This is an introductory adventure that can be used to introduce a few new characters to the Cthulhu setting. It was written a long time ago, so it might need some changes to be adapted to newer systems.
This adventure takes place in the primordial forests of Canada. Players will have the opportunity to cross with the evil spirits that inhabit these remote places of wilderness, the Wendigo.
The climax of the adventure should be based at any time in the suspense and horror of loneliness and insignificance in the vastness of nature.
At least one player should be an expert hunter or ranger, so the adventure can develop normally. The rest should be teachers of Miskatonic University.
INFORMATION FOR PLAYERS
One of the characters will be good friend of Professor Henry Crawford, an anthropologist of some renown in the academic circle.
The professor departed by mid August to Canada with a small shipment comprised of himself, Professor Joseph Ropes, also anthropologist, and his nephew Michael, a student of the same subjects.
Although in principle the excuse for the trip was leisure, and they said they were going to hunt elk, their real motives were different. Crawford, big fan of supernatural mysteries and esoteric topics, was very interested in a spirit of forests, which people of Rat Portage spoke. His intention was to find out where the legend came from and what truth there was in it.
The player character who is acquainted with Professor Crawford, interested in his research, asked him to write regularly to discuss their progress. However Crawford only sent him two letters, one to get to Rat Portage, and other to where he mentioned that they had hired a guide and went to deep in the forest with the excuse to go hunting.
This was the last news of the expedition of Professor Crawford.
A month later, Miskatonic University received a notification from Rat Portage, where they reported that they had found the body of Michael Crawford, a student at the University, and requested that someone come to identify it and take over the matter.
The characters can go to Rat Portage, as commissioned by the university or on their own, bearing in mind that in the latter case, they’re unlikely to have access to the body of Michael, and there will be others sent from Miskatonic to investigate the area.
The trip to Canada will be by train, and down to Rat Portage, it will take three to four days. If the characters are particularly wealthy, they could take a plane, though the nearest airport is a long way away and will save little time.
The only authority present in Rat Portage is an outpost of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and a small town controlled by the mayor. The RCMP has taken over the body of the young Michael, since he was found by some loggers a few miles from town. The corpse is in a little morgue, in the basement of the police barracks.
There has been no autopsy, and if the characters insist in one, the police sergeant will not put any objection, except, of course, there is only one authorized doctor in an enormous area of territory, and can take several months to be made. Furthermore, according to the Sergeant, the young man got lost in the woods and died of hunger and cold, having been attacked by animals afterwards, such as muskrats, common in the area.
The body of Michael
If one of the players is a doctor, and want to make a preliminary autopsy on the body, the sergeant will not object. Of course there will be the most basic material to perform it.
The body has something that shows at first glance. The lower limbs are completely and horribly frozen. If asked, the sergeant confirms that when the corpse was picked up, it was already in that state.
A more thorough examination reveals small traces of dried blood around his eyes.
Even after death, the grin on his face shows that before his death he had lost all sanity.
If you could do an autopsy on conditions, the cause of death is not clear, although it seems clear that died from cold and fatigue. However, your stomach will be a worrying fact, since it appeared shortly before his death had ingested large quantities of moss.
By both asking local people, or searching for books about myths and legends of these woods, players can find out about local forest rumour that an evil spirit comes out at night in the vast forested landscapes. The exact area where it is claimed often appears is the Lake of the Fifty Islands, north of Rat Portage, a couple of days travel away.
Indian legends also mention the evil spirit, and have become the main source of superstition in the region. When an Indian goes becomes crazed, it is said to have seen the Wendigo, who calls his name in a voice that is said recalls the tiny noises of the forest: the wind, a waterfall, the cries of animals and stuff. Once the victim hears it, all is lost. It is also said that it captures his victim and makes him travel at high speed through the forest until the feet burn and eyes bleed. Also, it doesn’t just go on the ground, but climbs so high that the victim thinks the stars have set him on fire. Sometimes gives massive jumps and runs over the treetops, dragging his victim with him to drop them as does the albatross with his, before devouring them. But, of all things in the forest, the only thing the Wendigo eat is moss.
