Ubersreik on Show

Or “Never Trust a Man with a Sub-Optimal Allocation of Facial Features”

The next day, the team heads off to The Hill and Madame Beaumarteau to purchase appropriate costumes for such a dazzling event. Torus ends up dressed as a white witch hunter, Immolatus is resplendent in a dress, Yuri is in some bird and harlequin outfit, and Grudge selects a silver penis mask and black tights (obviously still groggy and not thinking too straight after his combat with the flagellants). This of course results in to any number of ‘humorous’ comments from his companions along the lines “Don’t ask me—mask me!”, “Put Your Ass Next to My Mask”, etc. It rapidly looks like a very, very bad—and all too expensive—idea.

While in the shopping mood, the adventurers make some additional purchases, notably a sling and shot for Torus. They sit around and rehashes the political situation, with some focus on Margrave Reinhardt von Mackensen as a possible solution to the problem of an otherwise very bad bunch of potential candidates.

And so to the ball. Arriving stylishly but not too late, there are already many attendees.

Yuri enters first, and is loudly introduced by the doorman to the thronging, noble crowd. Who ignore him. He immediately begins searching for possibly underground access to the premises. After all, any Chaos attack is bound to be surreptitious and secretive, right? They’re scarcely going to be knocking at the front door, are they?

Next to make their entrance are Torus and Immolatus, sweeping majestically (cough cough) into the ball ome minutes later. They too are loudly introduced by the doorman, and are also completely ignored. Torus heads upstairs to case the joint. Picking a couple of locks as he goes, he discovers that the mansion is clearly a rented property, with little in the way of entrenched—mostly storage rooms and servant quarters. Most of the rooms are unlocked, and none reveals anything of interest—not even any snogging couples at this early hour.

Immolatus notices von Bruner arguing with a young man dressed up in von Bruner livery with the cheeky addition of stuffed fabric tentacles as a costume, and moves on to Aschaffenberg, who is quick to point out (to the extent he can be bothered to talk at all to such lowly scum) that he didn’t invite any of the party to the Ball. The invitation was a forgery.

Aschaffenberg’s embarrassed, sotto voce direction to Immolatus is “Don’t draw attention to yourselves…”

…as Grudge walks in….

…to be introduced as quietly by the doorman as possible…

…as a silence gathers among the crowd, who turn to stare disbelievingly at the sight of a skin tight clad gnarly little bearded dwarf hidden behind a silver penis mask. For a second the night hangs in the balance, the adventurers hold their breath—then with a collective shrug the nobles return to their respective conversations. After all, it is the Ubersreik Masked Ball…

As Yuri wanders around the back and outside, searching for possible points of ingress, Immolatus notices one of von Saponatheim’s men surreptitiously spiking Aschaffenberg’s drink. Swiftly, Immolatus knocks the drink out of the Baron’s hand, cementing his reputation as a klutz but possibly saving Aschaffenberg from a dangerous—or at the very least embarrassing—incident. Is von Saponatheim the quarry?

Torus sidles up to Baron von Holzenauer for a quick chat, and quickly discovers that he also did not invite the adventurers, and that his purported invitation was also a forgery. Two out of three ain’t good. A quick check with the current prime suspect, von Saponatheim, confirms the party’s worst fears—he also had no intention to (and in fact did not) invite them.

This is terrible—not because some secret hand has deliberately and fraudulently arranged for our heroes to be present at the Ball for undeniably deadly reasons, but because it begs the question—why In Sigmar’s Beard did the party actually bother to jump through all of the nobles’ hoops? They could have just sat around at the pub and waited for the mysterious invitations to arrive.

So what now? Circulating and chatting really isn’t the adventurers’ strong point. Grudge notices some dwarves at the front door arguing with von Holzenauer—assuming they’re trying to get in for the free beer, he walks over to get them in. Of course, he has totally misread the situation—they don’t want to come in, they want money that von Holzenauer has borrowed from them. Tempers fray a bit (presumably not helped by the fact that the money-lending dwarves are in heated discussion with what is effectively a shiny penis-shaped mirror, and seeing one’s reflection in that particularly disturbing scenario is never conducive to rational and level-headed negotiation). Finally, the dwarves leave, with imprecations and dire threats hanging heavy in the air. Grudge however achieves no useful social benefit from his involvement—von Holzenauer wanders off (presumably to borrow some more money…)

Yuri, meanwhile, is still doing his investigative turn. Now outside in the dark, away from the bright lights, fine food and ample, pale décolletage, he hears the sound of barking dogs from the far back corner of the property. Casually looking over the wall, he starts to chat up a woman nearby. With consummate social skill, he manages to end up on the receiving end of a challenge from her husband. As he begins to disentangle himself from potential affray with the slightly disingenuous excuse that he couldn’t see too well in the dark, Yuri notices a sudden crescent of light as the kitchen door opens below. Suspecting the worse, he leaps over the wall—and plunges like a shapeless turd to the courtyard below. Ouch. However, he does notice the signs of spilled water by the well. Could it have been some servant merely drawing water from the well, or could the cultists have emerged from the sewers below? Carefully ‘Sherlock’ Stubbindrikov begins a hunt for footprints, but somehow slips on the spilled water and slimy cobblestones and finds himself once more lying on the ground, another wound on his person. Covered in stains, grass and mud, he tries to wipe himself clean, but he only makes it worse—his once fine plummage and harlequinary now reduced to a formless muddy mess. Perhaps he can pass off his costume as a sewer jack…

Yuri gives up on his external investigations and moves into the kitchen. As he does so, the chimney in the kitchen starts belching black, dense, eye-watering smoke—“oh My God—the chips!”. No, this is not merely the effects of a forgotten suckling pig—there is something nefarious afoot. From his vantage point below the level of the billowing smoke (well, almost), Grudge notices a cultist kneecap, and promptly smashes it to little bits. In what must be a fair bit of pain, the cultist drops a vial of some substance, which Grudge manages to snatch from the air before it falls and smashes on the ground.

Meanwhile, in the dining room as the smoke slowly makes its billowing presence felt, Torus and Immolatus notice von Saponatheim’s suspicious man from earlier in the evening surreptitiously spiking the punch. In a later age they might suspect Rohipnol, but in the current circumstances surely it can only mean… CULTIST! CHAOS! BURN HIM! Immolatus trips the perilous punch poisoner, who unfortunately drops his vessel of toxin in a billowing cloud over all the food. The party is really descending into chaos—literally.

“It was definitely better last year…” one of the guests is heard to mutter.

The triumphant adventurers drag the protesting perilous punch poisoner to his master and wicked Master of Chaos, von Saponatheim, who unfortunately convincingly protests that, sure, he was trying to make everyone nauseous to turn von Holzenauer’s party into a disaster, but the burgeoning Chaos fight in the kitchen has nothing to do with him. He would never countenance having such riff-raff at the Masquerade Ball (a not-so-subtle dig at our adventurers?)

If this was a novel, the failure of that particular denouement would mean that a sudden event would occur which…

And outside a carriage from hell arrives. There is a scream at the gate, and from the gloom emerges a wagon drawn by emaciated horses. Accompanied by a horde of diseased cultists, nurglings and probably tax collectors, it draws up to the gate. It is suddenly pretty clear that secrecy is not part of plan after all. This is a full frontal assault with all the subtlety of the moon of Morrsleib, hanging green and baleful in the night sky.

As if in a breathless, hushed pause, everything suspends briefly—the carriage door opens and out steps an enormous, brutal-looking, truly terrifying (and nasty as crap) Chaos cultist and behind him, from the darkness of the cabin, steps—no, you have to be kidding me… Noseless Brandt! Our erstwhile sewer jack!

