We are at the end of the morning when Ursula Bishop arrives at the south-west entrance of Bridgewater Park and while she's quite proud of herself for making all the way from Arkham to this part in the south of Massachusetts, the abnormal heat surrounding her makes her worried. But she won't wimp out. She really wants to get that raise so she will do that job that none of her colleagues wanted to take at the Arkham Gazette . The job is simply : meet with Howard Stern, a hunter who claimed that he has shot the legendary Thunderbird, that creature from the natives folklore. Easy enough. She will get in the park, she will meet him, she will take a better picture of the dead animal (The one sent by the hunter was all blurry), she will get all the informations she needs to write a decent story and she will get out of here. There is nothing to worry about that.
Well, that's what she was thinking right before she got lost in the woods. Before she met with Herbert O'Donnel, another journalist but from New-York, someone she teamed-up with a month ago during that dreadful adventure in Octavia, Massachusetts...
Meanwhile, at the very south of the park, private eye Peter Marlowe enters the woods. He's here for a job, too, but a more sinister one. Young Oda Mae Evers, 18 months old, was recently kidnapped in Boston and soon enough the Police stopped researching.
"The girl wasn't white enough to deserve a proper investigation" thought Marlowe as he was following a trail...
The trail of a mysterious car : a red Overland Roaster which was seen in the area at the time of Oda Mae's dissapearance, and also when two other black babies have gone missing earlier this year. And the trailer led him right into the park. The locals have seen the car going that way.
Unfortunately, Marlowe's player isn't luckier than Ursula's with the dice and the whole group starts expressing both hilarity in front of the guys' misfortune and anxiety for the things to come.
Marlowe also meets someone but not a familiar face. Instead it's Frank Kowalski, a nervous young man claiming that he is searching for his sister Alice who ran away from their parents' house last week.The Kowalskis used to camp in Bridgewater Park and the owner of a nearby restaurant said he did see a girl looking like her, hitchking. Of course, Marlowe cannot help himself from telling the guy that he was looking for a missing child so of course Kowalsk gets even more nervous and asks to follow the private investigator.
Time flows and the night is falling on the park when Ursula and Herbert bumps into a cabin in the woods. Oddly enough, the place looks deserted and fortified, like someone was trying to prevent something from getting inside.
Near the cabin, they finds Professor Scott Woods from the Miskatonic University of Arkham, yet another member of their group. The professor, who grew up in Fall River, a town located near the park, says he's here because his relative told him about the strange change in the temperature. Naturally curious, he took this opportunity to be away from the University and anything that could remind him what he saw in Octavia and went straight to Bridgewater to investigate on this bizarre phenomenon.
He found the Lake Nippenicket filled with hundreds of rotting dead fish and then he got lost (Yes, him too!) and now that he sees Ursula and Herbert he regrets his decision of coming here. Maybe it wasn't a good idea after all.
The male journalist chooses this moment to talk about what brings him here and it's the strangest reason of all : he dreamed about this place. Since Octavia, he has those horrible nightmares where he sees himself in the woods, then in a cave, then face to face with an unknown old man who starts to cry bloody tears while saying in Herbert's ears "Bridgewater". Confused and scared, the reporter has made a lot of research to find the meaning of the dream and then he's accidently bumped into someone who let go a map of the state of Massachusetts, a map showing the Bridgewater Park. And now that he is here, Herbert is more and more convinced that's no coincidence that the three of them meet here.
The trio decides to force its way into the cabin, then they starts searching the place. Herbert then studies the few notes and books they found in one of the room while Scott examines the locked trap-door at the very end of the main corridor. Suddenly, the men hears Ursula screaming from the bedroom she was searching and they run only to find her alone in the room with a celluloid cylinder in her hand and a pale terror on her face. She mumbles about a dead man, on the bed. "An old man with his eyes gouged out!"
Scott examines the bed thoroughly : no one is here but the mattress looks like some was lying on it for a very long time. Ursula insists that she isn't seeing things but the men remain silent... Scott is sceptical but Herbert, on the other end, starts shaking. The mention of an old man with missing eyes feels too similar to his dream. He sees the cylinder in Ursula's hands and recognize the thing : "Those are used to record sound", he says, and so they decide to play it using the phonograph they found in the living room.
