The Curse of the Scarecrow
Eight months ago, near Shadowbrook:
Gregor Amberson and his wife, Margaret owned a small farm and raised four girls and a disabled son, Gregory. Earlier in the year, Margaret had become pregnant again and gave birth to a strong, healthy boy, Matthew. Gregor loved his new son and doted on him, but Margaret grew angry and felt that loving Matthew took away from her duty to Gregory, who couldn't walk or talk clearly. In her madness, she drowned the infant Matthew in a cauldron of water she had drawn for his bath.
Gregor was furious with his wife. When the Town Elders of Shadowbrook and Tidewater gathered for the infant's expected baptism the following Sabbath, they were shocked when Gregor reported that the baby had died...in its sleep. Immediately they suspected something was amiss. But they did nothing. Margaret was a distant relative of the powerful Hanbrook family, and it wouldn’t do to tarnish their reputation for the sake of a dead infant.
Gregor buried the boy at the top of the hill overlooking his corn field. The next day the entire hill was alive with locusts, which then moved on to destroy all the family's crops. The mad wife, Margaret just laughed wildly, but Gregor sought out Reverend Harding and revealed the truth. He begged Harding to intervene in prayer and supplication so that Providence would remove the locust plague. The next day the locusts were gone...consumed by thousands of crows that had come from nowhere and now infested the Ambersons' fields.
Gregor decided to construct a scarecrow, and for the purpose he took the only cloth he could find: the swaddling clothes that the infant Matt had worn before his death. He stuffed the clothes with straw and put his own favorite hat upon the head he fashioned. As he lay awake all night listening to the ravings of his fevered wife, he gazed out on the hilltop where he had raised the scarecrow. In the pale light of the full moon, he swore he could see the scarecrow moving about--walking, gesturing.
The next morning Reverend Harding rode to the Amberson Farm to see how things were with Gregor and his family. What he found shocked him to his core. The entire farm was gone--house, stable, barn, everything. It looked like a hurricane had descended on the lone farm and taken everything. Harding hurried away, but as he looked back, he could have sworn he saw a lean figure stalking away across the ruined fields...
Inspector Cooke travels to the Hanbrook Manor to inquire about the mysterious destruction of the local farm. He had been called in from Boston, pursuant to growing rumors of trouble in the backwater town of Shadowbrook. After an uncharacteristically plain supper during which both Lord and Lady Hanbrook mainly glared and dodged Cooke’s questions, the Inspector retired to his room. He found he couldn’t sleep, and his curiosity led him to explore the ancient mansion in the night. He started in the library. Moving an old book on the shelf, he saw a creaky door open to reveal a dusty passage. The faint sound of violin and the aroma of sulfur beckons him inside. (+4 Investigation) Cooke travels along the secret passage to the Bog. Cooke has Hunter's Courage. (+3 Investigation)
Maria de la Rossa travels to the Magistrate's Office, intent on speaking with Mr. Kroft, but he refuses to speak with her and lets her know that despite her vaunted reputation for her wartime service, he thinks of her as a common smuggler. Maria's search of the magistrate's records is fruitless.
Lucy Hanbrook travels to the Windmill. She finds a Rusty Key linked to the Stone Bridge. Lucy Hanbrook gains Endurance.
A Locust Swarm attacks Maria at the Magistrate's Office. She tries repeatedly to ward them off, but they wound her twice, and in desperation, she flees town toward the Covered Bridge.
It is a Full Moon. Minions are +1 Combat.
A fair beginning. Maria is in trouble--with no Investigation and severely wounded. As expected, the intuitive genius, Inspector Cooke, has amassed a great deal of understanding of the Villain. Lucy has also come along nicely (thanks to Maria's largesse), and is much better prepared for combat. Clearly Cooke needs to take the lead here and equip himself for the confrontation. He also needs to lead the investigation into the dubious backgrounds and character of the Town Elders. They are not all being forthcoming as to what they know...or where their loyalties lie.
Fortunately, the evil influence of the Villain has not yet grown.
Maria reaches the Covered Bridge. There is a murder at the Inn!
Lucy wanders back toward the Manor, stopping at the Fields.
Inspector Cooke arrives at the Inn to investigate the murder. Turning the corner, he stops dead. A ghostly apparition drifts toward him with soulless eyes and a malicious heart. Cooke realizes he has little chance of success and flees toward the Monastery, with the intention of doubling back at his first opportunity. This is a defining moment for the Inspector. He realizes that the myths and legends about something haunting the community are at least partially true. He determines to open his mind and heart to spiritual matters.
