Some time ago, the Loa known as Marinette of the Dry Arms was banished from this world by a powerful Voodoo practitioner named Henri LeFournier, trapped in a specially empowered magical bottle, to a crossroads in an unearthly realm called the Winding Way. There she remained until such time as someone could set her free. Indeed, she might have languished in that place forever, if not for the insight gained by one of her followers. Having allied himself with the Knights of Solomon, the werewolf Hugo Francois LeBlanc has acquired the knowledge needed to release his goddess, and thus to set her free so that she can exert her will once again upon this world.
This adventure begins as the PCs are traveling back to the western frontier of the United States after business in other places. Depending upon their previous interactions with the parties involved in this scenario, they can learn about this plot in a number of different ways. Whatever the case, they somehow discover that Hugo has entered the rift beneath Fort Arneson that leads to the Winding Way, and what his intentions are there. At that point they're in a race against him to foil his plan—but that realm is tricky and treacherous, and they'll face numerous physical, mental and spiritual challenges as they navigate its myriad paths.
For the Gun Master
Henri Fournier placed the bottle in which Marinette of the Dry Arms is imprisoned at a crossroads inside the Winding Way. Hugo Francois LeBlanc has one goal: to reach that location, obtain the bottle, carry it out of the Winding Way and break it so that the loa is returned to this world. Only the PCs can stop him from accomplishing that goal, and they'll be hard pressed to do so.
Involving the Heroes
The PCs can become involved in this business in a number of different ways, including the following possibilities.
- They could be soldiers stationed at Fort Arneson, as detailed in “Frontier Fort,” when someone or something emerges from the hole.
- Alternately, they might be travelers on the frontier and learn of strange attacks on settlers' farms and Indian camps through the events of the scenario “Blood on the Snow.”
- In either case, they could become aware of Mrs. Angelica Smith's efforts to access the Winding Way as detailed in the supplement “Bad Medicine” and the scenarios “A Plague Among You” and “Hell to Pay.”
- If they have a history with the fort and its inhabitants, then they could be summoned directly (see below).
- Finally, they could gain a hint of these developments by gazing into the ebony mirror, a relic that they might find in a Mayan pyramid while following or going to the aid of the Pinkerton agent Alexandra Flynn.
However it happens, the PCs should become aware that a means of accessing the Winding Way has been opened underneath Fort Arneson, and that someone wants to go in there against the wishes of the people who are guarding it.
Refer to the article “Frontier Fort” to find a layout for this location, and stats for the characters who can be found in it. Keep in mind, of course, that those details may have to be modified if the PCs took part in the events of the scenario “Hell to Pay.”
Scene 1—Bad Tidings
At some point while the PCs are close to the fort, they receive word that there presence is wanted. This can come in a variety of ways, including a hand-written note delivered by a rider, or a telegram, as represented below.
Your presence is requested—no, required—at Fort Arneson, as soon as possible.
I will tell more upon your arrival.
Your assistance is urgently need at Fort Arneson.
Please make all haste.
In either case, the missive is signed with the name of the ranking person at the fort. Given the events of “Hell to Pay,” this is probably the former cavalry Lieutenant (and now acting Captain) Danforth Jeffreys, assuming that Captain Anders Arneson III was killed in action. If that is not the case, then the GM can adjust accordingly.
Alternately, if the PCs have access to magic such as the Divination power, or perhaps to the onyx mirror from the scenario “South of the Border,” then they could also learn of this matter through hints and visions granted by that magic.
However it is that the PCs return to Fort Arneson, they are met by the very same officer who sent the message to them. He ushers them into the officers' quarters, where they are given food and drink, and then informs them of what has transpired. These details can be presented via conversation, or more in the form of a briefing, at the GM's discretion.
- Recently a group of United States Marshals, led by Chief Deputy Andrew Llewellyn, arrived at the fort, looking to investigate “recent events of an occult nature.”
- They said they were members of a special division, the Black Stars, who were tasked with investigating supernatural events and activities.
- Accompanied by a squad of soldiers, Llewellyn and his men ventured down into the rift to do some exploring; only the Chief Deputy managed to return.