Meanwhile, in the darkness of the woods, Marlowe and Kowalski finally meet with Doctor Francis Bertillon, last member of the escapade in Octavia but, this time, accompanied by his cousin Adolphe Beaumont, local farmer who would like to find and kill the animal that killed his sheeps. The meeting isn't without a bit of hilarity, Marlowe's player being as lucky as ever, the private eye almost got himself shot by accident by Adolphe.
But before Marlowe could talk about the Evers case, they all hear a roar coming from nearby. It sounds like a bear, a very angry bear and suddenly the beast sounds less pissed and more in pain. Cautiously, they follow the sounds and find the animal, lying on the ground right in from of its den. Blood is flowing from beneath his belly and his eyes only express fear and suffering. The bear just doesn't have the strength to move anymore. Adolphe put the bear out of his misery then Bertillon starts examining the wounds : the bear was eviscerated and by something huge. Also, it looks like the animal was sick, so sick he was losing his hair. Adolphe and Marlowe find strange footprints on the ground near the bear and the farmer doesn't recognize which animal they may belong to.
That's when the group hears the growling. Quickly, they hide inside the den, as best as they can and they see three bobcats which immediatly go to the bear to scavenge its carcass. The group decides silently to remain inside the den until the predators have finished their dinner.
In the cabin, everyone is even more anxious after they've heard the recording. Apparently the cabin's owner was some kind of inventor and he has created a device that made him see something terrible... Something that has been chasing him in the woods and into cabin, something he didn't managed to locked down in the basement or maybe he did?
Scott and Ursula are not so sure if the man was talking about one specific creature or about several beasts. Maybe there is one outside and one trapped underground? (And during the conversation, I get very proud of how things turn out)
Anyway, the recording lets them think that the man has killed himself but one way or another, the corpse is missing... Last but not least, they don't appreciate how it looks like the inventor was helped by "friends from Europe"... They remember too well the story of the quiet town of Octavia which turned into a community of madmen performing unspeakable pagan rituals and ghoulish crimes after a french fortune-teller has gone and lived a few months there.
Half-exhausted and half-scared, they decide to camp inside the cabin. Ursula will sleep in the living room while Scott is on watch and Herbert is still
The bobcats gone, the others make a run for it. Their goal : leaving the park through the south entrance, go to Adolphe's farm to search for ammo and better weapons before coming back for the baby and Kowalski's sister. They are so desperate they even ignore a scream of agony coming from afar but before long, they starts smelling something...
A foul odor surrounding her. It's not the smell of death but something else. Something even more aggresive.
Then they see it. Tall figure in the dark, about twenty meters in front of them. Something big. Something with abnormally long arms. It looks humanoid from here but it can't be human and the odor is worse.
They scream and they run away.
They run without paying attention to the direction and they arrive at the damned cabin (And finally I have all of the PCs in the same spot!). They knock at the door, asking anyone inside to let them in. They get inside and everyone has the "What are you doing here" conversation while the doctor, Kowalski and Marlowe try tro see through the barricaded windows if that thing is still oustide. Because they sure still can smell it!
As fast as it appears, the odor is gone and they start to relax a bit. After listening to the recording, they all debate about exploring the basement and the yes wins (Marlowe is quite stubborn, you see, for all of his companions displeasure). Down there, they only find an axe, a hammer and a few nails and pieces of woods. No monster or corpse here. Every each of the disarmed character picks a weapon and they all go to sleep after they decided the shifts.
The next morning they try to eat (Some of them came with food) and talk about what to do next. Marlowe, whose player is still as lucky as ever, starts explaining he just had that awful dream last night.
(I've taken the idea from Amidst the Ancient Trees : Each sleeping character has to make a POW check. If he/she fails, he/she must pick a "Nightmare card")
A dream where he was in some swamps, surrounded by the dead bodies of men dressed in a very strange manner... Like they were going to some costume party or whatever and some of them had been killed by arrows...
Herbert, then speaks about the books they found in the cabin. Whoever was this place's owner, he had an interest in philosophy, optics and Native American culture. Herbert also tells the Bertillon, Marlowe, Adolphe and Kowalski about his own dreams and everyone agrees that maybe the dreams are here to help them and that they should go north to find the swamps, as indicated on Ursula's map of the area. (And FYI, Herbert's dreams are going to be a plot element of the whole campaign I'm building). Finally, Ursula convinces the others that if they find any clues regarding the Thunderbird or the location of Howard Stern they will take the time to go investigate it.