(Each of our Protagonists makes a mental note that the list of reasons never to take up a job as an Underling sewer jack has just increased by one… your noseless Boss is likely to be a Chaos Cultist Grade 1.)

Time returns with a rush, and the guests and guards are beset on all sides. The noise is sudden and overwhelming—the screams of women, the shouts of men, the gibbering of nurglings, the flatulence of Grudge. The Ball is a swirling, whirling maelstrom of chaos and carnage. “Up the stairs!” shouts one of our party. Some of the guests start heading to the upper floors, while the adventurers form up in defence against what looks like a particularly nasty piece of combat. “This was one invitation we should have turned down—there’s not enough free food and booze in the whole Empire to make up for this…”

The champion moves forward, ugly and ugly and ugly. Our heroes set themselves on the lower stairs, blocking access to the upper floors (and the frightened throng) and prepared to sell their lives dearly. Actually, prepared to kill as many creatures as possible and then run.

As the Chaos champion enters the melee, Grudge, Yuri and Torus all hit, healthy strikes that chisel away at the massive, warped, truly vile frame, but not enough to stop the ponderous killing machine. He returns the favour with interest, sending Grudge reeling. But our heroes are back in the fray, landing more blows until Immolatus finishes him off with a magic missile.

“You cannot kill m…” mutters the Champion as he pitches forward on his face. Famous last words—it’s just unusual that they come from one of the Bad Guys.

Brandt seems just a little perturbed, and more than a little pissed. This was not in the script—a Champion of Chaos is supposed to do a little more carnage than that. Oh well, if you want something done…

Which is why they invented the spell Nurgle’s Hand. With fiendish gestures and guttural murmurings, Brant unleashes his noisome power upon Immolatus, who suffers severe but non-terminal injuries. Now it is the Noseless Bastard’s turn…

The battle still rages. Bodies, and parts thereof, lie everywhere. Guests run this way and that, screaming as they are cut down by cultists or ridden by cackling nurglings. Blood, gore, brains, indeterminate bodily fluids. Mixed with the smoke from the kitchen, the smell and filth is overpowering. There is a very good chance that von Holzenauer will not be getting back his bond for the lease.

Adopting an adventurous fighting style more suited for his idiom, Torus steps from his vantage point on the stairs onto a stuffed bear, and then leaps for the chandelier so that he can swing and land on Brandt. Of course, he misses—this is perhaps more his idiom.

Acrobatics and flamboyant Flynn-ism is obviously catching: Yuri, too, decides on an adventurous approach to his combat with Brandt. Elegantly he runs up a pile of bodies and launches himself from the Champion’s corpse, but finds his foot entangled on the grotesque armour. Less elegantly, he trips, slips on the ichor-drenched floor and falls heavily. Somewhere, the Gods laugh.

Now it’s Grudge’s turn. Somehow failing to learn his lesson from the attempts of his companions, he launches himself through the air at Brandt and surprisingly lands an effective blow. But then falls to the side. Substance over form, that’s the motto.

Enraged, Brandt lashes out at Grudge, for minor damage. Now it’s Grudge’s turn to seek recompense for the many days of discomfort, mud, blood, injury and bad beer. With a final massive blow to Brandt’s nosehole, the dwarf finishes off the Nurgle-worshipping mastermind.

All is quiet, save the quiet sobs and last, dying gasps of the wounded and… dying (obviously). The scene is unbelievable, and will live forever in the memories of those guests who fail to seek solace in alcohol or drugs. OK, so most of them will forget almost immediately. Still, for now it is a vile, sobering vision. Slowly down the stairs, effectively arm in arm, come Aschaffenberg, von Holzenauer and von Saponatheim—is this a turning of a corner? Has this night of horror drawn them together, unifying them and offering hope for Ubersreik? Nope. Within seconds each is off, expounding their individual exploits and disparaging the efforts of their competition.

Sickened by their self-interest, Grudge turns to the Margrave and suggests that what Ubersreik needs is a single, unifying, external leader who will end the divisiveness and help Ubersreik to recover from the trauma of the evening Chaos attack and lead the city into a new, brighter more prosperous age (or mono-syllabic words to that effect).

The Margrave looks at Grudge with a mixture of puzzlement and incredulity, and replies “After this evening’s events, I’m heading straight home. Ubersreik can stew in its own filthy juices, as far as I’m concerned”.

“Et tu Margrave? And so falls Ubersreik…”

Dispirited, our weary adventurers head out into the night air. Looking up, they see that the bilious green of Morrsleib has given way to the true moon’s silver light. Which is all well and good, but you can’t eat, drink, sell or have sex with silvery light. This adventuring lark is turning much less profit and much more personal damage and angst than seems tenable. The Accountants’ Guild looks more tempting every day…

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Invitations to a Ball

Or “How I Learn’d to Stop Worrying and Love Sigmar”

As Grudge heads off to von Bruner’s Mansion, Yuri and Immolatus race to Aschaffenberg for the (hopefully) self-interested Aschaffenberg cavalry. Torus starts off for the City Watch, but (with fortuitous prescience) quickly applies principles of economic laissez-faire capitalism to the combat scenario and decides that public service based military support will be no substitute for his own private sector participation and hurries after Grudge. Of course, at no time did any of these thoughts actually pass through his head…

Grudge arrives at the von Bruner mansion just one step ahead of the ravening, blood-crazed, chaos-obsessed mob, and looks around for a raised site from which he can address the crowd from a suitable height. In the absence of a 10 foot pedestal, he makes do with a small rise near the gate. Even worse than the fact that he can scarcely make eye-to-eye contact with the front row of the crowd, it appears that to get the initial attention of the rowdy participants will require leadership skills before Grudge can even attempt intimidation. Of course, being ugly, unpleasant and of doubtful intellectual skills, he has no hope. His fall-back is to stand before the gate and ask “who dies first?”. He never expects that the answer might be him.

Realising he can’t get through the growing crowd, Torus climbs up onto a balcony to get a good vantage point for the inevitable shotting of arrows.

As he does so, the ravening pack of religious zealots gets a little too close to Grudge for comfort, and Grudge responds by landing a huge blow on the leader of the flagellants, only to get surprisingly hammered in return. Torus lets fly with an arrow which hits the leader’s head.

Meanwhile, Yuri and Immolatus arrive at the Aschaffenberg manor and inform his men-at-arms what is going on, then begin to hurry back to the von Bruner mansion.

Torus shoots again, and with telling repetition drops his bow. None of the flagellants or participating townspeople have been killed as yet, but things are looking mighty grim for Grudge, who decides discretion is the better part of cowardice, drops to the ground, and begins crawling through the feet of the crowd, wounded and getting dangerous close to death as he endures a rain of blows.

Suddenly, an imposing figure arrives at the scene, announcing his arrival with shots into the air from two pistols. The shocked crowd parts as he walks to the gate. He is a hard man, in the latter half of his life but still vigorous and dangerous-looking. His beard is white, and his face is a mass of scars.

“Go back to your homes,” he says to the crowd.

“But they’re witches..!” [“he’s got a wart!”]

The warrior tells the crowd that all will be decided in time. Turning to the adventurers, he asks “is your friend alive?”

“Only just… he’s on the verge of death” [because of your Sigmar loving flagellant bastard friends]

“Get him to the Temple of Shallya.”

“Just out of curiosity, and not a big thing, but you are….?”

“I Am Matthias Krieger, witch hunter” [no shit on the Witch hunter bit. Are there any more weapons that could be hung on that self-righteous frame?]

The flagellants are still inflamed, but cowed by the presence of this mighty witch hunter of Sigmar.

Yuri’s attempts at first aid are successful, but Grudge remains unconscious.

