The Horned Monk

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Continuing our Zweihänder campaign, with the diary of the monk Eva Saraiva as she and her companions try to find out what is behind the sudden attack by orx on a human village.

After talking to the pastor I headed towards Max’s house in search of his sister Beatte to try and see if she had a better idea of what had happened twelve years ago when Max had scared off the Orx.

I was intercepted by one of the villagers – Klaus, who turned out to be a sweet, but rather stupid villager. He had been instructed by Max to show us to our room in the inn, so I let him lead me to the inn and the room I was apparently sharing with Calthar, Djarin and Floquert.

After making my excuses I headed back in the direction of the house and found Beatte. She is probably about fifty, which means she’s the oldest woman in the village and one of the few older than twenty. Most of the women here are either young children or young women. She was widowed after her husband died and left her penniless, so she came back to Vorburg and is living with her brother.

When the Orx attacked, the women and children had been sent up to the cave on the hill known as the Horned Monk. There is a story behind the cave, that started with a selfish and brutal count who enforced the law without mercy. The Nightfather appeared to him in a dream, appearing as the Martyr, and promising to become his wife if he were to renounce everything and commit to her.

This he did, becoming a monk, but everything he tried failed, and he was beset by bad luck. Whenever he healed anyone, they soon suffered a worse fate. No-one would trust him because they sensed his selfish motives. Plagued by dreams of the Martyr which always promised more than they gave, he finally went mad and fled to the cave beneath the horned hill where he became an anchorite. Finally, the Martyr took pity on him and lifted his madness, whereupon he either died in bliss or took to wandering the world now performing healing that is powered by his now true love.

‘Horned’ is also a word which is used to refer to men who have been cheated on by their wives. I do wonder whether either the story or the meaning has any application here.

According to Beatte, Max had a wife named Johanna who he was possibly becoming tired of, but also a daughter named Katharina who was very fond of. Beatte seemed to not think much of her brother – and doubted he could have convinced the Orx to leave. Several of the other women mentioned thought that she was just bitter.

Later, talking to people in the inn, it is said that Max had convinced the Orx that an army was coming from the town of Vorburg. They believed him and fled. Whether Orx can be convinced like this I don’t know.

We are later summoned to meet with Max, Waldmann and Andre in Max’s library. It is reasonably impressive for a village of this size, and it even looks like some of the books have actually been pulled off the shelves at some point.

Apparently the Orx have been tracked back to the cave below the Horned Monk. It is a strong defensive position, with only one road that leads past there. There have been no sightings of Orx travelling to there though, so nobody is quite certain how they got there, or why they haven’t attacked anyone else other than the wagon.

Waldmann though knows another route up the hill, which hopefully the Orx don’t know about. We volunteer to go and scout it out to try and gather some intelligence on what the Orx are up to, and maybe find out what their intentions are. It should take about a day to get there, and a day to get back, and Waldmann will lead the way.

After the meeting, myself, Calthar and Djarin take a walk around the palisade to have a private discussion. As usual, Calthar isn’t too clear in her thoughts, but also thinks that something strange happened twelve years ago, and maybe Max isn’t being entirely honest.

The following morning we get up early with a hot breakfast served by Klaus. I noticed that Waldmann seems to be very respectful of Klaus, something that Klaus really appreciates.

We head out of the village through the forest towards the Horned Monk in the early morning light. Waldmann leads the way, with myself, Calthar, Djarin and Floquert following behind. On the way we come across an abandoned cottage that belonged to a charcoal burner named Old Tom and his wife Ursula – at least according to Waldmann. It looks like it has been abandoned recently, but there is no sign of there having been a fight. We take a few supplies and leave some coins.

I scout ahead, but we run into no unexpected trouble and soon we reach the base of the hill, and a climbable rock face well out of sight of the road. Calthar skilfully climbs up and drops a rope down for the rest of us to use to follow her. Waldmann leads us on a path up to the top, but Calthar insists on leading the way so there is a lot of confused back and forth between her and Waldmann on the correct route. She seems quite protective of Waldmann for some reason, so I wonder whether there is something going on there.

There are some unusual flowers up here, which I recognise from some of my books from the university but which I hadn’t seen in the wild before. Whilst examining those, I suddenly realise that everyone else seems to be staring intently at a bush and drawing their weapons. At that point Klaus leaps out – he has followed us in order to become a hero along with Waldmann.

He seems even less suited to this situation than I am, but refuses to go back, and we can’t spare someone to take him back, so I am left baby sitting him.

We move on, and Calthar suddenly throws herself in front of Waldmann, an arrow deflecting off her shield and giving Waldmann a glancing blow on his head. Before I even know what’s happening, Djarin has shot a bolt at a figure on the far hillside. He hits it square in the back, and it goes down.

Waldmann is okay – his protective amulet is hot to the touch and it seems some magic, as well as Calthar’s bravery and quick reactions, had saved him. He is however unconscious.

We hurry up to the figure that shot at us, and find a small pig faced creature – an orx. It too is alive, and strangely an amulet on its chest is also hot and burning into its armour. It seems very similar to the amulet that both Waldmann and Max had. Klaus is most distressed by this, and runs over to the orx to try and kill it in revenge for harming Waldmann, but we manage to stop him.

Whilst Djarin puts together a litter for Waldmann, Calthar and I try to intimidate the orx into giving us some information, but Calthar is far better at this sort of thing than I. It says that his Mother gave him the talisman, and that she also said that the village people deserve to die. He also has a sister that will zap us with lightning from her eyes. He claims that there are hundreds and hundreds of orx here, though we are more surprised by its ability to count than the number itself.

It says that its name is Gregor, and that his sister is called Cat. This is getting strange and familiar. Max’s wife Johanna made the original amulets, and her daughter was Katherina. Are they the Mother and Sister? That might explain their interest in the village if they felt betrayed. But in which case why are they working with the orx, or even still alive?

Apparently the biggest orx is Guar, and he didn’t want to come here but was persuaded to by the Big Boss – the Mother. She insisted that they came here in order to teach the villagers a lesson.

Djarin and myself carefully make our way up the hill until we can overlook the cave and the orx camp. It is unusually well organised, who have tasks carefully split out amongst them. There some to be about forty to fifty kobolds, four low orx, a high orx… and a couple of human women.

Player’s Note: Sneaking up on the encampment consists on making multiple sneak and perception checks until we amass enough points gain information. The closer we get, the most points we’ll get, but also a greater risk of being spotted as the difficulty goes up. We both roll well.

One woman is older and the other younger, and they are serving food to one group of kobolds from a cauldron whilst talking with the high orx. We can see that both wear a talisman similar to that of Waldmann, but aren’t quite close enough to hear what they are saying.

Getting any closer would be risky, but would probably get us a lot of answers to our questions.

Samuel Penn

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