In which investigators return to the Lincolnshire fens in answer to a friend’s urgent plea for help – only to find themselves thrust into a baffling, supernatural mystery.
The year is 1926. England continues to be troubled by unemployment, poverty and disorder as industry struggles to right itself following the Great War. Employment relations teeter on the brink of collapse, and the ruling classes tremble as newly empowered trade unions flex their muscles. For the first time in almost a century, the word ‘revolution’ is mentioned in hushed tones in gentlemen’s clubs throughout the land.
In rural Lincolnshire, however, although some of the evening tap-room chatter may be of such matters, most discussions concern issues far closer to home. Issues far less easily explained. And, like the worried whispers in the gentlemen’s clubs, these are discussed in muted, fearful tones.
Dividing Lincolnshire from the bulging belly of Norfolk’s northern coastline is the Wash, a broad inlet dotted with dangerous sandbars, its muddy waters stippled by white-caps, flicked up by stiff North Sea breezes.
Journey inland from the Wash’s north western corner along the reed-flanked banks of the River Welland, and the land rises almost imperceptibly as, beneath the rich dark soil at your feet, the Fens’ clays, peat and silt give way to limestone and gravel.
Continue south-westward and eventually the river converges with the Catwater Drain. Here lies the ancient market town of Crowland. It is here the whispered rumours of anxious inhabitants are focused, for it is in and about this ancient parish that strange and terrifying events are already unfolding that threaten to further stain the town’s long and turbulent history.
BACKGROUND – Keeper’s Eyes Only
Sprawling in the shadow of Crowland’s ancient abbey is the confused edifice known as Fortesqueue Manor. The house, an untidy and rambling affair originally built in the fifteenth century and carelessly added to by every generation since then, sits on lands given to the loyal Fortesqueue family by William the Conqueror in 1069. There they have remained for over eight hundred years.
The last of the noble house, Earl Francis Fortesqueue, rarely occupied his family pile, spending most of his adult life circling the globe, fulfilling his two main passions – travel and collecting peculiar artefacts. He was constantly on the search for objects to add to his esoteric collection. Any portable item bizarre enough to catch the Earl’s eye was purchased, shipped home, and added to an extraordinary display contained in the old, unused ballroom.
It was during the Earl’s tour of North America when his wanderlust eventually faded among the rolling hills, leafy roads and pretty villages of New England. Perhaps it was the region’s similarity to the land of his fathers that drew him back home. Whatever the cause, there he began his plans to return.
It was at this time that he met Eddie Snow-Hair, a native American Shaman living on a reservation on the Vermont, New Hampshire border. The Earl and Eddie formed an unlikely bond which the pair were not willing to break and, six weeks later the two friends travelled to Boston, Massachusetts. From there, they began the journey that would take the Earl home, and his friend to a new life in a strange and foreign land.
Once home, the Earl settled down to live his final years at the family residence, with Eddie Snow-hair performing a role somewhere between valet and confidant. Worldly wise, and familiar with the peculiarities of native peoples from a variety of continents, the Earl was happy to allow his Indian friend the freedom to exercise his beliefs and traditions. Therefore, an area of woodland was allocated to the native, in which he could perform those rites necessary for him to retain his spiritual links with his own people.
As years passed by, and the Earl’s own hair took on a similar colour to that of his friend, he considered it was time to face up to the inevitable. They agreed that, upon his death, the ageing Eddie would be given traditional Indian funeral rites, culminating with a pyre in the woodland, near to the central totem the man had carved from a beech trunk in a clearing.
Sadly, their plans did not allow for the tragic events that followed and, barely a year after their agreement, the Earl suffered a massive stroke and died. With no direct heir to take his place, the estate fell to the sadistic and belligerent Hugh Carvell, a distant cousin of the Earl’s, then living in Newark. Carvell, relishing the life of a landed gentleman, moved into the family home at the first opportunity – and once there, took an instant resentment of the Indian.
Eddie Snow Hair’s hopes that his friend’s successor would be of a similar character to the Earl himself were quickly dashed when he became the butt of Carvel’s unprovoked rage. Consequently, torn from his comfortable existence, the grieving native instantly became alienated and lonely in a land now unfamiliar and hostile.
Mercifully, the Indian’s misery was brief. Toward the end of 1925, following Eddie Snow Hair’s efforts to avoid direct contact with the brutal Carvel, the two men collided in one of the hall’s darkened corridors after the heir had spent several hours in the House’s amply stocked cellar. Carvel, whose token sensibilities were now obscured by a drunken haze, instantly turned on the frail native, and what began as a vicious tongue lashing quickly became a brutal flogging.
Screaming incoherently, Carvel dragged the bewildered and terrified Eddie into the kitchens, where he snatched at a meat cleaver. The evil tyrant then hacked ferociously at the Indian until the poor wretch lay dead within a spreading pool of gore.
Carvel sobered up next morning by digging a shallow grave within the family’s pet cemetery. In it he unceremoniously dumped the body of the poor native.
Unbeknown to Carvel, who believed his actions were being conducted in secrecy, his every movement was being observed. For as Carvel hammered flat the loose mound of loamy soil with a shovel, the native’s restless spirit drifted high amongst the tree canopy, watching the actions of his murderer several feet below.
Instead of soaring with his ancestors high in the hunting grounds, the wronged man’s spirit lingered near the scene of his death; a malevolent wraith patiently biding its time…waiting for an opportunity for revenge.