“There will be an inquiry after I return from my missions to the Cursed Marches near Marienburg” [Don’t hurry back on our account]

“You have handled a dangerous situation well,” says Krieger to the adventurers, “Sigmar’s blessings upon you.” [Oh, everything’s OK then] “Oh, and by the way—don’t leave town while we sort this out.”[Yeah, like to see you try to find us. On the other hand, maybe not…]

Ahhh, nothing like a deus ex machina—can’t live with ‘em, can’t live with ’em. With 20:20 hindsight, the party should have waited for ol’ Matty the Witch Poker to save the day. Of course, they actually could have had absolutely no idea that they could afford to sit around playing cards to let him save the Von Bruner mansion. So damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Damned generally really. Clearly a Grim World of Perilous Adventure rather than a Fairly Mild World of Logic and Fairness. Perhaps an investigation of jobs with the Accountancy Guild is on the cards….

The adventurers return to the Temple of Shallya, despite thir unreasonable fear of glove-donning temple healers. Another donation is made. Grudge is healed—to an extent; the worst of his critical wounds are healed anyway. Of course, the symptoms of the Green Pox still manage to cling with their metaphorical slimy fingers to Torus and Immolatus.

Next morning, a figure appears behind the curtain around Grudge’s bed at the Temple of Shallya hospice. It is Sister Sonya, the blind woman at Grunwald Manor. Great—lots of good memories from that particular location.

Sister Sonya seems excited. “It is Shallya’s wish that we should meet again. Korden Kurgansson died last week, and he entrusted something to me— his hammer. His last wish, above all things, was for it to be returned to his ancestors at Karak Azgaraz.”

Grudge is not your typical dwarf however, and uunmoved by things such as ancient debts of honour. Besides, that place kicked him out. Sister Sonya doesn’t appear to be interested in taking no for an answer, however.

Later, the adventurers meet with Piotr Koch, von Saponatheim’s man, who entusts them with a small task before the night of masquerade ball arrives. Von Saponatheim wishes to solidify his links with the ‘common folk’ of Ubersreik, but it seems they are one step ahead of him and wary of talking to the men of a noble. He wishes them to track down the location of the local Temple of Ranald.

On the way to von Holzenauer’s, Torus feels his purse tugged, and have been once bitten, is twice shy. He whirls about and grabs a street urchin, whom he interrogates. He learns the best lead for finding the Temple of Ranald is to talk to the a fellow called Kraemer, who can be found at Rugger’s Boarding House.

The adventurers visit Rugger’s, a two-story half-timbered cheap boarding house run by an aging widow known as Gran’ma. Asking for Kraemer, they are directed upstairs, where a bodyguard stands outside a nondescript door.

The door leads to one large room with five circular tables at which men play cards or dice games and a bar along one wall. Various ruffians play cards and hang around. Everyone seems suspicious of newcomers, but Kraemer, playing cards at one of the tables, is pointed out to them.

“My name is Torus Lavarar—you may know my father. Mr Kraemer I presume…”

Kraemer is friendly enough but not about to divulge the location of the Temple to just anyone. He asks for proof that Torus is a Ranald disciple but Torus is unable to come up with any of Ranald’s basic precepts. So instead, he challenges Torus to a game of Sigmar and Gertrude, with a gold piece at stake. Luckily, Torus wins in a close game and Kraemer is as good as his word, and tells him the location of the Temple and the secret knock to get in.

Back at the Axe and Hammer, the adventurers pass on this information to Piotr Koch, von Saponatheim’s man.

Back to the Red Moon Inn, and there the adventurers again meet Leonhard Zauberlich, Aschaffenberg’s man, who emphasises again that as a deeply pious fellow, Aschaffenberg wishes to distance himself from the adventurere and their activities. The other adventurers are anoyed and leave him to return to the Temple of Shallya for healing, but Yuri stays behind and attempts a more diplomatic approach, which seems to win Zauberlich over somewhat.

As the day comes to a close, the barman at the Red Moon informs the adventurers that three envelopes have been left for them. Inside, they find three invitations to the masquereade, one each from Aschaffenberg, von Saponatheim, and von Holzenauer. Three disparate employers… things have only just started to get really complicated…

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“There’s No Such Thing As Giant Rats…..”

Or “A Turn For the Wirtz…”

In the warm, dim glow of the early morning sun, the entrance to the sewers looming in front of the party seems almost innocuous. Then ‘Noseless’ Brant turns the key and throws back the creaking door. “Welcome to my wonderful world”, he beams. Given his odious visage and annoying personality, the vomitous odour wafting from the portal, and the watery glint of light off the effluent beyond, the World of Brant is a rather questionable travel location…

As the band steps into the reeking red brick tunnel, coughing and spluttering and trying desperately not to lose breakfast so soon after ingesting it, they note that Brant is blithely unaware of his surroundings. Of course, his attitude to the smells is based on his main physical attribute (or lack thereof). But he is known as ‘Noseless’ Brant, not ‘Blind’ Brand, and so his casual approach to the visual horror before him can only be based on years in the sewers, inuring him to what can only be described as a veritable litany of putridness. There is, of course, excrement in all its guises, in every state (liquid, solid, semi-liquid, semi-solid) and colour (brown, brown, light brown, dark brown, brown, grey-brown, green-brown, brown grey-brown… you get the idea) imaginable. But there is also worse—the bodies of rats, cats, dogs and other beasts that cannot even be imagined in their matted, gnawed, putrescent, soaking, filthy state. There are unidentifiable lumps and bumps; sudden motions and slow movements; swirling, rainbow, oily runnels and choking, oozy festering channels. Before long each member of the group is prepared to swap a swarm of chaos demons for any longer in the festering tunnels. But they have a job to do; one which clearly in hindsight was not paying nearly enough…

Despite the fact that light will only make the nightmare landscape clearer, it’s clear that operating in complete darkness would not be particularly sensible, so Torus begins to prepare a torch for ignition.

“Hmmmm, I’d be wary o’ that” says Brant, holding up his own covered lantern. “Been known to be some strange gases down ’ere that tend to set them things off. You gots to watch fer strange smells as a warnin’…” Our travellers eye each other—there is nothing but strange smells down here. And what would Brant know about smells? Still, the advice makes sense, so rather than naked flame, Immolatus sets a magic glamour of light upon the end of his staff.

As well as the sights and smells—and in some ways more disturbing than either—are the sounds from the darkness. Dripping water and other liquids, echoing and magnified to have an actual life of their own; the scuttling and chittering of rats and other subterranean creatures; and the unidentifiable slobberings, sighings, wheezings… even giggling… out of the shadows. Just the wind searching through the tunnels? Or something worse, and unmentionable?

“There’s no such thing as giant rats” Grudge reminds Torus, none too convincingly.

“This way, this way” says Brant. “I’ll take you to the rough spot near where Wirtz vanished.” (The ‘rough spot’? There’s a rougher spot?)

The party moves through the dark, Brant’s lantern and Immolatus’s enchanted flame throwing malformed shadows and shapes upon the foetid walls. As they move, the adventurers realise that the old advice that, over time, you get used to awful smells is… complete rubbish. Nothing gets better, and each five minutes feels like five hours.

So, centuries later, the bold and grimy heroes are led to a dank, square room with a central grill, which is clearly an overflow point for collecting storm water… and every other vile object that happens to arrive. In one corner is a pile of sodden boxes and other random detritus.

“Well, here it is,” says Brant. Yuri scrabbles through the boxes and after some time finds a hidden manhole.

“Do you know where this goes?” he asks.

“Nope. Well, I’ll leave you to it then,” and off goes brave, helpful Brant. Gazing after his vanishing lantern (and detailed knowledge of the sewers), not a few of the party wonder if anyone would notice the quick and violent disappearance of Ubersreik’s Master Sewerjack. However, the opportunity to act on inclination quickly passes, and our adventurers are left alone in the flickering dark.