- In fact, that individual is currently housed—but unconscious, as if caught in some kind of fever dream—in the fort's infirmary.
Refer to the supplement of this name to find background information about, and stats for the members of, this organization.
As mentioned above, the PCs can find Chief Deputy Llewellyn in the infirmary. He is sleeping in one of the beds, but his slumber is fitful, as if wracked by unpleasant dreams. Those fits become worse as the PCs arrive, turning into outright convulsions. Then he kicks aside the bedding and his clothes tear to shreds as he undergoes a horrific transformation. His fingers and toes become claws; gray fur grows out of his body; his face elongates into a snout full of fangs. He is, of course, a werewolf.
Werewolf: Refer to page 78 in The Sixth Gun RPG.
The werewolf, of course, rushes to attack the nearest possible victim. Given its immunity to weapons other than magic and those mage of silver, this should prove to be a daunting challenge. What is more, any characters injured by the werewolf have a 50% chance of being infected themselves.
If he is slain, Chief Deputy Llewellyn collapses to the ground with a groan. Even so, he utters a short imperative: “Stop the shapechanger! Don't let the goddess be unleashed!” With that he tosses his US Marshal badge in their direction, and then he dies. Characters who succeed at a Voodoo check can identify this as a reference to the Loa Marinette of the Dry Arms, one who was trapped inside the Winding Way by the hougan Henri Fournier. She is—as can be confirmed by another check—the patron Loa of shapechangers.
Scene 2—Back into the Rift
As long as they are willing to undertake this assignment, the PCs should make any preparations that they deem necessary. While they probably have some connections with the soldiers of Fort Arneson, they don't have all that much to offer. At the GM's discretion, the PCs should have access to the following items.
- Since each infantry soldier at the fort has been issued a Winchester '76 rifle, and each cavalry soldier a Colt Dragoon pistol and cavalry saber, there are plenty of those to be had.
- The same goes for ammunition to load those firearms, within reason.
- There's a fair amount of food and water, in the form of filled canteens, hardtack biscuits, salt pork and beans.
- The soldiers can also provide blankets for bedrolls and even a couple of tents.
- Common equipment items such as axes, hatches, lanterns, mess kits, pickaxes and shovels, rope and compasses are also available.
- Explosives such as dynamite are not so easily obtained, but a few stick might be available at the GM's discretion.
Recruiting Some Help?
There's also the question of the PCs recruiting people to assist them. This is left entirely up to the GM, based upon the party's previous interactions with various NPCs and how convincing they can be in recruiting others to the cause.
Refer to the scenario “Beyond the Veil” to find maps for some of the locations inside the Winding Way, along with a few of the hazards that the PCs might face there.
Going Back into Harm's Way
Once the PCs have made all of the preparations that they can or want, they can head back down into the rift. If this is the first time for them, then they could certainly face the various hazards detailed in the scenario mentioned above. Should they have been down this road before, on the other hand, they could find some new dangers lying in their path. A few possibilities, along with suggestions for where to include them, include the following.
- While the underground lake is no longer home to a giant snake, the PCs must still manage to swim across if—after climbing down to or otherwise being lower into it—if they want to reach the rest of the tunnels.
- Two Knights of Solomon with some bloodhounds patrol the area known as the Columns. They are on the lookout for intruders, and move to attack when they see the PCs. Should the tide of battle turn against them, however, they send a runner in the hopes of alerting their allies about this incursion.
- One of the Knights has a paper on which cryptic clues are written, as detailed below.
- At the chasm and rope bridge, a group of terracotta warriors, conjured up by the Knights, stand guard. They attempt to lurk in the shadows of the tunnel on the opposite end of the chamber before moving out to confront the PCs. What is more, if the battle doesn't go their way, then they try to cut the bridge's ropes in order to send the PCs plummeting to their doom, or leaving them to fight while clinging to the sides of the bridge.
- Once they reach the old skinwalker lair, a crossroads demon (Kalfu himself) waits for the PCs. If they can earn his respect—such as by offering items such as rum and gunpowder or rotten eggs, or by making a case that they want to prevent villains from using the Winding Way for wicked purposes—then this individual can provide them with a good deal of information about this location and its unusual nature.