The old Hank Davis
In the course of their investigations, it is possible that some local will report that an old hunter guide, called Hank, often warn about the Wendigo wandering along the shore of Lake of the Fifty Isles.
If the players talk to him, he could tell what happened to a colleague who saw the Wendigo. It was years ago, when he was relatively young, he and his colleague Defago, were hired each year by a Scotsman named Carthcart, to serve as guides in the thick woods. Last year when they went hunting, Carthcart was accompanied by his nephew, a young theology student named Simpson. They were also accompanied an Indian cook named Punk, and on other occasions, although his work was only to stay in camp, fishing and preparing the venison and coffee.
After three days travelling north, they set up base camp where Punk would work, and decided to split the next day. He and Carthcart continue westward, following the path of Garden Lake, while Defago and Master Simpson would go to Lake of the Fifty Isles.
A couple of days later, Mr Simpson appeared at the base camp, with signs of exhaustion and delirium. The only thing he made sense of what that Carthcart and Defago disappeared in a mysterious way.
A sweep across the area searching they could find no trace of him. But returning to base camp they found him exhausted in the extreme, sifting through the ashes trying to light a fire. His body was there, crouched, his thing fingers barely able to light a fire with the help of a match. There was no intelligence to lead this simple operation. The mind had fled further and, with it, also the memory. He didn’t have not just lost the memory of recent events, but every vestige of their former life.
His face had no expression of any kind: no fear, no recognition, nothing. Simpson showed no sign of knowing anyone, not even Hank. Lost and broken beyond where human aid can reach, the man gently did what was told. That “something” that constituted the “individual self” was gone forever.
All he said, with a plaintive child’s voice, was that his feet hurt. Upon exhamination, they found out they were terribly icy.
Simpson only lived only a few weeks after this event.
Punk left base camp when he saw the shaky cartoon Simpson had turned into. When later asked why he fled, he said the terror of all his race had seized him, and knew what it all meant: Simpson had “seen the Wendigo.”
HIRING A GUIDE
If players want to go into the forest in search of the late Professor Crawford, the guardian should be instructed that without a guide who knows the area their chances of survival are minimal. They may hire an expert guide named Charles Tilton. He is famous in the area and currently free. However, the idea of going to Lake of the Fifty Isles will not appeal in the slightest, though he will not admit he is afraid.
STR 16 INT 12
CON 17 POW 10
SIZE 13 DEX 15
15 Hit points
1d4 damage bonus
Skills: Forest 85%, Discretion 70%, Listen 70%, Smell 70%, Dodge 40%, boat handling 85%, Swim 50%, Hide 80%, First Aid 50%, Track 90%, Climb 80%.
Attacks: 70% hunting rifle
IN THE FOREST
To reach the Lake of the Fifty Isles, the players will first have to reach a stream that connects with it, just three days away from Rat Portage. Then they need to follow the river for another half day in a canoe to reach an area of rapids, and from there continue on foot to the lake.
“The magnificence of this cold, lonely and remote forest overwhelms you and makes you feel insignificant. From the bluish treetops, waving gently in the horizon, a terrible and ruthless atmosphere that can only emanate from severely matted vegetation reveals itself to you. You understand the silent warning. You realize your utter helplessness in this wild and desolate territory “.
The canoe trip
After three days of walking through the forest, the characters will reach the river, only to find what remains of a fire not too far from the shore. Navigating the river will require a navigation or skill by whoever is controlling the vessel.
After half a day, a successful roll to search will reveal the players a boat or canoe hidden in the bank, shortly before the rapids. Is the boat in which the Crawford’s expedition got here, though this is just a guess. Another successful roll will reveal several notches rudely carved in nearby trees. On a third successful roll, the players can track the route followed by Crawford and Company.
“With the expedition equipment and a rifle on your shoulder, you begin to follow a faint trail through rocks, logs and half frozen ponds, skirting the numerous lakes that festoons the forest along its foggy banks. Around five o’clock, you suddenly find yourself at the edge of the forest. Before you open a vast expanse of water, dotted with countless islands covered with pines: Lake of the Fifty Isles”.