Girding their loins and other body parts, they lift the manhole and head down into the (even more) stinking (even more) dark.  At the bottom, boot-deep in muck and mire, they look around. Immolatus, trusting his sorcerous intuition, leads them unerringly toward their goal, Torus supporting him with observations revealing the occasional passage of unidentified third parties.

After a time of squelching progress and tentative detective work, a distant noise is heard. Squeaking, scuttling, scratching—getting closer and closer. “Giant Rats?” breathes the party…

Nope—just a swirling horde of large sewer rats that breaks like a tide of fur, claws and flesh from around the corner in front of them and crashes upon the party, flinging biting, scrabbling rodents upon one and all. Suddenly each one of them is beating off multiple attacks of tooth and claw. Flailing through the furry torrent with magical flame and mundane steel, the party finally carves a path through the swarm, to emerge beyond, jittery and shaken. Perhaps a mere handful of Giant Rats would have been preferable…

Onwards now, through the darkness until Immolatus leads his colleagues to the half-eaten remains of a human body, lying deep in the filth of the tunnels. It isn’t Wirtz—this body is dressed in the tattered remains of a green jerkin and a robe.  Not the attire of the City Watch; instead, it is strangely reminiscent of the attire of the cultists at Hugeldal.

A quick search of the corpse reveals 3 shillings and a note:

The mysteries of life and death
are not within your holy books
or even written in the stars.
They are inscribed on your very flesh.
Each gangrenous wound, each
itching boil, each suppurated abcess
illuminates the majesty of the
true master of the world.

Also—although it is hard to tell with such a badly preserved body (eye balls long disappeared, flesh extensively gnawed)—but do the remains of the chest suggest particular trauma in that region?

On the party goes, following instinct and subtle clues (and, in Grudge’s case, critically wounding himself upon a spiked board, submerged and unobserved under the sewer’s foul liquids), until they once again hear faint noises from out of the gloom. But these are not the dry sounds of rats on the move—they sound wet and slobbery; could it actually be… someone, or something, eating?

Of course it is! Cautiously rounding a corner, the nightmare tableau of three Crypt Ghouls stooping over their unwholesome meals is revealed. Seeing the light, and sensing warm, fresh meat, they raise their bloodied heads—“Braaaaains! Braaaaains!” (Why this peculiar ghoul predilection for brains? Why not liver, or kidney? Or a nice backstrap. Although “Baaaackstraaaap. Baaaaackstraaap” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…)

Fighting their almost debilitating fear, the band flings themselves upon the Unholy Creatures. The combat lasts longer than expected—they are hardy adversaries, and are joined by three more ghouls shortly into the combat. They even land a few blows, but no diseases are transmitted and eventually axe, sword, fire and arrow prevails over claw and fang.

Panting, the adventurers stand over the battered ghoul corpses. Quickly Yuri applies rough first aid—a risky business, in the dark, and deep in unhygienic slime, but the efforts are both successful and contamination-free. Looking around, they see large double doors in one wall of the room in which they stand. Torus leans forward to listen at the door—and jumps back, with some evil crawling creature nibbling at the inside of his ear. A Grim World… etc etc. Batting the critter away, Torus confirms that he heard some liquid noises from behind the doors.

Rapidly deciding that, although discretion may be the better part of valour, it’s not nearly as fun as indiscretion, Yuri and Grudge burst through the doors to behold—a Demon!! Yay, another one!

This slimy daemon-beast resembles a huge, pallid slug, but with two webbed claws at the front, and a mass of paralyzing tentacles, teeth, and tongues for a head. Belying its repugnant appearance, it seems bizarrely friendly, its tentacles quivering with excitement, and its slugtails wagging, splashing toxic slime everywhere.

The giant slug-puppy slowly oozes towards the party, emanating the most curious sensation that it wants to hug and be as one with the adventurers (a Zen slug-puppy demon?). Once again, tendrils of fear work their way through our party’s psyches. They are perhaps not nearly as jaded and robust as they would like to think…

Those with ranged weapons—namely, Immolatus and Torus—start to argue about who will strike first. So Grudge and Yuri decide to short-circuit the prevarication and leap to the attack. After all, if you’ve killed one demon, you’ve killed them all.

Grudge lands a solid blow; the creature strikes at Yuri with its glistening pseudopods, but luckily misses, and Yuri counterblows. To the extent that one can tell such things, the slug seems to be weakening. Then things get really serious—Immolatus conjures a fully powered magic dart swarm. Like rain on jelly (a ‘blender and jelly’ analogy is a little too anachronistic) the darts shred the demon, spreading goo and slime onto the already filthy walls. Is there the faintest feeling of unrequited love from the monster as it is spread widely around the near vicinity?

Beyond the splattered remains of the beast is a single room with a domed brick ceiling, off which lead three entrances to three smaller rooms. In the first room is an iron gate, behind which crouches a gibbering figure, dressed in the remains of the clothes of a city watchman. It seems that Wirtz has been found, in body if not in spirit. He is a bedraggled, unkempt, slobbering, incoherent mess—and his eyes have been gnawed out of his face. 

Attempts to communicate fail dismally, as he continues to gnaw at what looks awfully like the remains of a rat, and gibbers a bit. Torus finds a key and goes so far as to enter the room to attempt to speak with the wretch, but it is hopeless. All he finds is a note, written in blood from the hacked stumps of Wirtz’s fingers, which reads:

Grandfather will watch
the ‘great ones’
Dance and caper
while they can
They know not that
the Fraternity of the
Second Flesh
are the true masters of

The party prevails upon Torus to leave the room (and lock the door behind him!)

The other two rooms are effectively empty—some broken, decrepit furniture and odd circular runes being the main forms of decoration. Immolatus casts back though his knowledge of the arcane to confirm that these are runes of Nurgle, at which Grudge has a brain wave—the text of the various notes, the attire of the corpse, the demon, it can mean only one thing: “I think we’re dealing with Nurgle Chaos Cultists!” he proclaims. Embarrassed, the band of adventurers doesn’t quite know what to say, and are saved by a scream which erupts from Wirtz. Running to his cage, they sees his chest writhing, flailing and roiling, the flesh over his ribs bubbling with sub-cutaneous energy, and then with a vile splattering and ripping Wirtz’s chest explodes to release six bloodied nurglings like horrific newborns.  If the Old World had cinemas, the parties would have been reminded of Ridlius von Scottus’s classic Alienus (only multiplied by six).

Stunned, the party can only watch as the nurglings leap through the bars and charge past them, giggling and screeching, down the hallway. Then, as if a spell had broken, the adventurers turn and charge after the foul creatures.

Torus decides that he is not fleet enough to catch them, so stops and nocks an arrow. It is a difficult shot in the dark, against small moving targets, but in an inspired piece of archery Torus’s arrow plucks a nurgling from the floor and drives it against a wall, kicking and struggling to the end. Of the others in the group, only Grudge can keep up with the demons, his stubby legs pumping like a piece of dwarven machinery unknown to the Empire at large so a reference to it in this context will mean little to anyone. Waving his axe, he slices one nurgling in half (each half continuing to run for a pace before it looks at its other half, realises it’s dead, and falls over) and squashes another. But then they are at a ladder, and up it flee the nurglings, throwing open a manhole and plunging pell-mell into—Ubersreik’s busy market. Of course. They could have fled into an alley, or a warehouse, or a brothel—somewhere they wouldn’t have been noticed. Instead, out into the biggest crowd, in the marketstrasse, at its peak of business. Chaos has immaculate timing…

Immediately the market square rings with screams and cries. Grudge starts yelling “hairless rats!” in an attempt to quell fears, but within moments the terrified crowd converts this cry to “hairless demons!”, “demon rats!”, “hairless demon rats!” and even “harbinger ranting doctors!” (possibly someone was a little hard of hearing…)

The three remaining nurglings part ways, one towards a priest of Sigmar, one towards a raving Sigmar flagellant on a podium and one towards a small group of children playing ring-a-ring-a-rosy. Grudge heads for the priest and Torus and Immolatus to the flagellant. Yuri starts towards the children but is interrupted by a flagellant handing him a sheet of parchment—“Repent! Repent! etc etc.” So Yuri hits him. Hard. Then continues running after his target.