The Locust Swarm moves from the Magistrate's Office to the Town Hall.
A Fog descends on Shadowbrook and its environs, making it hard to see and move.
Not a good turn of events. The Villain has made progress, and the combination of the Full Moon and the Fog is making things difficult for our heroes. Perhaps Inspector Cooke should reconsider his plans and continue to the Monastery. If he can talk his way past the opposition there, he could make good use of some of their treasures.
Lucy gets lost and meanders toward her home, losing precious time.
Inspector Cooke travels to the Monastery. Once there, he searches the Library of Latador...Searching from shelf to dusty shelf, he comes across a book of rituals and madness. As he reads, the pages begin to disintegrate in his hands! Cooke's cunning prevails, and he finds himself strengthened in spirit. Across Echo Lake, back at his office in Shadowbrook, Dr. Manning finds his resolve is also strengthened. Cooke persuades the monks to give him the Sacred Chalice. The Inspector also takes an Oath of Devotion. Greatly strengthened in spirit, Cooke meditates with the Chalice all night. The Fog lifts, and the Full Moon begins to wane!
Maria travels to the Olde Woods and finds a Cavalry Horse wandering there. She takes it, increasing her speed and combat capability!
Darkness Falls! To prevent the inexorable march into shadow, the heroes resist the evil at the expense of their own bodies. Lucy and the Inspector take two wounds each, and Maria takes another. Hopefully, they will be able to recover before it's too late.
Rumors Run Rampant. Sophie the Midwife is a tale-bearer and reveals things about Mayor Carver that the gentleman would have preferred to keep secret. It turns out that he was once a sailor in the Continental Navy but that he deserted his ship just before a fight. He also, according to Sophie, is a voyeur, spying through people's windows at night. His reputation irreparably damaged, the Mayor seeks out Lucy Hanbrook and appeals to her. He assures her that he is not in league with the evil powers plaguing their land, but that despite his shady past, he wants to help. Lucy smiles and tells him to prove it by accompanying her and helping the heroes. He agrees.
A very good turn, all things considered! Inspector Cooke's intrepidity and cunning have warded off the Villain's evil influence over the elements, at least for the time being. Although all the heroes are grievously wounded, Cooke's spirit is very strong, and he is well equipped with the Chalice. Maria found a useful mount. And the humiliation of Mayor Carver has turned into good fortune, as he has agreed to join the heroes, and he is a reliable ally.
But can the heroes bind their wounds and continue the fight before the Evil One gathers his strength?
Inspector Cooke ponders his next move. He finds he has strength enough to journey back to the Inn and reaches the relative safety--or so he hopes--before nightfall. The innkeeper binds his wounds, and he begins to rest and heal. The innkeeper also bestows a valuable Cutlass on the Inspector, who sheds a tear of gratitude and thanks him sincerely. Cooke then looks into the matter of the murder of one Hans Jacob, a traveling merchant, that took place here and concludes his investigation with his characteristic thoroughness (+4 Investigation). Eyewitnesses related tales of a very tall, whisper-thin person seen running from Jacob's room into the night. The next morning he was found hanged in his closet. Satisfied that the unfortunate traveler had fallen victim to the same evil that had murdered the Amberson family, Cooke retires to his room and rests, fully recovering from his wounds.
Maria de la Rossa mounts her Horse and canters to the Bog, intent upon reaching the Inn to rest and recover from her wounds. She reaches it just as Day Breaks.
Lucy is healing rapidly from her wounds. Lucy and Mayor Carver make it to the Manor. Tracing Inspector Cooke's steps, they investigate the old library he was last seen in. Carver's cunning (+3 Investigation) leads to the pair finding a secret passage to a secluded pier near Tidewater. There they find an old rowboat and decide to investigate a strange glow in the waters offshore. Carver again takes the lead and finds that the glow is emanating from an odd pile of straw that is dispersed on the water (+3 Investigation). Lucy is getting a handle on this mystery with the help of her new friend.
Meanwhile, Magistrate Kroft falls under the influence of the Crimson Order. In a surprise announcement, he decrees that the heroes are in league with the villain haunting the town, and that they are to be arrested on sight. He orders militia companies to Forgotten Island and Smugglers' Cove.
Word comes that there has been another horrendous murder--this time along the Tidewater Docks. At the same time there are reports of hundreds of crows at the Docks, the Barracks, and Town Square. And in the Icy Waters, where Mayor Carver and the indomitable Lucy Hanbrook are pulling at their oars, the pair are suddenly set upon by a murder of crows.