Lake of the Fifty Isles
“You can’t see many weeds in the vicinity of the lake. The trees rise somewhat further from the shore, widely spaced, and in the opened areas, thin and slender birch and maple grow side by side with huge trunks of fir trees. Were it not for felled tree trunks, of monstrous proportions, and the gray rock fragments half buried into the land, the site could have been the corner of an old park.
Twilight is becoming denser and the marshes are covered in shadows. The waves crashing along the rocky shore of the lake is the only sound. The wind has died down at sunset, and nothing is stirring in this vast world of branches.
Further ahead, lays the Lake of the Fifty Isles, which is like a crescent moon, fifteen miles long or so, and about five miles wide, from where you are. A pink and saffron sky, clearer than any you have seen in your life, sheds torrents of fire on the waves, and the islands appear to float as magical ships, covered with pine trees pointing to the sky!.
If the players follow the track on the trunks successfully, they reach an abandoned camp that belonged to the group that Crawford was leading. They will not be able to find anything of interest other than a note pinned to a stake beside the remains of a bonfire. The note is addressed to his nephew, and it has been left there in the event someone came looking for them and they had disappeared.
The note reads:
“Michael, we have gone looking for you. If you get back, wait here until we come back. There are provisions and matches, hidden at the foot of a fir tree, marked with an M, away from the lake.”
The first night by the Lake, during dinner, Tilton begin to grow restless, and sniff the air. Finally asks others if they notice a peculiar odour, considerably nervous, but if the players ask what’s wrong, he will claim that nothing happens, and will try to show he’s feeling calm and in control.
Another rare event during the dinner will be an unexpected gust of wind that curiously lifted only a dry leaf from the ground, where a lot lie, to fall gently back on the ground.
At night, during their sleep, Tilton begins to whine and cry, but drown his tears with his blanket. Either the character sharing the tent with him, or, if the players organize guards, whoever is on duty, can hear him.
You can also see that his feet are out of the tent as if someone or something had dragging him out slightly. Either way, he seems in a very deep sleep, ignoring possible warnings from the players.
Hours after the incident, and shortly before dawn, something much more sinister happen. Tilton will wake up and stand up trembling with fear, huddled against his tent companion. The sleepy player will see Tilton scared of something at the entrance of the tent.
Immediately, in the deep silence of dawn, you hear a strange and unspeakably awful noise. A barely human voice, deep, although plaintive, soft and booming at the same time, that seems to come from far above the ground and, at the same time, sounds very close to the entrance of the tent. An awesome and deep roar; however has some sweet and seductive quality. It cries two separate, barely recognizable syllables that make up the name of the guide: “Til-ton.” Sanity check: 1/1D6.
Then the guide will jump up and say something unintelligible to the voice that calls him. For a second remains rigid at the entrance of the tent. Then he will be thrown through it with amazing speed. Being able to hear his voice disappearing in the distance shouting in a tone of anguish and terror:
“Oh, my feet of fire! My burning feet of fire! Oh, burning height!”
As the sound of his voice disappears, the sun breaks through the horizon bringing a tremulous light to the landscape.
During the whole scene, players may notice a pungent odour, not unlike the exhaled by caged animals, but softer, and not entirely unpleasant. Slightly sweet, it reminds them of the scent of autumn leaves in a garden, the fragrance of the earth, and the thousand scents that rise from a vast forest. The smell will fade gradually disappears after Tilton.
The footprints in the snow
With a track roll, players will find the footprints in the snow that Tilton left in its wild race, less than a mile from the camp. These footprints appear next to those of some other large animal. At first glance may seem moose. However, a more thorough examination of the footprints, show that they are not elk;, by any means. These prints are large, round, wide, not shaped like a sharp pointed claw. Looking more closely in the footsteps, they will notice a whiff of sweet and penetrating odour, which will produce nausea.
The snow does not form a continuous carpet, but only slight layers in the clearer areas, so following the trail will require another roll to follow tracks.