Grudge reaches his destination first, flicks the nurgling off the priest and squashes it with his axe. Sub-consciously, the rest of the party sighs with relief that he didn’t try a reckless blow with it. Torus lunges for the flagellant and his nurgling, grabbing it, landing and holding it writhing and struggling on the ground as Immolatus raises his staff for one of his first ever melee strikes—and misses. And again. And again. Like a game of ‘Whack a Daemon’. Almost insane with frustration, Immolatus raises his staff for yet another effort—and the flagellant leader reaches over and splatters the nurgling with his whip. “See,” says Torus to the flagellant, “it’s so much better to use that on other creatures.” At which the leader begins calmly mortifying his flesh again (seemingly heedless of the demon bits embedding themselves in his skin as he does so. Now, there’s someone to watch for mutations…)

Yuri reaches the children, only to find the nurgling has insinuated himself in the dancing circle, the children too terrified to stop, as the chaos beast laughs and capers and sings alongside them. Conscious of the bad publicity associated with hacking little children to bits, Yuri carefully tries to stab the creature without doing any collateral damage, and finds himself missing the annoying little object of his attacks. Again and again it darts out of the way, but eventually finds itself impaled. Released from their fearsome playmate, the children run screaming. Best keep an eye on them too…

There is a lull. But as we know, lulls never last long. Scarcely has breath returned to tired lungs when the flagellant leader starts building himself into a cyclone of righteous wrath. “The proof is before ye! Chaos arises, and the End of Days nears, when Sigmar will judge ye all, and most will be found wanting and be cast into the foulest of Pits!”

(Just come out of those, thinks the party)

Mr Sensible, the Sigmar Extremist, continues his rant. “And who is responsible?!? Who is known to cavort with daemons and the filthy whores of Chaos?”

(Whores? Did someone say whores? Where?)

“The von Bruners.” (Oh, not real whores, then) “They have led our City down the Path of Evil! They must be punished! They must Learn the Error of their Ways! Painfully… etc etc.”

The party wonders whether they should perhaps have allowed the nurgling to eat this guy and save a lot of trouble. But it’s too late now—as the mob turns up the hill towards the nearby von Bruner mansion, waving their metaphorical pitchforks, our brave heroes give serious thought to moving off to the nearest pub for a cleansing ale. However, they recall that von Bruner and Aschaffenberg are connected (Ludmilla von Bruner being Lord Rickard Aschaffenberg’s wife), and with the notorious non-syllogistic thought processes of the rich and shameless Aschaffenberg could easily blame them for any misfortune visited on the von Bruners.

Grudge turns to the priest of Sigmar. “It would seem that things may be moving adversely to a point of no return. We need the words of a man of authority and power to assuage the torrents of anger, to pour calming oil upon troubled seas.” (Actually, he didn’t quite say this—more like “Quick man, calm the fuckers down before they burn everything”. But it doesn’t sound suitably Epic).

“Perhaps they have a point,” says the priest. (Great!) “We should summon the city watch however.” (Helpful. And then maybe he can say a few prayers over the burnt remains of the von Bruner mansion. As always with religion and priests, they talk the mumbo-jumbo, but if you actually want something done you have to do it yourself.)

The band splits up, some off to the mansion and some to the authorities. As Torus races away to (hopefully) summon the city watch, Grudge helpfully shouts after him—“See, I told you there’s no such things as Giant Rats. Sure, there’s ghouls, and some nurglings, and a monstrous slug-puppy daemon… but no Giant Rats!”

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Death of a Chaos Rabbit

or “Once Were Yokels”

The foul stench of dirty, sweaty flesh. The mindless shouts and murmuring of the rough, brutal and uneducated. The bestial lust for blood, death and dismemberment… and this is all just from Grudge’s corner of the pit. The rest of the basement is almost as bad—to use technical terms, it ‘smells like buggery’ and sounds like the very mouth of whichever particular Hell or Hells your personal religious beliefs lead you to fear. It is smelly, dingy, rowdy, dim, dark—a swirling maelstrom of greed and bloodlust, and in the calm eye of that chaos stand Grudge and his opponent, Agnes Schild, the personal bodyguard of Baron von Holzenauer.

Schild reaches forward to shake Grudge’s hand. “So” she asks, “why are you fighting for von Saponatheim?”

“Oh, is that who it is?” replies Grudge. “I didn’t know. I’ll fight for anyone, if the pay’s good.”

“Then let’s see how you fight…”

Leaping to the attack, Grudge lands the first strike—a vicious two-handed clout to the neck, blind side, which does crippling damage. The odds on his victory shorten immediately. She retaliates, and lands a fist, but Grudge’s scarred, nuggetty frame bears it well. The chances of this combat lasting a long time suddenly seem small. A few more blows are traded, Schild weakening visibly but with perverse good humour, spitting blood and teeth; but when she misses with one of her attempted punches a swift riposte from Grudge lays her on the floor, unconscious. However, the dwarf won’t be celebrating his victory any time soon, for even as the dust rises around the still form on the pit floor, events in the crowd take a turn for the decidedly antisocial…

During the combat, Immolatus casts a minor spell to detect the use of magic in the basement. However, one of his neighbours in the crowd takes offence at the vicinity of a magic user (ironic, this, from the lowest of society’s low-lives…) and shoves our flame-tempered hero. As Grudge lands his final blow, an anonymous arm strikes Immolatus out of the formless mass that is the basement’s crowd, and within seconds—like a generic fire-starting implement applied to generic combustible material—the room is heaving with conflict; after all, it’s so much more fun to take part than just to watch!

Out of the struggle, backed against a wall in one of the dingy recesses of the basement, von Saponatheim cries “Men! Men! Help me!”, looking to our party for assistance. Foolish man.

Grudge picks Schild from the floor and carries her to some likely-looking retainers. As she comes to, she asks (through bruised lips and broken teeth—she wasn’t pretty to start with, but now…) whether Grudge is interested in some work with von Holzenauer. He looks across at the stricken von Saponatheim and replies yes, but that he has an immediate contract to fulfil. Schild suggests a meeting at dawn the next day at East Gate, and then is lead quickly away through the crowd. Grudge slowly turns and dons his armour, with a view to providing assistance when he’s good and ready!

In the meantime, Torus quickly surveys the packed room for a glimpse of the bookie with whom he’d laid his bet on Grudge, and sees from the corner of his eye his quarry heading for the stairs. Literally surfing the crowd (ignoring the fact that surfing is unknown to the citizens of the Empire), Torus reaches the stairs just behind the fleeing bookie. With a lunge, Torus trips him. All is heading towards fisticuffs until Torus hands across his betting stub, upon which the bookie placidly hands across the gold piece he owes and Torus stuffs it greedily (and presciently) into his pocket. Turning back to the throng, Torus uses a tried and trusted method of crowd-clearing—brandishing his diseased limbs—and amid cried of “plague” and “pustules”, he starts wending his way towards his beleaguered employer.

The rest of our happy band are a little more immediately accommodating to von Saponatheim’s needs. Yuri pushes his way through the crowd, glowering at those around him and administering the occasional solid clout to keep his way clear. Immolatus attempts to shield himself from the barrage with a spell, but fails—however, the consequent spray of sparks gives him breathing space as his anti-magic assailants fall back in superstitious fear.