HISTORICAL TIMELINE – Events Prior to the Investigation
|October, 1919||Earl Spencer returns from the Americas, bringing with him Eddie Snow Hair, a native American.|
|May, 1925||Earl Spencer dies leaving the estate to a cousin, Hugh Carvel. Carvel takes up residence at the Manor.|
|Friday, 27th November, 1925||Carvel has a violent row with Eddie Snow Hair, during which the Indian brutally murdered. Carvel buries his victim in the family’s pet cemetery near to the hall.|
|December, 1925||Strange, unexplained animal sightings commence in the area of Crowland.|
|Monday, 4th January, 1926||Hugh Carvel notifies the local police of an intruder, repeatedly seen wandering near to the Hall. He demands a regular police presence.|
|February, 1926||Commencement of animal mutilations and hen-house slaughters. Local fox population blamed.|
|April, 1926||First reports of sightings of the mythical ‘Black Shuck’ – or Black Dog, alleged to have been seen near Crowland. Gerald Carter hears reports and places notices around Crowland, requesting that witnesses make contact with him. Gerald also writes to seek assistance in the unfolding investigations.|
|Tuesday, 25th May, 1926||Sandra Pawson of Crowland makes contact with Gerald, having seen a ‘monstrous black dog,’ whilst returning home the previous evening.|
|Wednesday, 26th May, 1926||Gerald meets with Sandra Pawson at her Crowland home to discuss her experiences. From there, he visits the ancient Roman Temple near Fortesqueue Manor. It is whilst here that he is confronted by Hugh Carvell. Carvell, affected by the Temple’s malevolent spirit, attacks Gerald, renders him unconscious, and drags him to the Manor, where he imprisons him in the basement.|
|Thursday, 27th May, 1926||Investigators arrive at Sutton Bridge, and find Gerald Carter remains missing after leaving in haste the day previously.|
In 1920s England a large proportion of rural inhabitants owned their own livestock. For some this may have been simply a few chickens, or a pig or two. For others it meant a menagerie of creatures, reared to supplement meagre incomes and keep the family fed through the cold, winter months. News of hen killings by rogue foxes was therefore commonplace, and warranted no more than brief, angry gossip.
Recent months, however, have seen an epidemic of bloody slaughter – hen house carnage, cattle and sheep mutilations and numerous pet deaths. Added to this, a resurgence of ‘Black-Dog’ sightings has combined to create an anxious atmosphere of terror and wild speculation. They have also become the subject of Gerald Carter’s latest investigation.
It has been several months since Eddie Snow Hair’s death; a period during which his troubled spirit has sought revenge upon the community which, he feels, has wronged him. However, these acts of retribution do not satisfy – only vengeance on Eddie’s murderer will move the spirit closer to peace. But even that will not provide the blessed rest it yearns for – not while the native’s cold, torn corpse lies within the Fortesque’s pet cemetery.
Only when the correct rites are performed, and the remains cremated upon a pyre near to the Indian’s Totem, will its tranquil soul be free to begin the long journey to the Hunting Grounds.
In the meantime, the restless spirit retains the ability Eddie held in life, that of Shape-Shifter. During those months since Eddie’s death, his spirit has taken various forms – wolf, bear, mountain lion, even elk – and, in those guises, has committed bloody reprisals on the community of Crowland.
As a shape-shifter though, Eddie’s spirit is unable to harm humans, hence the attacks have been limited to livestock. Revenge on the evil Carvell must be achieved using more devious means. And for this, the spirit needs outside help.
Readers who have previously read ‘Fenland Fog’ will have already been introduced to the eccentric psychic investigator, Gerald Carter, and will be familiar with the man and his south Lincolnshire home, in the small port of Sutton Bridge.
If the investigators themselves have previously made Gerald’s acquaintance through the earlier adventure then it may be considered logical that the parapsychologist’s means of making contact will continue to be by hastily scribbled note.
My dear friend,
My decision to settle here in one of England’s most haunted shires has certainly been more than justified of late. A succession of most interesting mysteries has served to keep me busy, as well as providing valuable material for my book (did I mention my little project last time we met?).
Though I dare not complain, I presently find myself confronted by several unconnected reports of fascinating phenomena, each demanding immediate attention. I must therefore impose upon your good nature and love of the bizarre, to request your invaluable assistance in solving what appear to be utterly fantastic, and as yet unaccountable, mysteries.
If these brief lines have been insufficient to tempt you to join me, please telephone me (Long Sutton 922) and I will expand upon what I have so far simply hinted at here.
It is possible, however, that Gerald’s college friends, previously invited to probe the mystery at Gedney Drove End, fared badly in the ensuing investigation and are no longer available to assist in this latest mystery. An alternative means of contact is therefore provided in the form of a newspaper advertisement, placed in both provincial and national presses by an excited Gerald.
THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS – Gerald’s cottage
The investigators arrive at Gerald’s small, two-up – two-down terraced home at one of Sutton Bridge’s narrow back streets to find their host missing. A neighbour’s curtains twitch, indicating that the newcomers are being observed and, moments later the front door of the adjoining cottage opens and a middle aged woman steps onto the pavement. She approaches, dragging a hand through her untidy mess of greying hair. She introduces herself as Marlene Herriman and reveals that she “does for Mister Carter,” providing the man with cleaning and laundry services. An open, friendly woman, she continues without much prompting:
“He left sometime yesterday blatherin’ on about somethin’ or another. One o’ his trips, I shouldn’t wonder – bin doin’ a few o’ them recently. Couldn’t ‘ave expected to be late, mind – never even took ‘is toothbrush.”
Once the neighbour is satisfied that the visitors are who they say they are, and some proof of Gerald’s invitation is provided (a copy of the letter or the advertisement should suffice, here), she digs a key from her apron pocket and lets the investigators into Gerald’s home, stating that the man shouldn’t be too long. She requests that, if the investigators grow tired of waiting, they are to lock up and drop the key through her letterbox.
At this point, if Marlene is pumped for more information (a successful ‘Persuade’ or ‘Fast Talk’ will loosen the woman’s tongue) she will offer to make tea for them, and follow them inside. There, she shows the investigators into Gerald’s austere front parlour, before disappearing into the kitchen.
The parlour is sparsely furnished, having a sizeable dining table dominating the room. One chair is set at the table, before an old Salter typewriter. Although large, every inch of the tabletop is covered by a clutter of papers, books and leaflets. A ceramic honey jar lies on its side among the mess, its contents – pens, pencils and crayons – lay scattered amongst the litter. The remaining three dining chairs have been stacked against one wall, suggesting the occupant has little use for them.
