the sinkhole.
At the bottom the others have gotten out of the line of fire from the upper shaft and have lit the torches illuminating the entire chamber. Marcus sneaks up to the shaft opening and opens fire on three attackers whom stick their heads and muskets over the rim of the hole above. He wounds one and is nearly shot himself before he scrambles away.
The last pistol dropped by Father Patrick goes off with a lound bang. The ball ricchochets around the stone chamber but none are hit by it. (It rolled a hangfire when Susan rolled a one on her attack.)
McCord steps up and fires the blunderbuss up the shaft, filling it with a storm of lead balls, and killing all three attackers who were peering over the rim waiting to fire.
While all this is going on Guy explores every inch of the carved pyramid, looking for secret doors, writings, etc. There are none. Bob hangs over with Guy, scared out of his wits, clutching his old musket.
Ramsey and the PC's share a few insults and threats and Ramsey tells them they will meet the 'Dark Mother.'
Marcus wades through the bones and moldy clothing searching for anything of value and finds nothing.
With the bad guys covering the way out the PC's have no choice but to continue downward and explore.
Lowering the lantern on the rope down the second shaft to level two they see that it is another thirty foot drop to the next level. However another shaft is directly below this one and to get to level two they must climb down and swing over to the floor. Marcus and McCord descend quickly and cover the other's descent. A feeble voice greets them and turning their lanterns they see an emaciated old man dressed in rags and filth crawling up to them. Behind him are several males ranginging from very old to very young chained to a cluster of stalagmites. All are too sick and starved to stand.
Behind the stalagmites is a tunnel leading off into darkness. Five torches are on various wall locations in here.
The constant faint piping is louder on this level and the faint sounds of chanting and a gurgling noise are heard.
More greenish vapour and a faint glow come from the shaft leading down.
The party lights the torches for light then attend to the prisoners. Begging for food and drink the prisoners are given sustenance while the Prisoner explains they have been here a long time. He alone managed to slip from his chains but is too weak to climb to freedom. The women are taken below and occassionaly they come and drag a male prisoner away. None return.
Wanting to explore the tunnel they leave the men where they are but give the Prisoner a hatchet in case they need to defend themselves.
The dank tunnel leads on about forty feet before opening into a roughly circular chamber fifty feet in diameter. Another shafting leading down is directly in the center. Strong green light comes from the shaft, the piping is loud, and there is strong chanting mixed with moaning and cries.
Finding the ever present torches they decide to light them.
Bob heads to a torch but fails to take notice of a thick bright yellow mold on the floor near the torch. When he steps upon it the mold explodes in a cloud of acidic spores, shredding Bob's clothing and burning his bare flesh. Choking and weak he stumbles out of the cloud and collapses. McCord revives him and sends the stricken man back to wait with the prisoner. Bob has had more than enough and happily gets the Hell away from the shaft.
Peering down the raiders see a horrific sight.
Writhing on the dank floor, amid wine goblets, racks of meat, and fur mats, is at least two dozen Goatmen in a ritualistic orgy with nearly as many captive slave women. They are loud and writhing to the piping. Another shaft is directly below the one the PC's are looking down and it leads into total darkness. A gurgling noise comes from the pit and something seems to writhe in the darkenss.
As they spy and discuss their options movement comes from the pit. A Goatman is emerging, climbing from the darkness. It is covered in a thin black ooze and staggers up from the edge. A great cry rises up from the other Goatmen. They quickly surround the newcomer, wiping him down and offering him meat and wine as they lead him away. Quickly a pair emerges from a part of the chamber the raiders cannot see from their overhead angle. They lead a squirming and moaning male prisoner to the pit and cast him in.
The revelry soon resumes louder than ever.
McCord wants a closer look. They retreat back down the tunnel to the prisoner chamber. McCord then lowers himself down the shaft into the prisoner's chamber to a small circular chamber below. It is connected by a short tunnel to the Goatman's ritual chamber. He sneaks along and positions himself to observe them for a bit then creeps back up to the chamber above.