Gradually the party makes their way to von Saponatheim, and—facing the crowd, (literal) backs to the (semi-literal) wall, (metaphorical) noses to the (metaphorical) grindstone—they prepare to face (and return) the blows of the crowd. When…

A thunderous blast echoes through the room! A large man appears at the top of the stairs, and having fired his blunderbuss into the ceiling, shouts “Get Out you lot!” Sheepishly, like misbehaving children, the crowd ceases their violence and, sheep-like, wend their way up the stairs into the taproom and thence into the night. Many bear the scars of the evening’s entertainment, some received from our band (including one young lout whose nose will forever move around his face thanks to Grudge’s tender ministrations).

It transpires that the gun-toting thug is the tavern keeper, William Docker, suggesting that the name of the tavern—The Docker’s Arms—was inspired either by a massive ego, a poor grasp of grammar, or a peculiar sense of humour (“so, you are the Docker?” “yes”.“Let’s see your arms” etc etc… Ubersreikians are not renowned for their repartee). With cries of “see you tomorrow night” to Innkeeper Docker our band stumbles out into the baleful green moonlight of the city evening. The sickly emerald penumbra formed by the glow of Morrsleib, the Chaos Moon, causes more than one stomach, already weakened by alcohol and violence, to empty on the filthy alleys around the inn. Just another night in the Docks…

Away from the tavern crowds, von Saponatheim suddenly drops his foppish act and a dodgy disguise and appears much more deserving of respect (or even fear?) than before. He reveals that the gold crown originally paid was counterfeit (now passed off to the unwitting bookie), and, congratulating the adventurers on their loyalty, pays them two crowns for their excellent work. He also indicates that if the band want any further employment, they can approach his shifty part-Kislevian employee Pietr Koch at the Axe and Hammer.

Back to the Red Moon Inn, where Torus spends a restless night grappling with his visions and demons and awakes unrefreshed and just as ill as he went to sleep; Immolatus recovers from his secondary infection but can’t shake off the pox; and Grudge and Yuri sleep like particularly ugly and ill-smelling babies. The wages of sin are certainly not distributed evenly in the Old World…

Waking unpleasantly early the next morning, the party stumbles bleary-eyed to the East Gate to find a sprightly and foppish hunting party, complete with servants, ready to depart and led by von Holzenauer (accompanied by a battered Schild). As Grudge waves clear of the whole riding business (“Ya won’t find me on one of those misconceived contraptions..”) and mentally prepares himself for a lot of running, the others try their hands at mounting their steeds, with various levels of success—Torus is fluid (in a good way); Yuri and Immolatus are fluid (in the way diarrhoea is fluid) and end up on their butt (in the case of Yuri) or backwards on the horse (in the case of Immolatus).

The horns sound and the hunters set off. Fortunately for Grudge, there are numerous stops for refreshments, and so he manages to catch up for a breath before the group sets off again each time. However, there is no avoiding the strong implication that our heroes are not impressing anyone with their skills or breeding. Grudge spends some time speaking with Schild, who can at least operate at his lower levels (physically and socially), but Torus decides that something more impressive is required. Scanning the trees, his eagle eye picks out a small rabbit nibbling grass in a clearing. Without a second’s thought, he nonchalantly draws his bow, gets his hands caught in the string, juggles it crazily for a moment, drops it, and sees it shatter upon the rocks. A general snigger breaks out, as von Holzenauer raises a mildly condescending eyebrow. Not to be daunted (and much ruing the cost of a new bow), Torus raises his crossbow and with an impressive shot pierces the poor defenseless bunny. Grudging nods from the onlookers, and von Holzenauer says “I see you are more skilled in the crossbow than the long bow.” Ouch.

Attempts at social intercourse are equally futile—as Torus asks about the political situation in Ubersreik, the baron’s lengthy monologue on “Silver mines… Imperium… my second cousin’s husband’s uncle… blah blah… civil war… council… von Jungfreuds.. blah blah blah” quickly results in glazed looks and muted yawns. The only part of this monologue even remotely comprehensible is that it will be von Holzenauer who is hosting the masquerade ball, at his mansion.

Just as things are getting terminal, a beater cries “deer!” and the company launches into action; all but Grudge, who continues his puffing trundle, and Yuri, who falls nobly from the saddle. Our adventurers sigh—at this rate, they will be lucky if von Holzenauer gives them a job cleaning lavatories. Fortunately, their potential employer fells the buck with a single, impressive shot, which seems to improve everybody’s humour (especially the servants, who no longer need to fear a beating for an unsuccessful hunt). As the carcass is stripped, von Holzenauer mentions a small task that needs looking into, the successful resolution of which might not, taken as a whole and in the general scheme of things, adversely affect his political ambitions (yes, nobles do talk in such ellipses; the upshot—“you help me, I help you”. Eventually the party understands…)

Apparently a member of the city watch, one Grimwold Wirtz, has gone missing while searching the sewers. Notwithstanding that this would seem to be an occupational hazard for sewer-searchers, von Holzenauer requests the band to speak with Captain Andrea Pfeffer, chief of the watch, with a view to finding the errant watchman. A small reward is even promised (after some prompting by Torus).

Of course, all good things must come to and end. And so does the hunt. Our adventurers return to Ubersreik, confident in the knowledge that they will be missed not at all by those with whom they rode. And good riddance.

Their first task, given the very options and quests open to them, is, of course, to look for a bow and some armour. After Torus fails in his attempts to find a bow, Grudge impatiently threatens a passer-by into revealing the location of appropriate merchants. Torus quickly buys his long bow. Grudge is all ready to buy some (human made, ho hum) scale armour for 3 crowns when he decides to haggle—and alienates the merchant so much that the sale is cancelled and he is banned from the shop. Infuriated, Grudge intimates the hapless vendor into soiling his garments, but the sale is not consummated (and the shop door is quickly closed and bolted as the seller runs of to wash and change…) “Closed for the business”, so to speak…

Finally recalling their verbal commitments, the adventurers make their way to the barracks of the city watch to speak with Captain Pfeffer. She explains the situation (albeit with a perturbing lack of apparent interest in the fate of her errant watchman), and suggests they speak with the City’s sewer expert, a certain ‘Noseless’ Brandt, who resides at the Red Moon Inn and with whom the adventurers are already acquainted—in the common room, his constant refrain of giant rats and dangerous tunnels being hard to ignore.

The continued poxed state of various members of the group is still a matter of concern, so Yuri decides to investigate the availability of some form of healing potion from Wolfhart Lutzen. Travelling to Lutzen’s Floracopoeia, our naïve travellers are about to discover the true evil that lurks in the hearts of men. Blindly, trustingly, blithely they travel the streets to their destination, where Yuri wrangles a single valuable bottle of healing draught, needed most by Torus. Happily, Torus reaches for his pouch, wherein resides almost 5 gold crowns (some 3 or so of which are party funds) only to discover that some odious prestidigitator, some light-fingered pilfering wretch, has absconded with all his funds, save only the solitary gold crown that he pocketed from the bookie at The Dockers Arms. To say Torus’s mood sours is an understatement—now considering himself to be penurious, he declines the health draught. Immolatus immediately purchases it instead.

In a dudgeon, they head to The Red Moon Inn, where they speak to Noseless Brandt. Well, more like they get spoken at by Noseless Brandt. For ages. And ages. Interminably. They hear the epic tale of how he lost his nose (thereby acquiring his ‘nom de nez’), in the process taking down a horde of 20 or 30… no, was it 30 or 40?… greenskins. How his new state suited his new role as Ubersreik’s Chief (aka only) Sewerjack. How only a trained professional should attempt the sewers. How… another beer? Thanks. How the city watch should have listened to his advice. How big the rats are down there—did he say how big the rats are down there? They’re big, the rats down there.