Later, the footsteps in the snow suddenly begin to move away, until, finally, their separation is such that it seems absolutely impossible for any animal give such huge strides (6 meters), but more disturbing is that the traces of Tilton also increase in length gradually to cover exactly the same distance. It seems as if the huge beast had dragged him in these amazing jumps. Sanity roll: 1D2/1D8
Later, the animal footprints begin to acquire a coloured tint, a reddish and mysterious tinge, apparently due to a lighting effect to a substance that permeates the snow rather than a pigment. As progress is made the hue becomes more intense.
Tilton’s footprints will have experienced an infinitely worse change. During the last hundred yards or so, they have begun to resemble the tracks of an animal. The change is not extreme, but unmistakable. The players cannot see where it begins, but the result, however, is beyond doubt; smaller, sharper, shaped with greater clarity, the traces of Tilton, are at this point an almost exact duplicate of the others. Sanity roll: 1D3/1D10
A little further, suddenly, all tracks terminate. The two set of prints suddenly disappear, without leaving any sign they were ever there. There will be no more regardless how hard the players search. At this point you will hear the voice of Tilton very far away, high up, weakened by the height and distance. Extremely sorrowful, it says:
“Ah! What a burning height! Ah, my feet of fire! My feet are burning!”. Sanity check: 0/1D4
The night after the disappearance of the guide, the new Tilton, transformed into a Wendigo, comes back. Something will cross the dark sky above the players at a prodigious speed. Something very large, because it will produce a large gust of wind. At the same time, through the trees, a weak human voice will cry in a tone of indescribable anguish:
“Ah! What burning height! Ah! My feet of fire! My burning feet of fire!” . Sanity check: 0/1D6
Before anyone has time to make a decision, you hear a noise of something falling through the trees, breaking branches, and lands with a tremendous blow on the frozen ground, with a truly terrible and thunderous impact. Soon steps crunching the snow that seem will never arrive. A few steps slow, heavy, endless like a nightmare. Finally, a figure emerges from the darkness, though not entirely, walking with unsteady steps, hesitant, jerky like a puppet. Meanwhile, a whiff of that pungent, unusual, malignant and intoxicating at once will hit the players.
Then, the sound of Tilton’s voice springs from his lips. It’s a dry voice, faint, cavernous:
“Here I am, boss. Someone called me. I’ve been away. I’ve been through the fires of Hell … It’s not bad …”
If players try to attack him Tilton disappears again into the shadows at a unusual speed, only to come back with more aggressive intentions from now on.
If, however, they tell him to come near the fire, the light will show that Tilton has become a parody of his own image; a ghostly caricature that still retains some dreadful and remote vestiges of his aspect. His face contorted in proportions more animal than human. The skin, flaccid and hanging, as if he had been subjected to physical stresses and strains, vaguely reminiscent of an empty water skin. In his face two eyes like two black coals closely scrutinize all things, while, just like a beast, sniffs the air around him. But most frightening of all are his feet, which have been transformed into a blackish hairy mass, not at all human. Sanity check: 1D4/1D12.
He then continues talking with his strange voice: “I’ve seen the great Wendigo – Now, you have seen, too. You have seen my burning feet of fire!” And now .. well, unless you can save me and avoid … little time for … ”
At that same moment, his sad voice is interrupted by a noise like the roar of a storm coming across the lake. The trees shake their tangled branches. The flames of the fire shake, battered by a violent blast, and something will fly over the camp with thunderous fury.
Tilton then will turn back into the forest and go away at a speed so astonishing that by the time players start to try and follow him, he will be swallowed by the darkness. Shortly afterwards, above the whipped trees and the roar of the wind, players hear with a heavy heart, a cry that seems to come from a great height.
From this moment on, every night the players will be hunted by the Wendigo that Tilton has become, until they return to Rat Portage. If they succeed, they will never again hear of Tilton, but in his worst nightmares remember that terrible cry, the wretched figure of the guide and, above all, his shocking and burning feet of fire.
STR 24 INT 12
CON 25 POW 10
SIZE 13 DEX 20
Hit points 19
Skills: Move silently 70%, Listen 90%, Smell 90%, Dodge 80%, Hide 80%, Track 90%, Climb 80%, Jump 99%.
Attacks: Bite 40%
Note: It is extremely fast.