As always, of course, the GM should feel to add or modify encounters based on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign.
Crossroads demon: Refer to page 74 in The Sixth Gun RPG for details.
Knight of Solomon: Refer to that supplement for details.
Bloodhound: Refer to page 77 in The Sixth Gun RPG for details.
Terracotta Warrior: Use the stats for a Bodyguard from page 137 from the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer's Edition for details.
The crossroads point the way.
The mother of all holds the key.
Look when the boundaries are open.
Many Roads to Follow
Beyond the skinwalkers' lair, numerous passages lead further into the Winding Way. Those can open up into limitless possibilities, ones based upon the background stories—especially from Interludes—and other interactions of the PCs, as detailed in the next scene.
Scene 3—Brave New Worlds?
While there are at least four paths leading further beyond the skinwalker lair, characters who make a Notice check can see that the footprints in the area lead down the third path from the left. What is more, a raise on that check reveals the nature of those who left the footprints, including a few pairs of booted feet that seem normal for humans, as well as some deeper—and thus, as the PCs may recognize, caused by heavier creatures like the terracotta warriors—along with prints from any others who survived previous encounters, or from other NPCs whom the GM decides to add.
As the PCs explore this deeper part of the tunnels, they might need to deal with any previous encounters that weren't completely resolved during combat or other interactions.
Trials and Tribulations
The various twists and turns of the tunnels that make up the Winding Way can lead to various places, times and possibilities; some options are detailed below.
- One character's lost love might appear down one of the tunnels.
- The same can be said for an old enemy with a score to settle.
- Characters' family members could appear, too.
- A series of clues indicate the present of a long-lost treasure, one that consists either of ordinary valuables or magical relics or lore.
- Similarly, an NPC with a similar arcane background could offer to teach one or more PCs new and impressive powers.
- Certain characters could see themselves in positions of power or command, with the ability to make influential decisions to change the course of events. This is especially the case for those who fought in the Civil War, and who might wish to see different outcomes for the various battles which made up that conflict.
- The same can be for major moments in American or world history, such as the assassination of President Lincoln.
- The PCs might witness a challenge that they previously faced, during a different adventure or session, with the chance to make different decisions—and thus have different outcomes—this time around.
- The glimpsed world could be the “happily ever after” ending that a particular PC wishes to see, even if that means leaving this current life of adventure behind in order to pursue that new end.
- In a similar vein, the reality glimpsed could represent total physical fulfillment for a character, with an abundance of food, drink and companionship.
Keep in mind that these other realities exist down the myriad branching paths of the tunnels in the Winding Way; characters must follow them to their ends in order to see the possibilities. Keep in mind, however, that following one of those paths leads to an entirely different reality, separate from the one in which this adventure or campaign has taken place, and thus one that could have unexpected—and, thus, unpleasant—differences from what is familiar to the characters.
Scene 4—Breaking Point
Eventually the paths lead to a broad cavern that is open to the sky above, one that has four entrances. In the center of it stands a manor house, two stories in height, surrounded by a grove of trees. The front door faces to the south (the bottom of the map). While there are no signs of movement in the house itself, characters who make Notice checks could see wolves that are prowling around the edges of the chamber. They are followers of the werewolf who is assisting the Knights of Solomon, as detailed below.
Refer to the maps below for the following location descriptions.
Everything about the manor house seems opulent, but with a sinister twist. Inside the double front doors is the entry (1), with two staircases leading upward, hallways leading to the left and right, and another set of double doors leading to the middle of the house. Along the left corridor are the parlor (2), an office (3) and a closet (4). Beyond another staircase are the smoking room (5), dining room (6) and kitchen (7), which also has a back door leading outside. Another doorway from the kitchen leads into the pantry (8) and wine closet (9). From the kitchen, a second hallway leads past quarters for the butler (10), servants (11) and maids (12). At the end of it is the library (13), before it leads back into the entry.
In the center of the house is the courtyard (14), which is open to the sky above and which is important for finding the hidden bottle, as detailed below.