The Villain kills again, and the shadow draws closer, ever so slowly. It has been another good turn of events. Inspector Cooke has solved yet another case, and he has fully recovered and now possesses a handy Cutlass. Maria is still in bad shape, but she nears the comfort (she hopes) of the Inn at Echo Lake. Lucy and her new friend are making important progress in their struggle against the evil that is hunting them.
Maria gets lost trying to find her way out of the Bog. Slowly she approaches the Inn.
Lucy is fully recovered from her wounds. She and Carver row to the Docks to investigate the murder there. The place is alive with foul-smelling crows. The pair make their way through a crowd of townspeople, and they spend the day looking into the tragedy there. As with the murder at the Inn, there are reports of an incredibly tall, monstrous creature. That night they spend a Night on the Town and gain important insights into the legend of the Scarecrow (+6 Investigation). They are unable to find out anything further about young William LaPlante, the victim found hanged off one of the piers. But they do drive off the crows there, and Carver sees a clear connection between the birds and the Scarecrow (+3 Investigation).
Inspector Cooke decides to linger at the Inn, but that evening, a murder of crows descends on the area. He survives their onslaught and drives them off (+4 Investigation), but Maria is not so lucky. The crows descend on her, sending her horse into a panic. It throws her (she is unhurt) and gallops into the darkness.
The strange Evil One exerts itself to command its minions. The crows are driven into madness and begin to fly toward town. The shadow begins to approach rapidly, and the Villain gains in strength. Mayor Carver tells a tearful Lucy that he must return to the Town Square and attend to his duties.
The villain then tries to coerce one of the heroes to betray the Town Elders, but Cooke meditates with his Sacred Chalice and forces the evil away.
A setback as the crows that have suddenly infested the area flock to Tidewater, causing widespread panic and despair. Cooke's intrepid use of the Chalice saves the life of an unwitting Town Elder and foils the Villain's designs again.
Lucy walks to Tidewater Town Square, where Mayor Carver is busy organizing the people following the murder and scourge of crows. Lucy notices there is a Break in the Clouds and feels encouraged by the sunshine. She sought out the Mayor and convinced him to rejoin her quest. Then she bought a stout Sailor's Jacket and a Compass. Finally, she hired a local Boatman to accompany them. She and Mayor Carver drove off the evil birds flocking in the Square. Lucy discovers the truth about her father, Lord Hanbrook: while a compulsive liar who takes credit for things others have accomplished, he is, nonetheless, trustworthy in the fight against what the people are beginning to call the Scarecrow.
Inspector Cooke hurries to the Monastery, intent upon heading back to Shadowbrook, via the secret path to Abandoned Keep. As he arrives in the early morning, he pauses and looks over the lake. The sound of his call trails off endlessly over the murky lake. Listening closely, he hears voices of the dead echo back. (+3 Investigation) He drives off the crows lurking about the ancient structure. (+4 Investigation) Cooke then buys heavy Robes to use as armor, and a Crossbow.
Maria reaches the Inn (finally!) and begins to heal her wounds. She encounters Abigail Sturn, who comforts her. "I've read about something like this before...It's not good." Abigail agrees to accompany Maria on the quest.
Locusts swarm at the Inn and infest the room where Maria and Abigail are staying. Using all their cunning and battling furiously, they managed to drive the locusts off. (+4 Investigation)
The Scarecrow strikes again, murdering a fisherman, Wyatt Pringle, who, with a group of his friends, was fishing near the Shipwreck. A murder of crows accompanies the foul deed. The heroes resist the encroaching shadow.
Another good turn. Both Lucy and Cooke are well protected, and the Inspector is very well armed. Mayor Carver is back on board. Even Maria's fortunes have picked up, with the arrival of her new friend, Abigail Sturn. Together they braved the locust attack and made some headway. So far the heroes have been successful in holding back the shadow's advance pretty well.
Inspector Cooke travels to the Hanbrook Manor through a secret path from the Monastery. Wandering the mansion, he finds numerous portraits that seem to be watching him. Braving the unwavering stares of the Hanbrook clan, he searches some old papers and finds the reason for the hostility between Lord Hanbrook and Magistrate Kroft. It seems Kroft dabbles (or at least used to dabble) with witchcraft. But Hanbrook's journal makes it clear that his Lordship considers Kroft merely stupid, not dangerous.
Maria elects to stay at the Inn, despite the danger of the Villain finding her there. A frightening night ensues (+2 Investigation for each hero), and one of the blacksmith's horses is found dead of no apparent cause the next morning.