Once Marlene returns with the teas, she may be engaged in conversation. The following items represent a mixture of facts and hearsay, and must be triggered by specific, direct questioning in order for the woman to reveal them:
“Mister Carter’s been mightily busy of late – dashin’ here an’ there conductin’ his enquiries. Been getting’ very excitable, too. Most odd, if you ask me.”
“Can’t say what he’s workin’ on right now – I don’t ask no questions. Funny enough, though, he’s been asking me some odd ones lately. Why, he asked me only the other day whether I’d seen a big black dog while out walkin’…I mean, what sort o’ question’s that?”
“Nothin’ ever happens around here – a quiet town, is this. Crowland’s the place for oddities at the moment…there’s some weird ‘appenings there, by all accounts. One chap swore blind he’d seen a wild boar the other day. It were even in the papers. Been no such creature round these parts for many a year.”
Once the woman has supped her tea and left the investigators alone, they may (if they wish) search for clues among Gerald’s mess of papers. Uppermost, among the untidy pile, is a black Diary for the current year. Protruding from this is a slip of paper. This bears details of an appointment scheduled for the previous day.
Gerald’s diary contains (as may be expected from the man) a jumble of excited and apparently disjointed jottings.
Beneath the diary, in an untidy pile, are several slips of paper, of varying size and quality. Whilst some are hastily scribbled reminders – shopping lists, doctor’s appointment times, and a receipt for a delivery of coal – two notes appear to be more intriguing.
One refers to a reservation Gerald has made for a book to be held for him at Long Sutton District Library. The note’s content isn’t quite so explicit, containing nothing more than a book title and an author’s name, but an ‘idea roll’ may be used to steer the investigator(s) in the right direction.
The second piece, torn from a notebook, is a hand-drawn map.
This shows the locality around the small town of Crowland. Several locations are marked by asterisks, accompanied by letters of the alphabet. Each letter relates to a separate incident-type, as indicated by a key at the bottom of the page. A perceptive investigator will notice that the asterisks appear to radiate from an old manor house, which is also marked upon the map. This is Fortesqueue House.
Aided by the diary entries and accompanying notes, even the most obtuse of investigators will have gathered that a sequence of bizarre and, apparently disjointed events, have been the subject of Gerald’s excited enquiries and are probably behind his failing to keep his appointment. It will also soon become apparent that Gerald is not simply late for his meeting, he is not coming back. This will inevitably raise further questions in the investigator’s minds. What lies behind the recent news items and gossip? Where has Gerald disappeared to? Are the two connected?
Any investigator worth his or her salt will want to get to grips with the mystery and immediately commence enquiries. However, should any feel tempted to leave in disgust and return from whence they came, the following event will occur.
The serenity of Carter’s cottage is broken by the sound of frantic blows on the front door. Any hesitation on the part of the investigators to answer immediately will lead to further frenzied bangs, accompanied by a woman’s voice, trembling in panic…
“Are you there, Mister Carter? It’s Agatha Halfpenny – I must see you. Please open the door.”
If the investigators choose to open the door, they will find a slightly built, aging woman on the step, her hair gathered beneath a floral head-scarf. Hugging a shawl close to her frail body, she asks to speak to Carter. Once she learns of his absence, she becomes quite distressed, babbling something about having ‘Seen it again.’ A successful Psychology roll will reveal that the woman is suffering from extreme anxiety, akin to a panic attack.
Despite finding strangers at the house instead of Carter, Miss Halfpenny will allow herself to be led into the lounge, where a seat and a hot, sweet tea will calm her down. Investigators will then, if they wish, be able to enquire into the cause of the woman’s distress. However, utmost care must be taken to avoid a further panic attack, and a successful oratory roll will be required before the spinster reveals the following:
“I was in my kitchen a short while ago. Thought I heard crying, like a babe’s wail. Well, I stepped outside. Wandered a short way down the fen road. The sound seemed to be on the wind, rising and falling – then it stopped… that’s when I heard – that demonic thing. Padding. Behind me. Pad, pad, pad. I glanced over my shoulder, and out of the corner of my eye there was a darkness, gathering, swirling…”
Here, the tearful woman will break off, panic rising once more. Several minutes, and a further oratory roll will be required before she is willing to continue.
“The dark cloud swirled, thickened, becoming darker. Then…out of it strode a huge dog. Massive, the size of a pony. Black as coal – yellow eyes and slaverin’ jaws. Paws like hams padding ever closer on the turf. I think I screamed. Then I turned and ran. Locked myself in my house and waited. Waited until I thought it was safe.”
Miss Halfpenny will ask the investigators to pass on her information to Carter upon his return.
“I’m sure he’ll be able to help. Mister Carter understands these things.”
If the investigators reveal themselves to be Carter’s friends – or even his associates – she will ask them to escort her home and, in return, she will show them the section of path where the frightening apparition appeared.
THE FEN ROAD
The narrow, single track road that leads out of town along the northern bank of the River Nene is little more than a dirt-topped causeway. On one side runs the river’s swirling current, whilst the other falls away into a sheer-sided dyke, its bottom obscured by swaying reeds and bulrushes.
The spinster will point out her home – a low, ramshackle cottage on the opposite side of the dyke, reached by a wooden footbridge. Continuing a short way along the fen road, she indicates an area a few yards ahead.
“There. The beast stood right there.”
The road’s surface is a confusion of footprints, hoof marks and deeply rutted wheel tracks. A ‘spot hidden’ roll, however, will reveal the edge of what may be taken as a large paw print. Any investigator seeing this will realise that, had the complete print been present, it would have been at least four inches across!
When Miss Halfpenny finally takes her leave, be it on the fen road or at Carter’s cottage, she will plead with the investigators to help:
“Please help Mister Carter get to the bottom of this – there’s far too many strange happenings around here for one man to unravel. Please say you’ll help.”
