Screams in the Darkness

We continue our weekly game of Zweihänder, trying to find out what has caused the villagers of the town of Vaskollen to vanish. Eva, Calthar and Djarin have found the box with the tiger carving which the Baron wanted us to bring back, but it’s not as simple as it looks.

It was mid afternoon as we stood in the inn and regarded the box. From somewhere outside, there was the sound of a window being shuttered, but I decided to open the box and see what was within.

The box itself was wooden, with beautiful carvings of a winter tiger on its top, and a metal clasp which was already open. Within, the box was lined with lead and velvet, and a faintly glowing red gemstone was set into the inside of the lid. Within the box itself were a number of vials of a pale red liquid. There was space for 30 of these vials, but almost half of them were missing.

I quickly closed the box, and then there was the slamming of more windows outside. Calthar headed to the door, but it slammed shut in front of her. Almost immediately the temperature in the room dropped. This was obviously signs of a haunting, and probably quite a powerful one.

Calthar took an axe to the door, making short work of it, and she and Djarin were able to get outside where it is much warmer. I tried to take the box as I left – but it seemed fastened to the counter. As much as I tried lifting it, I couldn’t, and the temperature seemed to drop. Deciding to leave it alone, I headed for the door and then the chair with the merchant’s body on started to shake and move.

We all got safely outside, but Calthar wanted to go back and get the body, which to be fair was probably the cause of the haunting. In the end, she did so, and we dragged it outside of the village to where we were able to dig a grave and bury it.

It had taken most of the afternoon to bury the body, and then we started heading back to the inn to find the box. From somewhere in the village there came the sound of voices – too faint to make out words. Calthar didn’t want to got back into the village, and wanted to leave the box alone, but myself and Djarin wanted to check on things.

Player’s Note: It was at this point that I rolled a 99 on a Resolve check. A critical failure.

Whilst we discussed what to do, I felt a sudden need to take the box to prevent anyone else from using it, so I quickly headed back to the inn. The shutters were now open, and the inside of the inn was a more reasonable temperature. The box itself could be lifted normally now, so I wrapped it up in my cloak and quickly left.

Once back outside, I could hear what definitely sounded like voices, so thinking that there might be survivors I headed towards the sound, backed up by Djarin. The voices were coming from a house, and quickly silenced when I knocked on the door. I told them that I was a priest, and that we were here to help. Eventually, there was the sound of furniture being moved and a man opened the door.

Inside was a group of four adults, four children and a baby. They wanted us to come inside in case “they” came back. Apparently they had tried to leave, but had been unable to. Djarin wasn’t able to get from them what had prevented them from leaving.

In the end we persuaded them to come with us, and we headed back towards the road. On the way, they told us what they knew of what had happened.

There had been a celebration in the village, and there had been talk of “Winter Tiger”. Afterwards we figured out that the blood of a winter tiger is meant to be a potent aphrodisiac, and this is undoubtedly what is inside the vials.

After some time, the partying had got more energetic, erotic and violent. At some point things got weird, with a change overcoming many of the other villagers. About half of them seemed to become beautiful, whilst others became ugly caricatures of something only barely human. These things were fucking and eating each other. It was, the man said, as if the dead’s shadows were stolen.

The headman, who was already a good looking man, got together with twelve others and started killing all the others. Eventually, the headman had said that “I have heard the call and we must go”, and the thirteen of them left, after telling those in the house to remain here and not leave.

I have heard the call and we must go.

Headman of the village of Vaskollen

By now we were on the path that ran along the river, heading towards the main road, but the survivors were beginning to struggle. They seemed to be in a lot of pain. They had been commanded to stay, and now they were finding it hard to leave.

Deciding to risk it, I tried to break whatever enchantment had been laid upon the man, striking the silver tuning fork upon the ground which was the reagent for the spell, and I was pleasantly surprised when I succeeded in dispelling the effect. So I tried on the baby, and dispelled the effect on it as well.

Filled with confidence, I tried on one of the children, but there was a backlash and I lost control of the magic – the tuning fork which I needed for the spell was ripped from my hand and flew out of sight.

Player’s Note: I was pushing myself as much as I could, so I was rolling 3d6 for chaos manifestations each time. On the third attempt, I rolled a 6, which mean something went wrong. Since this was only a generalist magical spell, the side effects aren’t too serious – but I rolled a 75, which meant that whatever I was holding in my hand suddenly flew off in a random direction 3 miles away. Magic in Zweihänder can be dangerous and unpredictable.

There was now an argument of what to do next. The others couldn’t progress further, and Calthar wanted to knock them out to carry them out, whilst they wanted to head back. In the end, the man said he would take the baby and try and make it to the nearest town, whilst the rest of us would head back to the village, even though it was getting dark and there was a risk of the shadows that still lurked in the village attacking us.

It was then that Calthar remembered that she had a silver fork about her person, and with some effort I tried to use that in place of the tuning fork I really needed to perform a Dispel Magick.

I tried, but things went worse, and I was overcome by the magical backlash. Blood flowed from my ears, and I had been struck deaf.

Player’s Note: I decided not to push myself anymore, but that meant I had much lower chance of success. I failed the first two attempts, and on the third I rolled a critical failure. This was not good. The result of a critical failure for Dispel Magick is to be concussed and deafened for 24 hours. Magic in Zweihänder can be dangerous and unpredictable.

So all we could do was head back to the village, though at least I could no longer hear the arguments of the others. But in my concussed state, a voice came out of nowhere – “share my blessing”. It sounded like the voice of the old woman we had saved at her cottage.

I got out the stone she had given me, and struck it with a knife, first telling everyone else to close their eyes and look away. There was a sudden flash of light, and the villagers fell to the ground screaming in pain. Visible around them, outlined in the bright white light of the stone, were dark writhing tentacles, which seemed to be burned away.

As the light faded, the villagers recovered and found that they were no longer feeling pain from being away from the village. So we hurried back towards the road, eventually catching up with the man and his baby. It was gone midnight by the time we made it to the town and woke the innkeeper to give us room for the night.

Today, Calthar was able to organise the townsfolk to go to the village and help burn it down. I was still suffering from deafness, so wasn’t much use, but I managed to obtain a couple more tuning forks to use in my magic.

We buried the remaining bodies, but when the townsfolk tried to look the village they found that the shadows were still lurking in many of the buildings and four of them were taken and eaten. In the end only the merchant’s wagon was taken, and the village was left to burn itself down.

There are possible still the thirteen out there though – the headsman and his followers. What they are, and what they want, we do not know, but we have not pursued them.

We now need to head back to the Baron with what we assume is the gift he is waiting for. However, things are never easy, and there is disagreement amongst us about what to do.

Djarin feels very strongly that the vials was what caused the trouble at Vaskollen, and that returning them to the Baron will only result in the deaths of many people at Sielzen. From what I can tell, the majority of the magic was on the gem inside the box, but it is now all but faded and the enchantment, which was probably there to protect the contents, has failed.

The liquid in the vials is very faintly magical, so is probably little more than an aphrodisiac, but I don’t have proof of this. My thinking is harmed by the fact that thirteen of the vials are missing – presumably used by the headman and his twelve followers. If we don’t take the box back though, we may fail to earn the trust of the Baron and therefore find out what is going on. If we do, we risk harming the town.

My own feelings at the moment is that we remove all but one or two of the vials, and say that the others were taken by the villagers. The Baron’s new wife probably wants it in order to try and get the Baron to give her a child, so that should be enough for her.

At the moment, as we head back towards Sielzen, we are undecided.

Samuel Penn