The party sits for a bit and chews over what their options are.
They're trapped and there's no way they feel they can kill that many Goatmen and deal with the thing in the pit.
The know they killed a few townsfolk above and they are willing to fight their way out as they have a better chance that way.
Marcus heads up the rope to level one.
When he sticks his head out of the shaft he's fired upon by Ramsey and five of his men. They climbed down to ambush the raiders.
Marcus rolls behind the pyramid formation and opens fire with his rifle. He is wounded but pulls his pistols and keeps firing.
Father Patrick follows and rolls behind the pyramid then begins to open fire as well.
Guy is up next and enters the firefight followed closely by Bob who is terrified and shooting wild.
Below there is a sudden end to the piping and a massive roar and bleating comes from below.
Unbeknownst to the party a Goatman has climbed the rope and upon discovering the raiders has alerted the others. They begin surging down the tunnels and up ropes towards the prisoner level!
McCord orders the Prisoner to cut the rope with the hatchet he was given but he is too feeble to do so.
With hooves ringing in the tunnel leading to the shaft above the ritual chamber and the rope below him and the prisoner swaying McCord brutally kicks the Prisoner onto the climbing Goatmen then fires the blunderbuss, cutting the rope, killing the Prisoner, and wounding a few Goatmen.
The Goatmen in the tunnel stop at the sound of the blunderbuss. McCord quickly reloads while he has a chance and climbs the rope to the first level where the firefight has been going on, abandoning the prisoners who are too weak to climb.
Ramsey and his men have been riddled with shots but he's still on his feet.
McCord emerges from the hole and blasts him in the chest with the blunderbuss, taking him off his feet and into unconsciousness.
Hairy hands are clutching at the rope but McCord manages to pull it up after himself, trapping them below.
Everyone stops and tends to their wounds and reload weapons.
Ramsey is still breathing. The PC's bind his wounds and revive him enough to talk. They want to know what's going on and what that thing is below them.
Coughing blood and watching them rifle his pockets for weapons, gold, and his fancy watch he tells the tale of how Campbelltown came to be and why they worship the 'Dark Mother' below. Similar to the one John Polk, the slain militia captain told, but with more horrific detail.
The town was settled somewhere around fifty years ago by settlers from England. From a place called the Severn Valley. There Ramsey's grandfather and Minister Evan's father, two of the town's founders, were members of a cult that flourished there, worshippers of an ancient being. There was a rift in the cult and members were cast out or killed. Those that fled were drawn to the colonies and to the site of Black Goat Wood, called there to and the Dark Mother. They settled and began their worship and patronage, her desire for the spawning of her Goatmen children manifested in dreams to her worshippers. Those cast into the pit who are found worthy are reborn as her sons. Other creatures sometimes emerge as well. Those not found worthy are absorbed; their life given over to her.
Getting riled up from all of the weirdness and being pretty cold-blooded McCord grabs Ramsey and flings him down the hole to the waiting Goatmen under the mistaken impression that they are no more than angry beasts whom will tear him apart. Then he fired the blunderbuss down the hole for good measure.
That was a mistake.
Ramsey was caught and quickly spirited away by the Goatmen to the Dark Mother, avoiding the blunderbuss blast, severely wounded but alive.
The raiders quickly climb into the afternoon sun, free of the sinkhole.
Bob's had enough and is sent on his way with Ramsey's gold watch as compensation. He gratefully limps off.
The PC's hunker down in the woods considering a number of ideas for killing the Dark Mother and sealing the sinkhole.
Most involve a LOT of flaming whale oil and gunpowder.
They also are itching to kill Minister Evans and any surviving cult members.
I was kinda surprised the prisoners were left or outright murdered. We're going dark fast. Interesting, many possibilities.
We ran the final part (IV) this weekend. Will be posting it next week. It was wild.