Eventually, crossing his throat with ale and his palm with silver, our party persuades Brandt to take them into the sewers the next morning, through one of the western grates closest to where Grimwold Wirtz went missing. So, aurally beaten and reeling from a day of disasters, there are but two tasks left to draw a curtain upon the whole sorry affair.

First, to the Temple of Shallya for some healing. But even this is no easy task—the temple is in an uproar, as a one-legged man is tended to, screaming of ‘tentacles’ and ‘slime’, surrounded by the city watch as the adventurers hear tales of him having killed his whole family (and removing his own leg). The man is obviously mad, or chaos infected, or suffering indescribably bad deliria tremens. Or all three. Pleasantly for our band, the patient seems to hail from the location of the sewer grate to which they are heading the next day. Rats, tentacles and slime—a perfect breakfast.

Torus at last receives a benediction from Shallya and loses his delirium symptoms. He remains disturbingly poxed however. As for Immolatus, even the expensive healing draft cannot help him shake the damned pestilence.

The final business for the day is a quick trip to von Holzenauer’s mansion. A small bribe to the evening watch speeds their passage, where Grudge asks to speak with Schild. First, he expresses his suspicions as to the ball and poisoned beer. Slightly skeptical (but recognising Grudge’s frightful uppercut), she agrees to ensure that all supplies are properly tasted and vetted. Next, Grudge asks of any well-known professional types with an ‘F’ in their name. She can think of only two – a certain Wolfgang von Falkenhayn (a friendly but somewhat oafish supporter of von Holzenauer) and the dwarf Borgun Foambeard (from Borgun’s Brewery). Neither seems an immediate suspect.

Dispirited, the team wend their weary and embarrassed way back to their inn, there to await the morning and their impending trip into the sewers of Ubersreik. There’s nothing quite like going to bed with something to look forward to…

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At Last, The Gloves Are… On…

Evisceration. Disembowelment. Gutting. Charnel house. Foetid, intestine ridden putrescent mass of festering body parts. Given their grasp of the Imperial language, these are the thoughts that are swirling through Immolatus’ and Torus’ minds as they view the field of combat. “Shit, ay!” is what Grudge and Yuri are thinking, their vocabulary being somewhat more limited.

The scene is literally one from the End of Days. The bodies, the stench, the weeping, the wailing, the crackling flames, the dancing shadows, the mindless humming of Grudge as he cleans his Great Axe and mentally rehearses the embellished drinking stories he will tell of his first encounter with a Daemon…

As the party picks their way carefully across the blood and ichor soaked ground, morning mist rising in the damp air as if the very souls of the damned were leaving the bodies of the dead, the Lady Agnetha raises her eyes to the saviours of her town and with true and noble gratitude shouts: “It’s all their fault. This all started when they arrived. They’re responsible for all this!”

The adventurers are slightly taken aback; this isn’t quite what they expected. No “thank you, my children”. No “please have this small fortune in gratitude”. No “let me anoint your naked bodies with these expensive oils…” Just the usual “It’s all their fault”. A hero’s life is singularly unrewarding from an emotional perspective.

Lucky the pay tends to be good.

The moment is a perilous one. Certainly, there are some in the crowd who saw the combat, while others appreciate that the Green Pox started a long time before the party arrived. But logic never stopped a good old crowd frenzy, and some of the townspeople begin casting angry and irrational eyes at our protagonists. Surely this is the time for someone with a smooth tongue and honeyed words to turn the tide. Someone who, with a few bon mots and a clever turn of phrase, can bring the situation under control. Someone with charm, and grace, and poise. Instead, Grudge speaks to Lady Agnetha.

“Puill yoursel’ togitherrr, woman!” [Grudge’s accent will be translated into Imperial from here on] “The town is a mess, and your people need you now more than ever. Act like the leader you are, and stop making up ridiculous stories”. At the same time, Yuri gently takes the son’s body from Lady Agnetha’s arms (with a small and largely unnoticed slip…) and tries to calm her with soothing words. The good cop/bad cop act seems to work; Lady Agnetha is led away and the tense moment passes. Torus, who had slipped off into the shadows, reappears. His explanation was that he was just surveying the crowd in anticipation of combat action. The others aren’t convinced…

It is decided that Torus, the best rider of the group, should depart post haste to Ubersreik to ensure appropriate spin is put on the recent events—given that their instructions were to be discreet (foolish instructions to our band at the best of times), it is important to minimise the negative elements of Lady Agnetha’s actions (eg. banishing Shallyan priests, presiding over a plague of Green Pox, harbouring chaos minions, hugging poxed dead children, going insane…) and highlight the positives (eg. um…). Torus speeds to the Bucket of Blood Inn to commandeer a horse, one ‘Rufus’, from the innkeeper, who tentatively asks for it to be returned (alive). Torus happily gives this reassurance, with absolutely no interest in its veracity, and sets off on the ten mile journey to Ubersreik.

The others retire to Lady Agnetha’s residence, to find the place a shambles. Servants and guards mingle and formicate with little or no purpose. The party take the Lady to her room, where she promptly crawls into bed with her son’s corpse (who, it transpires, has been dead for weeks). This is not a good situation. Quickly summoning Friedhilda, Lady Agnetha’s maid, the adventurers obtain the Lady’s standard sleeping draught and see it administered in more than sufficient quantities. Once Agnetha is down, the dead boy’s body is taken and cremated (with due care, reverence and odour) in the family crypt. Hopefully little is left to snuggle up to.

Unfortunately, some of the servants have observed their mistress’s erratic behaviour, and short of having them all killed or incarcerated (both solutions holding some attractions for Grudge), word of the situation is bound to leak out, making Torus’ valiant ride to Ubersreik in the dark and the wet and the cold even more important.

So we flash to Torus. Not long out of Hugeldal, he encounters the Shallyans who have camped awaiting news of the events in the town under the leadership of Father Bram. Torus quickly updates them on the unbelievable events of the night before, and they immediately commence striking camp to offer their assistance to the remaining townsfolk. Of course, if their assistance to Torus is anything to go by, the townsfolk shouldn’t hold their breath—Father Bram’s attempts to cure the pox are spectacularly unsuccessful. Even as Father Bram dons his pig-intestine surgical gloves (with the large knots!) with a resounding ‘snap’, Torus begins to wonder what is actually involved in Shallyan medical training…

As Torus prepares to leave the Shallyan camp, his parting words of encouragement stress that “the moment is now” for the Shallyans to impress Hugeldal with their skill and dedication. And then falls off his horse. He scrambles back on, and rides off into the dark and the wet and the cold…

So we flash to the rest of the party, taking their baths, eating their fill, fondling the staff and sleeping like babies.

To Torus, cantering through the dark and the wet and the cold.

To the others—silence, other than contented snoring and the occasional nocturnal fart.

To Torus, who arrives at last outside Ubersreik through the dark and the wet and the cold… to find the gates closed and the guards of absolutely no mind to let him in, even after the blandishment of 5 shillings. Muttering under his breath about wasting time and dreaming of warm fires and soft bedding, Torus finds a lean-to and makes himself as warm as he can, with Rufus the Wonderhorse.

Back in Hugeldal, the other party members wake—fully refreshed in Grudge’s case, partly refreshed in Yuri’s, and tired and weak and one symptom worse off in the case of Immolatus. Truly a grim and perilous world of Diseased Adventure.