Lucy and Mayor Carver return to the Docks to investigate the murder again. They encounter a distraught woman, who seems to want to tell them something, but they can get nothing out of her that makes sense. Meanwhile, Carver finds foul-smelling straw and blood near where the LaPlante boy was killed. (+3 Investigation) Lucy barters her Rusty Key for some information from a local bartender.
A swarm of locusts sets upon Inspector Cooke, but he defeats them, suffering a wound. (+5 Investigation)
Lightning strikes the Monastery, starting a small fire and a large panic. The shadow of evil advances.
The heroes now have two good Town Elders to take to a Showdown: Magistrate Kroft, who will have an advantage against the Scarecrow, and Mayor Carver, who commands the militia. They just need to collect some more weapons and equipment, especially for the women, and then they can seek out their enemy. Because he is well hidden, they will need to gather a lot of information on him. Note that Cooke has his limit of three items, so he will have to focus on corner locations.
Maria lingers at the Inn, fully healing. She and Abigail stay in the Rose Room, but Maria has fevered dreams and wakes the next morning severely ill from the over-powering scent of roses in the room. (+2 Investigation, 1 Wound)
Lucy and the Mayor take a boat out to the Icy Waters and drive off the crows there (+3 Investigation).
Inspector Cooke travels to Shadowbrook and reaches the Church.
A little girl, Tabitha Grand, is found murdered in the fields east of the Manor. A murder of crows has infested the area.
The Scarecrow attacks Inspector Cooke, severely wounding him. Cooke strikes back and scores a hit before the creature stalks away into the night. (+1 Investigation)
Lucy and the Mayor travel to the Lighthouse. While exploring it, they find a nice Sailor's Pistol, and Lucy decides to keep it.
Cooke travels to the Doctor's Office and pays to have his wounds healed.
Maria lingers at the Inn to fully recover. A Frightening occurs again.
A swarm of locusts attacks Cooke again. He is wounded but drives the foul creatures off. (+4 Investigation)
Lucy is found to have The Devil's Mark on her throat.
Inspector Cooke heads to the Town Hall, where he drives off more locusts (+4 Investigation). He finally puts together all the clues the heroes have discovered and concludes that the Scarecrow and the legendary Kraken have a devilish alliance. The Scarecrow is hiding in the Lighthouse. The good news is that he will be easy to find. The bad news is that the hellish sea beast is defending him. The heroes will need to get past the Kraken to get at their real enemy. Cooke then binds his own wound.
Maria and Abigail linger at the Inn, because they can't reach anywhere before nightfall. They visit the Mirrored Room. The ceiling and walls are covered in dingy mirrors. Moving around the room, they notice that the reflections seem to be out of sync; one of them looks at them with hatred! It's the Scarecrow! (+3 Investigation)
A frightening night passes. The heroes can feel that the Scarecrow is trying to gather its strength, but together they resist him, and at Daybreak, they feel they have held him back.
After several turns, we now have the Scarecrow located. Unfortunately we will have to fight through the Kraken, which could be a problem. Alternatively we could seek another lair. One of the ladies might try to find the Scarecrow's alternate hideout. I'm also doubtful that we are powerful enough yet, but I don't want to wait too long for the showdown, because the creature will just grow in strength, and sooner or later, it's going to take down a Town Elder. Maria needs to head to the Monastery and buy a Flail.
Maria journeys to the Monastery. As she interviews with the monks...A shrill scram rings out from the darkest corners of the monastery. Rushing outside to escape the noise, she is faced with terror in the sky. Maria maintains her composure and shows the terrified monks the face of honor and courage. She determines that one of the Scarecrow's alternate hiding places, not surprisingly, is the Icy Waters off of Tidewater. This explains the mysterious events that Lucy and Mayor Carver experienced there. Maria investigates the spot where the lightning bolt hit and confirms that it was no coincidence. She then purchases a Flail and a Burning Censer. Brother Mulgren asks her, "Are you going to use the Censer to pray?"
"Something like that," Maria replied with a furtive smile.
Lucy and Mayor Carver travel back to Tidewater with the intent of visiting a widow near the Beach, who was said to be able to overcome curses. Lucy was worried about the Devil's Mark on her. But as they wandered the rough neighborhood they were set upon by hoodlums, who wounded Lucy and chased them back out of town. But one good turn of fortune came their way. Lucy discovered that the Scarecrow also haunted the South Dock near Echo Lake. If they could catch it there, they would not have to face the Kraken, nor the uncertainty of the Icy Waters.