A few hours later, the group finds a path marked by dream-catchers hanging from the trees. Begrudgingly they follow the path and find another cabin with a woman a bit younger than Scott Woods, singing and playing the drum. Surprisingly, the woman, who is called Agatha Blackwell, and Scott know each other from their childhood at the Fall River Orphanage.
Agatha explains to her long lost friend that she was adopted by Kathleen Blackwell, the so-called "Witch" they used to be scared about as kids. And with no such thing as shyness, Agatha tells them that she has become, like her late foster mother, the local cunning-woman. She prepares remedies and helps women to give birth.
When asked about the heat and the mutilated animals, Agatha explains her concern about the situation and she says she doesn't know anything about that.
Agatha lets them all rest a bit in her cabin, giving them water and writing indications on their map to help them find Howard Stern. They also learn that an old photographer named Mason Darrow has a cabin not far from here. They all hypothesize that it might be the cabin where they spent the night and that this Darrow guy is probably dead by now.
Later, they bump into Howard and Eli Stern, father and son who are here to hunt. Ursula finally gets the opportunity to get the information she needs for her story but Howard answers that the Thunderbird is now gone. He thinks the animal wasn't dead but unconscious and that it eventually ran away when given the chance. Howard agrees to lead the group to Deadman's Hills where they shot the Thunderbird.
There, they find the place where the gigantic bird crashed and the place is surrounded by the same strange footprints Marlowe and Adolphe have found the night before around the bear.
Following smoke at the horizon, higher on the hills, the group finds an abandoned camp. The tents are torn apart and there are blood everywhere. They even find a dead body. It looks like a beast has attacked the camp and Bertillon and Marlowe start wondering if the scream they ignored last night wasn't coming from here...
Scott and Herbert find a few clues in the remains of the camp : It appears that it was some anthrophological expedition organized by a museum in Salem. They also find some opium, a book, some notes from what appears to be the leader of the expedition, and strange papers wrapped together in a leather ribbon.
Following human footprints going from the camp to the south of the hills, they arrive at a clearing with strange circles of small erected stones with animal pictures carved into them upside down.
Then, suddenly, they hear another scream from farther to the south.
There, they all freeze. They can't believe what they see : a man is floating in the air, his chest and abdomen being torn open by invisible claws. They all go back, exception Howard who tries to shoot it. Seconds laters, they hear the hunter's agony and they run fasting, forcing terrorised Eli (Who is 12 years old) to follow. They all retreat to the stone circle, hoping that it offers some magical protection. They position themselves, those armed with rifles (Francis and Adolphe) and pistol (Marlowe) taking aim, the others preparing for the worst. Except Ursula who decides to prepare her camera. She might not take a picture of a Thunderbird but she will definitatly bring back a photo of that thing if she can capture its image with the camera.
Seconds pass. Everyone is nervous. Then the odor reappears and the monster enters the scene : right next to Adolphe! He just appears right out of thin air! The farmer falls on the ground in fear, then just before the creature has the chance to attack, Marlowe and Bertillon make their shots. The beast seems severely wounded and it vanishs.
(Also, Ursula did managed to take a picture of it!)
Before they could help him stand, Adolphe loses it : he runs away into the woods below. Marlowe and Bertillon try to chase him but they lose him. Right after that they hear another human scream from the woods. The monster has claimed another victim.
Going back to where they've left Howard Stern, they find nothing but his empty hunting rifle. The hunter's kid gets catatonic and Ursula has to help him go anywhere. The man they're heard dying before isn't there anymore either.
Still shaking from the fight, they see a strange figure to the south : a man with a bizarre mask made of leather. Maybe an Native? Maybe someone who knows what is going on here!
They goes to the south only to find the man standing on the edge of a cliff (The place is really called the Ledge) and then he jumps. Scott is the only one who runs to the edge but he sees nothing below. No body, no trace of a fall. His mind just can't compute what happens (He fails the SAN Roll and loses 7 points but manages to also fail the INT roll). He panicks and crawls away from the cliff, bumping into a stone which seems to mask a hole in the rocky ground.
Inside, the group find skelettons... Little skelettons... Babies with a crack on their skull. And the decomposed body of Oda Mae Evers.
As Scott recognize the smell emited by the hole, an odor he thinks he's smelled before, they all realize that Frank Kowalski is missing...