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February 13, 2009, 6:42 am

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The Hyfeld Witches

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Witch trials are common enough in the Kingdom and few who stand accused have any hope of escaping the hangman, despite the fact that it is rare for the accused to have any real magical power, malign or otherwise.

Background

The trouble really started when Lord Torquin, the district inquisitor, passed through Hyfeld, a peaceful enough little village just outside the market town of Bledon. His Lordship would have ridden straight through had his horse not thrown a shoe, requiring him to stop at the village blacksmiths to have it replaced.

While the blacksmith was attending to his horse, Lord Torquin spied young Annie May selling eggs on the village green and immediately fell completely in lust with her (not an unusual reaction, at least amongst the male half of the population, for Annie May is a truly attractive young woman). However, inquisitors are holy men, sworn to celibacy and supposedly immune to sinful thoughts or the temptations of the flesh.

In order to hide his shame Lord Torquin seized poor Annie May and cried "witch". The unfortunate girl was thrown into the village lockup while Lord Torquin preached on the evils of witchcraft to an ever growing, and ever more angry, mob.

The Hunt

Of course, everybody knows that witches never operate alone. They always have accomplices to aid them in their evil work. So the hunt was on, and the accusations began to fly.

There was poor Jimmy Harper who was always the life and soul of the party, up until about six months ago when he married that Lisa from over Bledon way. Now he rarely joins his old mates for a drink down the Dog and Duck. Surely she must have bewitched him somehow.

And what about old Emma Coates who births the babies and tends to the sick and sells those herbal remedies? Didn’t she look in on that nice Jenny Wheeler who had lived on this earth for 45 years with never a single days’ sickness? And didn’t dear Mrs Wheeler die, along with the child she was carrying?

And then of course there’s that new barmaid down at the Dog and Duck. Strange foreign sounding name shes got. What is it now? Nadia? Yes, that’s it. She’s a strange one to be sure, and not from round these parts.

In the panic Lisa Harper, Emma Coates and Nadia were all seized and thrown into the lockup with Annie May, while Lord Torquin went off to fetch some inquisitional guards to escort these dangerous criminals to the county jail.

The Escape

As it happens one of the suspects, somewhat unusually for those accused of witchcraft, does have some minor magical ability. Nadia, the barmaid, has some minor telekinetic abilities: just about powerful enough to move small objects (keys, coins, etc) but not much else. With this she was able to steal the key to the lockup and thereby effect an escape.

Realising that they were unlikely to get a fair hearing (witchcraft trials are somewhat notorious in this regard) and that their life expectancy had therefore become depressingly short, all four women elected to head of the hills. The fugitives are now hiding in an old disused shepherds’ croft a few miles outside of Hyfeld while they decide what to do next.

Returning to the village is clearly not a particularly good idea, at least for the time being, but most would like to do so eventually. Lisa Harper has a new husband whom she loves dearly while for Annie May and Emma Coates the village is their home and they simply have nowhere else to go.

Nadia, on the other hand, is already giving serious thought to the idea of moving on.

Where the PCs come in

PCs arrive in Hyfeld a day or two after the witch-hunt, by which time things have begun to settle down a little.

The four fugitives are safely installed in their shepherds croft (with a little help some sympathetic villagers) and the mob, in the absence of Lord Torquins’ rabble rousing, are beginning to suspect that they may have been a little hasty.

In fact all would be well except for the fact that Lord Torquin is expected back any day. His Lordship is unlikely to be impressed by the missing prisoners and inquisitors who lose their quarry are notoriously unforgiving of anybody they expect of colluding with escapees (which usually means everybody).

What the villagers need is band of fools - er, that is, brave adventurers - to intercept and deal with the inquisitor.

An Inquisitor Calls

Lord Torquin does indeed return a day or so later with a squad of inquisitional guards in tow. And he is indeed extremely angry that the four suspected witches have escaped.

If the PCs do not intervene he will massacre the entire village in his search for the fugitives. {Note to GM: If the PCs are not around for this make sure they hear about it later.}

Assuming the PCs agree to help there will be a fight with Lord Torquin and the his inquisitional guards, there really is no way of avoiding this once he realises the suspects have escaped. Luckily Lord Torquin is just a bully, and like most bullies he has no stomach for a real fight. He will have his guards do all the fighting and if things are going badly he will run away.

Aftermath

The PCs will get no big reward for their efforts here, nor will they find any large treasure hordes, these things are simply not available. However they will earn the gratitude of the villagers. This may not seem like much (and given the level of wealth in Hyfeld it probably isn’t) but it does at least mean they have a safe place to retreat to if they ever need it.

On the other hand they will earn the enmity of Lord Torquin. As district inquisitor he holds a position of some authority, albeit not a particularly high one (something equivalent to a village bobby), and he could make life difficult for them in future.



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Comments ( 3 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Wulfhere
August 29, 2007, 17:05
0xp
I like the way that the plot and its causes are clearly outlined. All the needed information is present, it was easy to read and follow, and it could be easily incorporated into a game.

In some parts of Europe during the Renaissance, those reporting suspected witches were given a fat reward, which caused the whole process to become corrupt. An escalating cycle of opportunism and vengeance sometimes began, as accused witches dragged down those who had accused others. This process could grow out of hand, such as happened in a German village where half of the population was executed for witchcraft and heresy.

Despite this, the cliche of the corrupt and treacherous witchhunter is one that I'm not terribly fond of. Witch hysterias arose for various reasons, tearing apart communities as they struggled to deal with phenomena that they didn't understand, such as baffling, mysterious diseases and hysterical, psychosomatic disorders.

The witchhunter overcome by lust, who accuses a woman of witchcraft to cover his own shame: I've seen that done over and over. I guess that what I'd prefer is a sincere and honest witchhunter, who sees the superstitious practices of those in rural villages and concludes that the place is a nest of heresy and "heathen" practices. Something as simple as cutting an apple into top and bottom halves and handing half to one's sweetheart or hanging a broom over the doorway could be seen as signs of folk magic, while marrying at the "wrong" time could be seen as courting the favor of "pagan" spirits.
Voted Cheka Man
August 29, 2007, 18:03
Only voted
Voted valadaar
August 29, 2007, 19:07
0xp
Not bad, though wulf covers it well.


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