On the upper level of the house are numerous guest rooms (15), along with the master bedroom (16) and an office (17).
Disturbing and Dangerous Details
To establish the atmosphere of this location, the GM should mention the following details.
- Ivy has grown up over the exterior walls, not with deliberation but with neglect.
- The house is lit by gaslights, albeit ones fueled with swamp gas generated in the ground beneath the manor, giving the whole place a sickly, burning, rotten egg smell.
- Much of the interior is covered in cobwebs and dust.
- A coffin sits in the parlor, as if for viewing; it contains an unpleasant surprise, as detailed below.
- The dining room table is set with a full banquet of food that is now mouldering and covered with insects.
- Against one wall in the entry there is an elaborate grandfather clock. While that might seem to be unimportant at first, it should become crucial to the PCs' efforts to find the bottle—as is detailed below.
The GM should, of course, feel free to improvise additional details in order to establish a suitably creepy atmosphere.
Finding the Bottle
To find the bottle in which Marinette is trapped, the PCs need to follow the three clues taken from one of the Knights.
- The first, “The crossroads point the way,” refers to the fact that, if one draws mental lines between the cavern's four entrances, they cross at a point in back left part of the courtyard. A Smarts check can identify the correct spot.
- Buried at that spot, then, is a small leather pouch that holds a similarly small key.
- That key fits into a slot on the aforementioned grandfather clock, which has wound down. What is more, its motionless hands point to a quarter past six; if the key is inserted and turned, and the hands are moved to twelve o'clock, then a hidden compartment pops open to reveal a single glass bottle—the one that contains Marinette.
The Knights' Gambit
While the PCs are exploring the manor, the wolves continue to stalk around outside the manor. If they find the bottle, then the knights make their move. One of the wolves gives a howl, alerting everyone else, starting the attack. Then the wolves attack the house, jumping in through the windows to reach the PCs. Among their number is the werewolf—either Hugo Francois LeBlanc or Samuel Clayton, depending on previous developments—who seeks to to unleash his patron loa.
Wolves (5): Refer to page 157 of the Savage Worlds rulebook for stats.
Werewolf: Refer to page 78 of the Sixth Gun RPG for stats.
Once that assault begins, the Knights bring the second wave. They have two squads of five knights, each led by a commander, in reserve, with a master giving them their orders. Desperate to gain the patronage of Marinette, they make an all-out attack.
Knights of Solomon (13): Refer to that supplement to find stats for these characters.
Pinkertons: If Alexandra Flynn has survived the PCs' previous adventures, then she might also
be present for this business; use the stats from page page 85 of the Sixth Gun RPG.
Anyone Else?: This showdown provides a good opportunity to bring back any other old foes
whom the PCs have faced, such as one of the Smiths or a character connected to a PC's
The Knights' foremost objective is to acquire the bottle in which Marinette is trapped.
If it becomes apparent that they can't win this assault, then they attempt an organized retreat toward the entrance from which they arrived—the one to the northwest. That leads back to the Knights' stronghold, as detailed in the aforementioned supplement.
This battle should be a real test for the PCs, and one in which they can prove their mettle. Victory means that they can prevent the Knights from unleashing Marinette of the Dry Arms, but still leaves a number of unanswered questions and unexplored possibilities.
Here are just a few of the turns that this story might take.
- One or more of the PCs could always decide to unleash Marinette in order to gain from her patronage. If that happens, then it's left up to the GM to decide just what kinds of powers she would provide. Refer to pages 35-6 of the Sixth Gun RPG to find rules for voodoo practitioners; Marinette could grant access to any of those powers. Of course, she has her own agenda, which includes taking revenge on the one who trapped her in the bottle in the first place.
- As long as the PCs possess the bottle in which she is trapped, the Knights of Solomon and others would continue trying to take it from them.
- If they want to settle the score with the Knights once and for all, then the PCs must venture toward their stronghold to do so.
- The library in the manor house presents a great opportunity for the GM to introduce new plot hooks and potential storylines.
The crossroads point the way.
The mother of all holds the key.
Look when the boundaries are open.