As revealed within ‘Fenland Fog,’ both Sutton Bridge and the nearby market town of Long Sutton have well-stocked libraries. In addition, Long Sutton’s library also holds local newspaper archives. A successful ‘Library Use’ roll will be required in order to discover the following newspaper articles:
Investigators understanding the meaning of Gerald’s library reservation note will have no difficulty in obtaining the piece below. However, if the note has not been understood, or was dismissed as unimportant, a further ‘Library Use’ roll will be required before the book ‘Devil Dogs’ is unearthed.
The Black Shuck is a factual feature of British folklore. However, whilst sightings are well documented in the area in which this scenario is set, both Agatha Halfpenny’s account and the ‘Devil Dogs’ book are here as red-herrings. They are simply intended to draw the investigators into investigating the real mystery.
The contents of Carter’s desk, together with documentary evidence, should at some point steer the investigators to the historic market town of Crowland. Located only a few miles from Sutton Bridge, the town may be easily reached by motorcar. An efficient and regular omnibus service also provides links between the region’s communities.
Upon reaching the town, sited upon a rise and surrounded by dark and level farmland, it will not be difficult for the characters to imagine that this place was once an island, surrounded by near impassable marsh. From its humble beginnings – when Guthlac, a man of royal blood, found a ‘wet, remote and unloved spot in the fens’ upon which to site his hermitage – the town grew to prosperity, aided by the founding of an abbey there. Characterising the town’s violent history, the abbey, built in 714, was burnt by the Danes, rebuilt, burnt again, and rebuilt once more in 1112.
Such a turbulent past is not unique. What is exceptional is the triangular bridge of three pointed arches meeting in one, sited in the town centre. Once thought to have marked the convergence of branches of the Rivers Welland and Nyne, its purpose in the market place is now ornamental only. Though it was once said to span a ‘whirlpool, or bottomless pit.’
Like the bridge, the Benedictine abbey is also but a shadow of its former glory. All that remains is the steepled west tower, now the parish church, beside which the mutilated arches and tall, clustered columns of the once fine building loom oppressively. From these, ancient gargoyles and faceless statues peer down with ill-concealed malice.
A resourceful Keeper will use the town’s brutal and shadowy past to paint a suitably dramatic atmosphere for players, creating an air of mystery and a sense of foreboding.
THE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
As the ancient abbey dominates the town, it is fitting that the investigator’s research gains momentum here. However, for investigators reluctant to step into the gloom of the medieval arches, the following scene may equally occur in the open market place. Whatever the location, the investigators will at some point be approached by a short, stocky gentleman dressed in a dark frock coat and wearing a rather battered trilby. As he nears them, investigators will notice he wears the white dog collar of a parish priest. Smiling broadly he holds up a hand in greeting.
“Good day and well met, you appear to be a little disoriented. May I help you?”
Opportunistic investigators will engage the priest – who introduces himself as Adam Radford. Those who don’t, preferring instead to dismiss the priest’s offer of assistance, will find him to be a persistent fellow. He will politely enquire into the visitor’s purpose in the town.
“…unfortunately, we don’t get many casual visitors here now, what, with – er, recent events…”
At this, a shadow passes over the man’s features and he glances nervously to one side, as though distracted. Then, just as quickly, he turns back to the investigators, the smile restored. This should trigger any serious investigator into launching a barrage of questions at the man of God. No oratory rolls are needed here, merely direct and constructive enquiries. In return, Reverend Radford will reveal the following:
“Believe me, this is as solid a God-fearing community as any in the county, and I have been blessed to work here this five years past…but truly, things have occurred of late that would test the faith of a saint.”
The priest will go on to give accounts of animal mutilations, reported in the local press. Wringing his hands, he will express the anguish of poor farmers, whose very livelihoods are threatened, and of children grieving over lost pets. Glancing about him, he will lean closer to the investigators, his voice barely a whisper…
“If only that were all…at least events could be explained away somehow. But, tell me this, how do you explain sightings of creatures extinct from this island for centuries? Wolves, bears – elk even. Worse even. Some are now talking of other devilry. Why, not just once have I heard talk of werewolves!”
Reverend Radford, his voice trembling, will explain that the events are now threatening to split his community. With everyone desperate for answers, and an end to the bizarre events, tempers are rising as neighbour turns on neighbour. Like his parishioners, the priest does not know the cause of the recent events. But, an intelligent man, he does have his suspicions. A diplomatic Christian, however, he is unprepared to voice his theories.
Nevertheless, during the conversation, any attentive investigator (one who is successful in an ‘Idea Roll’) will observe Radford repeatedly glancing toward a patch of woodland a mile or so from the village – where the many gables and tall chimneys of a large country residence may be seen above the trees.
THE FORTESQUEUE ESTATE
Prompted by Carter’s hastily sketched map, and Reverend Radford’s oblique glances, investigators will eventually be drawn to the ancient seat of the Fortequeues, situated a mile and a half from Crowland. The little-used lane leading to the estate would make for a pleasant walk, but investigators preferring to take their motor will find that the manor is enclosed by a sandstone wall, and fronted by closed and locked wrought-iron gates, leaving them little choice but leave their car parked in the lane, or on one of the grass verges.
Despite the owner’s endeavours to secure complete privacy, entering the grounds of Fortesqueue House should not prove too difficult. There are several tall trees growing on both sides of the perimeter and, despite the wall’s 12ft height, a successful ‘climb’ will get an investigator into a tree and onto an overhanging branch. When jumping from the wall into the estate, a roll of DEX x 5 will see the investigator safely onto the ground. In the event of roll failure, the rules for ‘Falling’ found in the Core Game Book will apply.
The gates, secured by padlock and chain, represent a more formidable-looking obstacle, as their wrought iron, spear-topped railings would discourage all but the bravest would-be climber. The padlock, however, is rusted and in need of maintenance, giving it a much reduced STR of 21.
Once inside, investigators will see a large, rambling house dominates the estate. The building’s façade is a confusion of ivy-clustered walls and darkened angles. Arrays of murky windows peer out over bedraggled gardens, which appear to merge into the surrounding open meadow. To the left of the house, the scrubby grassland, dotted here and there by islands of brambles and gorse, sweeps up a gradual incline to a spread of gloomy woodland where, if the investigators have chosen daylight for their visit, a flock of crows circle strangely silent above the treetops. If night, the spectral shrieks of owls echo through the trees. But, day or night, branches creak and groan in the whispering breeze, and the groping boughs are hung with shadows.
