The Woe in Wealwood - Nathan Ross
The Woe in Wealwood
One by one, the people of Orrer’s Haining have begun to disappear while the local fey are driven to madness. As the PCs struggle to put the pieces together, they are forced to delve into the ancient Wealwood and discover the true reason for these disappearances. Finding the culprit, the PCs must confront a past tragedy if they are to prevent a doom encompassing the town and woods alike.
The Woe in Wealwood is a horror-tinged mystery for 4th-level characters, progressing to 5th-level by its conclusion.
On the passing of his father, Andres Vilruk, last heir of the Vilruk line, returned to his ancestral home with his young wife to take up his duties to both the people and the Wealwood.
For several years they lived happily, deeply in love. They had a son, who they both cherished.
They were happy.
One year ago, Andres unknowingly woke a malicious fey entity within the wood. It stalked him, following him back to Wealwood Manor and in the dead of night, attacked. For two nights, Andres Vilruk drove back the creature but on the third, it overwhelmed him. It slew his wife and took his son.
Overwhelmed by grief and anger, Andres staggered about his home until, by chance, he found a diary. The diary was his ancestor’s. Within its pages, it described a hidden and protected ring of stones, deep within the Wealwood. It told of the power they possessed to bridge the gap between life and death and the terrible price that must be paid to do so. Grief-stricken but resolved, Lord Vilruk knew that he must seek these stones and bring back his family.
Whatever the cost.
Lord Vilruk has discovered an ancient stone circle within the Wealwood which, with human and fey sacrifices, can resurrect his wife. He has been abducting the townsfolk of Orrer’s Haining, ritually murdering them within the woods to create powerful haunts to drive out the guardians and fey that would stop him from reaching the circle. The use of the circle for such a foul ritual would irrevocably taint the surrounding land.
Lord Andres Vilruk (human ranger/spiritualist)
Bors Hannov (human fighter)
Anika Fel (changeling witch)
Kosche, the Heart-shorn (new monster)
The heart-shorn are a new monster introduced in this module.
Heart-shorn are prideful fey creatures, gradually driven mad by their own desire for immortality.
By removing their heart and hiding it in the skull of one of their victims, a heart-shorn ensures that it cannot be slain. However, memories and aspects of its victim’s personality slowly bleed into the heart-shorn’s own mind, driving it mad.
Those who gain control of their heart may compel a heart-shorn to serve them.
The PCs arrive at the town of Orrer’s Haining to take part in the winter solstice - invited by their friend Cerianna, a local druid or having heard of magical blessings bestowed during the celebrations.
A loud crack echoes through the inn as a small, hairy creature (a domovoi) appears on the bar. “Woe! Woe!” it cries, banging its oaken staff upon the bar. As the patrons step back, the domovoi begins throwing objects about the room using its telekinetic abilities before disappearing with a second crack.
Disappearances in Orrer’s Haining
In its wake, the PCs learn of a string of disappearances, the most recent of which is Cerianna and that several local fey spirits have also vanished or are behaving strangely.
The PCs have several avenues of investigation within the local area.
A nearby farmstead has been abandoned after the farmer’s son-in-law disappeared. An ovinnik is said to live within their mill. It is prickly and initially hostile towards the PCs. If they are able to gain its favor, the ovinnik tells them of sprites fleeing the Wealwood, driven out by a madness that now inhabits it. The PCs may be able to convince the ovinnik to use its divination ability to provide additional, though cryptic insight into the events in the town. If the PCs provoke the ovinnik, a conflict inside the mill filled with flour dust against a flame-wielding fey may have explosive results.
A local medium is able to contact the spirit of one of the missing townsfolk. The PCs must assist her in placating the spirit. Success reveals that the spirit is trapped somewhere within the Wealwood and raises grim questions regarding the other missing people.
A hedge witch, Anika, has been traveling the local area for the past several months, offering cures and charms. Recently, she has been selling grotesque fetishes resembling mummified sprites, claiming they will protect against the unruly fey. Several locals believe she may be behind the disappearances.
The PCs are advised to seek the counsel of the local lord, Andres Vilruk, before heading into the Wealwood. His servant and man-at-arms, Bors, offers to escort them to the manor. On the road, they are attacked by an emaciated fey creature, referring to itself as Kosche. Bors seems shaken by the encounter, as Kosche was the name of Lord Vilruk’s son. On arriving at the manor, Lord Vilruk is extremely interested in the fey creature and offers the PCs a reward if they can discover its lair.
Into the Wealwood
Investigations within the town lead the PCs into the Wealwood in search of answers. A number of encounters reveal the motives and stakes behind the disappearances.
The PCs encounter one of the haunts created by Vilruk and the fey driven mad by its presence.
A guardian of the stone circle has been displaced by the haunts. It offers the PCs information about the stone circle and a dire warning about what may happen if it is used improperly.
The PCs stumble upon a sleeping fey king, bound to slumber until the Vilruk bloodline is no more.
Encountering Kosche again, the PCs can trick it into revealing the location of his heart.
A Midnight Chase
Returning from the Wealwood, the PCs are woken on their first night back in the inn by the sound of Lord Vilruk as he kidnaps the innkeeper’s daughter. A chase through the town ensues, with Lord Vilruk escaping but not before the PCs are able to confirm his identity.
In pursuit of Lord Vilruk, the PCs arrive at Wealwood Manor but find no sign of him. Exploring the manor, the PCs encounter several haunts and learn of the tragedy that occurred one year ago. They encounter Bors, who remained at the manor in order to delay the PCs. However, by revealing the consequences of Vilruk’s ritual, the PCs may be able to gain his aid.
Within the manor’s stables are several of the fey, caged in cold iron. Grateful to be rescued from Anika’s experiments, they tell the PCs that Vilruk headed into the wood, taking one of the captured dryads with him. They offer to lead the PCs to the stone circle.
Ritual at the Stones
A ring of massive stone monoliths seems to throb with a heavy energy.
As the PCs arrive, the ritual is already underway and Lord Vilruk stands ready to defend Anika. If the PCs have shared the location of Kosche’s heart with Lord Vilruk, he will have retrieved his son’s skull and will be assisted by the heart-shorn. Should the ritual succeed, the innkeeper’s daughter will be sacrificed and the soul of Lord Vilruk’s wife will possess the body of the captured dryad.
Provided they defeat Lord Vilruk, the adventure may end in several ways, not all of them a happily ever after. The death of Lord Vilruk or the success of the ritual spell a slow doom for the mortals settled around the Wealwood either from slow corruption or unbound fey. Should the PCs prevent the ritual and avoid killing Lord Vilruk, the spirits of his victims can be put to rest. By destroying the heart-shorn’s heart, a bittersweet scene occurs as the spirits of Lord Vilruk’s wife and son are reunited.