Inspector Cooke decided to make his way to the Windmill and eventually to the fields, where young Tabitha was murdered.
Maddened crows flew toward Tidewater and Shadowbrook. The Scarecrow attempts to murder Lord Hanbrook and the Harbormaster, but Cooke prays for their protection with his Sacred Chalice and foils the Villain's plans.
Cooke then uses the power of the Chalice to calm the mind of Magistrate Kroft, who revokes his order to arrest the heroes. Lucy then summons a militia company to the South Dock to surround the place. She and Carver make their way slowly west toward Echo Lake.
Cooke reaches the Windmill after fighting through a swarm of foul crows. He finds a Lantern (!), which will help him against the Scarecrow. He shoos away another flock of crows.
Maria departs the Monastery and travels to the North Dock, where she asks some Leading Questions and gains some more clues about the Scarecrow's latest moves. The heroes are closing in!
A murder of crows descend on the Bog!
The Scarecrow attempts a Spread of Evil, but Cooke wields his Chalice to ward off the Villain's designs. He knows he is tempting fate by relying on the sacred relic too much, but he reasons that with the heroes closing in on the Evil One at the South Dock, the Chalice will do him no good in a showdown.
Cooke races to the Hanbrook Manor to consult with Lord Hanbrook as time gets short. His Lordship directs his housemaid Selena--of pious reputation--to accompany the Inspector and provide what help she may.
Maria considers her next move. With Lucy and Mayor Carver about to trap the Scarecrow at the South Dock, she wonders if she should proceed there immediately or double back to the Monastery for the possibility of convincing the monks to help her further. Alternately, she could visit the Forgotten Island. She decides to brave the Island. With the Militia there escorting her, she finds a Weathered Skull and identifies it as the remains of another of the Scarecrow's victims. She can feel its power and decides to keep it.
As the final minutes tick away, Lucy, Mayor Carver, and their boatman approach the South Dock from the east. In the distance they can see Inspector Cooke and an unknown woman approaching from the west. As they gaze across Echo Lake, they see two more women pulling at oars in a small rowboat approaching from the north—Maria and Abigail! The time has come. An ensign hiding in the bushes nearby signals that his militia men are ready.
Magistrate Kroft arrives and takes his stand near Maria and Abigail. Mayor Carver and Lucy hold torches aloft against the darkness. Cooke and Selena draw their weapons. Suddenly from the shadows a tall figure lurches forward. A horrendous and foul-smelling wind howls, and the shrieking Scarecrow attacks! Cooke hurls his lantern at the Villain, fires his crossbow at it, and then hacks at it with his cutlass, grievously wounding it. The Scarecrow swipes at him with a hellishly strong arm, but Selena leaps between the two, absorbing the full weight of the blow. She yelps as she is hurled into the trees and is lost in the shadows. Maria wields her Flail and throws her Burning Censer at the creature while Cooke distracts it. Aflame, the Scarecrow reels from her battle fury and tries to escape. But Magistrate Kroft plunges his sword into its back. In its death throes, the Villain falls upon Maria, who is knocked to the ground by the fury of its assault, but Inspector Cooke tackles the thing, saving her life. As he hits the ground, he finds his arms are wrapped around an empty sack. The Scarecrow was destroyed.
In the end, I believe that Inspector Cooke was the key to victory, although Lucy, Maria, Mayor Carver, and even the lowly Selena played their parts. Cooke's newfound piety and spiritual strength enabled him to use the Sacred Chalice to magnificent effect. Together the heroes constrained the Scarecrow's evil intentions and kept the power of his shadow from advancing. Maria's slow start gave way to a powerful denouement as she nearly decapitated the Villain with a furious assault. Lucy must gain the credit for tracking the foul creature to its most vulnerable lair, thus avoiding the horror of the Kraken and the disadvantage of fighting on the water. Mayor Carver may enjoy a reinvigorated political career for his heroism and cunning. And to Magistrate Kroft goes the singular honor of dealing the death blow to the Evil that had victimized so many people. Perhaps now the spirit of the murdered Amberson boy can rest and be reunited with those of the family that it consumed with its evil revenge.
Nice write up! I love how this game lends itself to an engaging narrative every time you play.
Me, too. Thanks, Keith!
Outstanding session report! Great job on fleshing out the narrative & on providing back story on The Scarecrow.
Thanks, MS! I always thought the Scarecrow was one of the creepiest Villains, and I was trying to think up a cool back story for how it came alive and why it is killing people. Glad you liked it!--Bob