For the investigators to achieve success, it is important for them to explore the woods. So, should the Keeper’s descriptive powers fail to trigger their curiosity, he must employ more devious – or even forceful means if necessary. The ‘idea roll’ is one option. Failing this, it would not stretch the realm of credibility to hand a note to one of the players stating their character suddenly feels compelled to walk into the woods. No explanation is necessary – after all, there are strange forces at work here.
Once inside the woods a number of important clues await the observant investigators.
The thirty acre broad-leafed woodland was planted out several centuries earlier, with the sole purpose of providing cover for game. Like many of the nobles who came over to Britain with William the First, the Fortesqueues have long been keen huntsmen. Now, years of neglect have taken their toll even here. Without the regular stewardship of a forester, the woods have become choked, with rampant saplings and huge tresses of ivy and honeysuckle strangling adult trees. Beneath them, waist-high ferns and tangles of thorny brambles fight for what little light remains in the suffocating undergrowth.
Despite this, any keen-eyed investigator successful in a ‘spot-hidden’ roll will manage to pick out a discernible trail cutting through the trees. Twenty yards along this trail, the dense woods open out onto a small clearing. Although overgrown with tall grasses and ever-present brambles several gravestones may be seen shaded beneath a huge oak, their surfaces partly covered with lichen. All are simply carved with a name and a year. Names, such as ‘Benson,’ ‘Bracken,’ ‘Lucy,’ and ‘Griff’ reveal this to be the family pet cemetery. The years range from 1795 to 1901.
Among the graves, and easily spotted from anywhere in the clearing, is a mound of disturbed earth, a little over five feet long. A sparse covering of young weeds and grasses suggest it is not freshly made. However, those investigators succeeding in an ‘idea’ roll will judge it to be no more than a year old.
Here lies the body of the late Earl’s friend and valet, Eddie Snow-Hair.
Shrewd investigators will realise that the age of the mound coincides approximately with the commencement of animal deaths and ‘Werewolf’ and ‘Black Shuck’ sightings.
The faint trail, leading into the clearing, continues on into the woods. Several yards beyond the tiny graveyard – it is difficult to judge distance within the confines of woodland – investigators begin to encounter strange tokens strung from branches. Although varying in design, all appear to be circles of carefully fashioned twigs, their centres laced with thread and strung with beads and feathers. Among them are beautifully carved wooden animals – elk, bison, wolf etc.
These tokens, suspended among trees along several yards of the trail, herald the entrance of a second clearing. This one, larger than the first and much less overgrown, is dominated by a massive oak in the centre. Most striking, however, is the tree’s trunk. The bark has been entirely stripped, to a height of about twelve feet, and the trunk carven with fantastic images – an eagle, its wings spread wide, an assortment of grotesque faces, and a menagerie of animals. All of these have been beautifully painted in primary colours. The effect, not at all expected in a South Lincolnshire woodland, is disturbing. Investigators viewing the scene must make a roll against sanity, failure in which will cost them 1 point of SAN.
The trail ends at the clearing, beyond which the dense woodland closes in, with twisting shrubbery rendering the undergrowth impenetrable. As the investigators retrace their steps on the path, they will not fail to see suspended before them a large knife hung prominently from an overhanging branch. The blade is heavily caked with a dark brown residue. Inset in brass on the handle is a crest. The device – a shield with a wild boar rampant on a diagonal cross – is identical to one above the estate’s main gate, and also over the Manor’s entrance. It is the ancient emblem of the Fortesqueues.
The knife’s prominence, central to the narrow path and hung at head height makes it apparent that someone is out to help – or perhaps even hinder – the investigators, with what could equally be a vital clue or deceptive red-herring.
MEETING WITH HUGH CARVELL
The natural progression of investigation should take the characters to shadowy Fortesqueue Manor. There, while approaching the lofty building they will be confronted by the owner, irrespective of the time of day (or night). Even should the meeting occur in the dead of night, Carvell will be fully clothed, suggesting that here is man who, for whatever reason, prefers vigilance over sleep. Lean and gaunt with a greying pallor and dark, bruised eyes, Hugh Carvell has a fearful, hunted look. In addition, a successful ‘Psychology Roll’ will reveal that prolonged terror has already deranged the man.
A shotgun rests uneasily in the crook of Carvell’s tweed-clad arm and, with his lips twisted into a cruel sneer, he will give the following chilling warning:
“I don’t know who you are, or what you want, but this is private property and you’re trespassing. You’ve two minutes to get off my land. Come back and I’ll shoot you on sight.”
While the threat is being delivered, any investigator successful in a ‘Listen Roll’ will detect a grating sound from the crenulated parapet above. Then, seconds later, a huge chunk of loose masonry is forced over the edge by unseen hands. The block crashes down, missing Carvell by inches. This leaves him physically shaken but no less belligerent. He curses the dilapidated building and will dismiss any offers of help. Instead, he repeats his earlier threat and brings the gun to bear in a menacing manner.
Note: During this scene, if the investigators have searched the woodland prior to their confrontation with Carvell, and have the stained knife with them, it is important they keep it hidden. Should the Earl see it, he will realise its significance and instantly feel threatened by the investigators. He will certainly demand it is handed over, on the basis that it is Fortesqueue property. Should the investigators fail to do so Carvel will act accordingly and the scene will become violent, with possible lethal consequences. If this is the case, events detailed under ‘Conflict’ will occur.
SLAUGHTER IN CROWLAND
This is an optional scene, not vital to the outcome of the investigation. It is added here to provide an extension to the investigation process and provide a possible to link to a further route of enquiry.
If the investigators have acted on Carvell’s instruction by withdrawing from the Manor grounds, they may wish to return to Crowland to assess their progress. They may prefer to continue on to Sutton Bridge to decide upon their next course of action – in which case their route will take them through Crowland anyway. There they will see once again the shabby form of Reverend Radford. The priest will hasten toward them, waving madly to attract their attention. Once he reaches them he will, between gasps for breath, urge them to join him in a visit to one of his parishioners.
‘Gentlemen, further to our earlier conversation I now have something you may wish to observe. Something of utmost significance, I believe.’
The excited priest leads the investigators out of the village, onto a narrow fen road flanked by steep sided ditches, running westward. They travel a little over a mile before arriving at an isolated smallholding – a dilapidated farmhouse positioned within a cluster of tumbledown outbuildings. Radford leads them up the path toward the house. He adopts a cautionary tone.
‘Carefully now. Mister Artur Brower here…he’s had quite a shock. Lost all his stock of hens last night. The poor soul has been breeding Buff Orpingtons for years, you see. Knew each one by name.’
As they near the farmhouse, the door opens and out steps a burly, downcast looking man in rumpled tweeds and a flat-cap. He exchanges a few words with Radford before nodding to a patch of unkempt meadow, indicating they follow him. Three hen houses form a horseshoe in a paddock’s centre. All three have had their doors ripped open. Two hang limply from damaged hinges, whilst one has been torn off completely and cast down onto the grass. Dozens of mutilated chickens litter the site. Bloodied feathers are everywhere. The scene is one of malicious slaughter. Brower turns to address the investigators. He has an eastern European accent.
‘No fox did this, nohow. Look here.’
Standing by one of the coops, Brower points a grubby finger to one of the upper hinges, hanging by a single twisted screw from the scarred door frame. Four scratches remain deeply etched in the woodwork, each approximately half an inch apart. Similar scorings appear elsewhere, indicating the attack had been frenzied.
‘I have seen such as these, but not for long time. Not since Poland, when I was a child. Never here.’
The grief stricken man adds no more. Instead, he turns and trudges toward the house, leaving them alone. The investigators may wish to inspect the huts further, but additional identical scratches provide the only clue to the cause of the slaughter. Any investigator successful in a ‘Natural History’ roll, however, will conclude that the pattern of scoring suggests they are the work of a bear.
As the investigators turn to leave the meadow, Radford lets out a gasp and stares wide-eyed beyond them.
‘Oh, Dear Lord! Look.’
The priest points to the north where, on a tree-topped hillock, stands the dark profile of a huge deer. Even at this distance it is apparent the creature is far larger than a native Red and, bearing broad and wide-spread antlers, it is clearly not indigenous to Britain.
Investigators have only seconds to view the creature as, with a shake of its head, it steps down out of sight beyond the ridge. In the foreground, the ominous peaks of Fortesqueue Manor protrude above the shadowed tips of its neighbouring woodland.
As the investigators return Radford to Crowland, the priest will explain that the stand of trees crowning the hill is an ancient coppice. Long since neglected, it was once worked to provide material for hurdles and buildings. He goes on to say that the woods are said to contain old ruins, believed to be Roman. However, he quickly states that as he has not seen the site himself he is unable to validate the claim.
THE TEMPLE IN THE WOODS
Should the investigators wish to examine the ancient ruins, they will discover that the coppice lies within the Fortesqueue estates. To extend their enquiries here, therefore, they risk possible discovery and its consequences at the hands of the psychopathic Earl.
The atmosphere of the overgrown woodland is similar to those described earlier. The main difference here is that there is no path to follow and the rambling undergrowth makes progress difficult. The woods begin at the foot of the hill, extending in a broad swathe up its southernmost slope. Barely fifty yards from the wood’s edge, the thorn scrub thins out and the ground becomes more broken. Here, huge pale blocks lie scattered about amongst undulating piles of limestone, chalk and chunks of flint. This is an old limestone quarry, dormant since the mid 1700s. It was here that the ancient temple was first uncovered. The investigators have not far to go before they discover the ancient ruins.
Contrasting with the ashen quarry stone, the temple remains appear to have been constructed from mellow sandstone. Whilst this would have once given the building a warm radiance, centuries of wind and rain have taken their toll, eroding the soft material. Entwining brambles and clawing ivy have completed the destruction by reducing the structure to a disorderly ruin of which no part remains more than two feet high. Despite this, it is possible to pick out the temple’s original layout amongst the confusion of scrub-clad rubble.
The temple was once the site of gruesome human sacrifices (see ‘The Brotherhood of Mona,’ below). Two hundred years of sadistic torture, fear and death have been distilled into the very fabric of the building, and its evil essence has slowly leaked into the atmosphere, affecting any who draw near to the site, with headaches, black moods, anger and hostility. As the investigators pick their way through the debris they must, therefore, pit their POW against the hypnotic fume’s strength of 18 to resist succumbing to it. Any character failing in his/her roll will suffer by varying degrees and it is suggested that the Keeper handle this by the use of individual notes, handed to the affected player(s). Reactions may vary from a general ill-feeling or irritation towards another investigator, to one of unprovoked hostility.
The site does have a number of clues to relinquish to the sharp-eyed investigator. One, a size nine black Oxford shoe, heavily scuffed at the heel, may be easily found. Successful ‘spot hidden’ rolls are necessary to reveal the remaining two items. One is a leather wallet, partially obscured by debris and twists of ivy. Inside is seven pounds and ten shillings in notes, but more importantly, a driving licence.
Inspection of the driving licence will show that belongs to their friend, Gerald Carter. More ominously, the final clue is a shotgun shell. Twelve gauge.
Gerald’s research into the mysterious animal sightings brought him from Crowland to the old coppice and, consequently, to the ancient temple. It was whilst searching amongst the ruins that he was discovered by the irate Hugh Carvell.
Carvell, an amateur historian with specific interest in Roman Britain, has spent a great deal of time at the ancient temple and, in doing so, has become affected by its unwholesome atmosphere. Hence, upon spotting Gerald he immediately flew into a rage and discharged the shotgun into the air as a warning. He then reversed the weapon and beat Gerald to the ground, before raining more blows onto him, knocking the unfortunate scholar out cold. Carvell then hauled Gerald out of the quarry, dislodging the man’s shoe, before dragging him off to the manor house where he has since imprisoned him in the basement.
The longer Carvell detains Gerald, the more the Earl’s mind becomes unbalanced by the temple’s malice, rendering him increasingly likely to commence torturing his captive.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF MONA
The ancient ruin is believed, by those few scholars who have actually seen the site, to be a Mithraic temple, Mithras being one of the many gods brought to British shores by Roman auxiliaries. Despite being officially outlawed, the secretive sect was generally tolerated by officers, many of whom were members themselves.
This ready acceptance of the temple’s purpose by historians is due both to the building’s layout – similar to a mithraic temple found at Hadrian’s Wall – and evidence provided in the form a bas-relief of a bull, inset into the stonework. Both, however, provide a clever deception that has continued for almost two thousand years.
The temple was actually the place of worship for a far more secretive cult. Named ‘The Brotherhood of Mona’ due to its one time affiliation to a dark druidic sect based in north Wales, this faction knew too well it would have been stamped out if discovered, and therefore performed its grisly ceremonies hiding behind the more acceptable soldier’s god of Mithras. Like the druid’s own ‘Cult of the Severed Head,’ the Brotherhood performed horrific sacrificial rites involving barbaric acts of extreme violence.
Eventually, the investigators will realise that all clues lead to the gloomy manor house. Access to the grounds is as detailed under ‘The Fortequeue Estate.’ However, it must be realised that Hugh Carvell’s anxiety intensifies with the passage of time and, so too, his vigilance. In addition, at the point previously indicated by the Adventure Timeline, Carvell hires three thugs from Boston to guard him and his property. One of these will constantly be on guard at the main gate. Consequently, entry and exploration of the old hall carries an ever-increasing level of risk.
The estate, outlined earlier, leads up to the old house. The manor’s grimy red brick construction with its many gables, ivy clad frontage and lofty chimneys has the look of a bygone era. Fractured masonry, flaking paintwork and overgrown shrubbery also serve to suggest that the estate’s golden age is long gone, never to return.
The hall’s austere appearance is characterised by its many gloomy windows. Nevertheless, Carvell’s heightened fear has led him to ensure each is tightly secured. Of course, investigators may wish to select a remote and seemingly deserted casement and try to force entry. Indeed, the old iron frames and small panes should not present too much difficulty. However, common sense and the desire for discretion ought to prompt a more cautious approach.
A careful survey of the property will reveal that, whilst the windows may be locked, the main entrance – continually used by Carvell in his unceasing patrols – is not. The doorway is inset beneath a dense arch of ivy and flanked by two classical stone pillars. The large, half-paned double doors open into an enclosed portico, and access into the manor.
This small hallway provides a sheltered area for the removal of coats and boots, and to shield the main entry hall from the worst of the weather. It immediately becomes apparent that neglect is not isolated to the building’s exterior. Here an overgrown aspidistra sits pot-bound beneath an overloaded coat rack, its groping leaves intruding into the cramped walk space. A clutter of discarded Wellingtons lay haphazardly within a scattering of dried mud. The air is rank with the musty odour of damp jackets.
The pocket of the jacket uppermost on the coat rack contains a large, brass key. Attached to it is a buff paper label secured by string. Pencil writing on the label has long been scuffed off, though the single word began with what appears to be a ‘G.’ The key unlocks the cellar in which Gerald Carter is being held.
A further set of half-glazed doors opens onto the main entry hall beyond.
The main entrance hall is large and, though shabby, hints at the manor’s former grandeur. Black and white chequerboard tiles extend toward a wide, sweeping staircase that curls around the far wall, up to a balustraded gallery above. Several doors are visible beyond the balcony, probably leading onto the hall’s bedrooms. Several large pot-plants have been strategically placed around the hall. Like the aspidistra in the entry hall, all are lacklustre, their leaves dulled by a film of dust.
Sited by the ornate banister rail at the foot of the staircase is an elephant’s foot fashioned into an umbrella tub – trophy of one of the Fortesqueue’s hunting trips to Africa. This contains a random collection of walking sticks. Any one of these may be used as a weapon as the need arises. It is suggested that Damage be according to a ‘Small Club.’ However, one of the sticks – the one having a brass, stag’s head handgrip – contains a sword cane. Damage for all weapons may be found in the Core Game Book.
Within the wall beneath the staircase is a camouflaged service door. Although flush with the wall and cleverly masked by matching wallpaper, close inspection will reveal the door’s outline and a recessed handle. The door provides access to the cellar and is locked. Generally used only by the hall’s serving staff, its discreet appearance is typical of stately homes of the day.
Should an investigator stand by the door and try the handle, a successful ‘Listen’ roll will reveal a weak groan. However, the hall’s acoustics will confuse the hearer, who will be unable to determine the sound’s source.
Several doors lead off the main hall, as shown on the Manor Floor Plans, below. Nevertheless, only those rooms that are significant to the story’s progress are described here. The remaining rooms are unremarkable and it is left to the Keeper to describe them ad-hoc at the appropriate times. Suffice to say, as with the two entry halls all rooms are equally shabby.
The door opens onto a room enclosed within an encircling wall of floor to ceiling bookcases, which are interrupted only by a large inglenook fireplace to the left and bay window opposite. Within the bay, French doors open out onto a patio area outside. Before these doors, a huge English oak desk and leather-backed armchair dominate the room.
Inspection of the bookshelves will reveal an unremarkable collection of ageing volumes, clearly purchased by the yard at auction, as was the custom of landed gentlemen keen to appear highly educated. One section, however, contains an assortment of travel and natural history volumes and studies of the world’s aboriginal tribes.
The desktop is littered with pens, used envelopes and tradesmen’s invoices dating back several months, their edges curling. Partially obscured beneath these is a slim letter opener having a deer-horn hilt. The stiletto-like blade would render this a useful weapon if the need arose and, as such, consider this as a small knife or switchblade, as detailed in the Core Game Book.
The unlocked desk drawers contain a random collection of documents associated with the management of a country house and estate. Should an investigator wish to examine these, a successful ‘Accounting’ roll will show that the manor has suffered a gradual financial decline for several years. A complete lack of recent book-keeping suggests the estate is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Also, within the top drawer, is a sealed envelope. High quality velum gives this a striking appearance, clearly distinguishing it from the drawer’s random assortment of documents. The envelope, addressed in the neat flowing hand of the late Earl, is addressed to Hugh Carvell and bears the statement “Unofficial Codicil – To be opened upon the event of my death.” This informal attachment to the Earl’s will instructs Francis Fortesqueue’s heir to conduct a traditional American Indian funeral ceremony upon the death of the native. Earl Francis fully realised the bizarre nature of this instruction and, as such, the codicil was never presented to the man’s solicitor and, though signed by the Earl, was never witnessed nor legalised. Instead, it calls upon Carvell to meet the terms as a matter of honour.
23rd June, 1924
I, Francis Bartholomew Fortesqueue , fourteenth Earl and resident of Fortesqueue Manor in the County of Lincoln, being of sound mind and body do hereby declare this to be a codicil to my last will and testament, dated December 14th 1920.
I endorse the aforesaid will with particular instructions, binding my heir according to his honour as a gentleman to conduct my wishes in the following manner:
That the bequests made to my sole heir and benefactor be made subject to his conducting explicit funeral ceremonies, upon the event of the death of my loyal friend Eddie Snow Hair. Details of such observances to be fully in accordance with my friend’s aboriginal traditions, and detailed within the accompanying document, entitled ‘Native American Rites and Ceremonies.’
Otherwise, I hereby confirm and republish my will dated, signed and witnessed December 14th 1920, in all respects other than those herein mentioned.
I subscribe my name to this codicil this 23rd day of June, 1924, at Fortesqueue Manor in the county of Lincoln, with the Almighty God as my witness.
Should the investigators fail to uncover the codicil, details of the native’s funeral ceremony may also be found within the pages of ‘Native American Rites and Ceremonies.’ This slim volume may be located on one of the bookshelves, with the appropriate page marked with a scrap of paper.
Despite the investigator’s attempts at stealth, their chance of discovery increases with the time spent within the manor. Rather than stage this by the use of dice checks against probability as a percentage (as with some other RPGs), it is suggested that detection be left to the will of the Keeper, according to the run of the game. It is fair to say that it would be highly unlikely for the investigators to complete their search, find and free Gerald, and discover the means by which they may release Eddie Snow Hair’s tortured spirit without being detected. Especially in view of Carvell’s increasing paranoia.
Carvell, armed with a loaded shotgun and with his mind on the brink of collapse, poses a real threat to the Investigators. So too do the hired thugs, for although armed only with clubs and switchblades, they will not hesitate to attack if the odds are in their favour. Neither will they think twice before killing any who stand in their way.
Clearly, this scenario is not one that deals with mind-blasting Lovecraftian terrors, but rather a relatively straightforward case of domestic paranormal activity. However, the Keeper should ensure that, when it does occur, the final confrontation is exciting. One ‘tool’ at his disposal is the spirit of Eddie Snow Hair. It assisted earlier in the scenario in leading the investigators to this point, and its help will continue as it intervenes to even the odds in the ensuing struggle.
The Indian’s spirit is unable to shape-shift and inflict harm on humans. It will, however, adopt the role of poltergeist, ‘throwing’ objects at the Investigator’s assailants. Heavy ornaments, books, vases etc will hurtle through the air in a violent barrage upon Carvell and/or the thugs. View each object as a ‘Thrown Rock,’ using the Weapons Table in the Core Rule Book.
Witnessing this event will cost a 2/1d6+1 Sanity Loss for all present. Any thug losing 3 or more points of Sanity will run screaming from the house. Carvell, however, will continue to fight, irrespective of Investigator’s supernatural ally. Indeed, in his crazed state of mind, he will discharge both barrels of the shotgun before reversing the weapon and using it as a club until he is either subdued or killed.
If the investigators discovered the large key, in the pocket of the coat hanging in the Portico, and have used it to unlock the cellar, they may already have found their friend. If this is the case, the Keeper should run Gerald as an NPC during the remainder of the scenario. It must be stated, however, that Gerald is no wiser than the Investigators in this mystery. In fact, his view that the fabled Black Shuck is the cause of the killings may cause him to hinder the Investigators in their enquiries.
Should the Investigators have failed to find the key, however, Eddie Snow Hair’s spirit may continue to aid them once the fight with Carvell is over. Moments after the struggle, when the house is silent once more, the Investigators will see a key hovering in the air, as though held by an unseen force. Viewing this will cost 1/1d3 Sanity Points. The key will drift toward them, and then pass them by on toward the cellar door. Once there it will drop onto the tiled floor with a loud clatter. This should be a sufficient clue for even the most obtuse Investigator.
Gerald will, of course, be delighted – if a little shaken – to be free once more, and will immediately want to hear all about the Investigator’s experience.
CONCLUSION & REWARDS
Whilst there is no single definitive clue that will provide the Investigators with a result, the recently dug grave, blood covered knife and the Indian’s restless spirit should allow them to draw an accurate conclusion as to the cause of recent events. In addition, the old Earl’s codicil, if found, should provide them with a solution. If they are floundering, however, a compassionate Keeper may use Gerald to make pointed suggestions to guide them onto the right path.
The nauseating experience of exhuming the murdered Indian’s rotting remains runs the risk of costing the Investigators further Sanity: 1/1d3. However, in providing the remains with fitting funeral rites, by cremating them on a raised pyre near to the native’s totem, the mysterious sightings and bloody killings will instantly cease. Success should therefore allow Investigators to claw back some of their lost Sanity, and 1d6+2 is suggested.
Failing to solve this case will prevent Eddie Snow Hair’s tormented spirit finding the peace it craves. Consequently, the killings will continue. This will not cost Investigator’s further penalties, just leave them with an appropriate feeling of hopelessness and shame.