Agnetha starts screaming for her son, and Grudge’s blunt attempts at clinical psychology (including telling her that her son has been cremated and reminding her that this is a grim world of perilous adventure) leave her initially delusional and ultimately catatonic. Quickly exculpating himself of all responsibility, Grudge decides that this is clearly a job for the experts, which in the case of the Empire isn’t saying much. Off, then, to the priests of Shallya to offload this little problem. At the same time Immolatus has Father Bram (gloves and all) cure him of his most recent symptom, and the party agrees to take messages to Marianne Altenblum at the Temple of Shallya and the burgomeister of Ubersreik of the events in Hugeldal. The party agrees, with absolutely no interest in the veracity of their promise.

Some quick shopping for new clothes (their previous ones having been burned for sheer grossness) and then the adventurers set off for Hugeldal to meet Torus at the Red Moon Inn, where Torus arrived early that morning when the gates opened and ate and drank himself into a minor stupor waiting for Leonhard Zauberlich. Torus books a room to wait, and appears downstairs just as his compatriots arrive. Together they meet with Zauberlich, and update him on the situation in Hugeldal. They suggest that Aschaffenberg send out a team to deal with Lady Agnetha and the situation, while putting a positive spin on the rumours that will start emerging (“The Lady Agnetha valiantly fought off a horde of Chaos Daemons with her bare hands” sort of stuff). As they talk to Zauberlich, and as he orders drink after drink, they realize that he is a useless boozer, and they wonder whether Aschaffenberg will get the message and, if so, what sort of garbled state it will be in. Oh well, that’s his problem. In his cups, Zauerlich eventually gives the companions Aschaffenberg’s address.

Heading off to the Temple of Shallya, it transpires that Mother Altenblum is ill (Green Pox perchance?) and instead our heroes meet with Marianne Hertzlich, a tall, willowy, young priestess with striking features and sad blue eyes, who they update on the Hugeldal Situation. Those with injuries also remain at the Temple hospice further healing. Yuri is completely healed of his wounds and is a happy chappy. Torus is healed of his wounds but fails abjectly in his endeavours to shake his disease. Immolatus is healed neither of his wounds nor his disease. The status of Shallya in the pantheon of the party’s gods is slipping rapidly. They are also readily developing a strong aversion to gloves, pig intestines and what passes for medical education in the Empire.

Grudge meanwhile wanders off to the Dwarf Quarter (obviously), to a tavern called The Axe and Hammer which is has been built to look and feel as much as possible like a subterranean dwarven hall. While there he passes a jocular ‘test’ by not paying for non-existent Bugman’s XXXXXX (as if they’d have Bugman’s XXXXXX in Ubersreik…) and is offered a job by a shifty looking human. He hires a room for the evening, passing to the downstairs halls to the ‘dwarf only’ section where he spends much of the night bullshitting with other dwarfs. As part of the gossip, he learns about a drama at the nearby Borgun’s Brewery, where a figure was detected skulking around the beers—and after asking, Grudge finds out that one of their beers, Old Subterranean, is to be served at the upcoming ball. Grudge’s mind leaps to the suspicion that someone is going to poison the beer with Green Pox to infect the nobles at the ball. Generally sounds like a good idea.

The next day, Torus and Immolatus try again for healing, and again Shallya gives them the proverbial finger (encased in the proverbial surgical glove). Atheism looms large on their respective spiritual horizons…

Yuri wanders off to find a herbalist and eventually discovers Lutzen’s Floracopoeia, owned by stringy-lloking fellow with a nervous blink called Wolfhart Lutzen. Uri proves his credentials and opens his wallet and joins the Guild of Apothecaries—at a special rate following a successful sob-story.

Grudge waddles to the Temple of Sigmar to find details of the “prying Sigmarite priest” mentioned in the Hugeldal note, but instead spots Lord Rickard Aschaffenberg and wife sitting in the pews. Bribing a priest with a 5 shilling donation to the temple, Grudge delivers a short and cryptic message to Aschaffenberg, who briefly speaks with Grudge in the shadows of the columns and confirms that Zauberlich did his job and ‘things’ are being taken care of. He also reiterates that he has his reputation to consider and can’t be seen mixing with vagrant adventurers, but perhaps if they keep their conduct to a high standard he may have further use for them.

And so the party meets up outside The Axe and Hammer at sundown, where the shifty agent awaits them and a carriage (with blacked out crest) eventually arrives. A well-dressed man with a long pointed beard and groomed moustache, who is calling himself ‘Klaus’ for the evening, flips the the adventurers 1 gold piece as half payment for the evening and invites them onto the back of the carriage. They head off to a very bad part of town.

They arrive at a backstreet tavern called The Docker’s Arms, the outside of which Torus quickly cases. It transpires that ‘Klaus’ wants the adventurers to inconvenience another noble by incapacitating (not killing) that competitor’s ‘right hand man’. Inside the place is packed and rowdy. After paying off a doorman at the back they head down some stairs to the cellar, which is dominated by a pit fighting ring. It seems that Grudge is to return, albeit briefly, to his previous employment. As he strips down and enters the pit, and as Torus starts to make bets, his adversary pushes through the crowd—it is a tough, dark-haired woman with a leather patch over her left eye, wearing colours of black and red. Without more ado she springs into action. Combat has commenced, and after almost 48 hours without violence, the enthusiasm among our adventurers for a good punch-up, even vicariously, is almost palpable…

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Of Daemons and Doof-Doof…

Leaderless, luckless and unfortunately currently not even legless, the party regroups to assess its lack of progress and abundance of dead ends. A re-re-re-review of the letter from the notorious “F” adds nothing to the picture other than the possible future usefulness of the “prying Sigmarite priest” and the ambiguity of drafting in the reference to setting up “our stage”—literal or metaphorical? But syntax never slayed a dragon (as the old and slightly peculiar Empire saying goes), so in time honoured fashion (and having learnt nothing from previous experience) the adventurers split up.

Torus and Immolatus run a ‘sting’ operation from Doktor Verfullen’s office on the basis that if they couldn’t work out who was the leader of the entertainers from the entertainers themselves, then surely the leader would need to make contact with Doktor Verfullen. All they need to do is wait—Immolatus posing as the good doctor, Torus to act as the significantly more unattractive than usual receptionist.

Meanwhile, Grudge will set up an aerial viewing of the entertainers from the town walls and Yuri will mingle with the crowd at the entertainers’ site.

As Torus and Immolatus arrive at the surgery of Doktor Verfullen, they find the door locked with a notice to the effect that the premises have been closed by order of Lady Agnetha. With their usual respect for authority, our paragons rip down the sign and (using Torus’ skulduggery skills) pick the lock. Unfortunately, even though the lock is successfully picked, Torus manages to jam his lock picking apparatus in the lock. Fortunately, he is able to remove it without leaving obvious signs of “we have just broken into this surgery”.

Once inside, it transpired that paranoia or bureaucratic efficiency has resulted in the inner door also being locked. Again, Torus tries his skulduggery skills, but fails dramatically. What now? Break the door down? Sit outside as prospective customers and hope to surprise the Unknown Enemy that way? Or look in the top drawer of the receptionist’s desk and use the key you find there? A difficult decision…

And so they open the inner door, adopt their roles and wait. And wait. A minute passed. Another minute… passed. And then… a minute passed. A coughing plague victim pokes his head in to ask what is happening and whether the doctor is in, and is lied to by Torus with customary ease. A minute passed. And so on. By sundown, it is apparent to all that no one of interest is coming. Off to the show! On the way they drop in to the Bucket of Blood Inn, where they have discovered the Doktor stays.

Yuri wanders around the site of the upcoming show. There seem to be four entertainers, dressed in the Old World’s version of garish red and yellow lycra and busily engaged in setting up the stage for the night’s entertainment. It may be Yuri’s imagination, but do they move with a certain unnatural vigour? And when he speaks with them, does he detect an unpleasant odour? Or is it just the smell of sweat from their exertions? The other two members of the entertainers’ party are a butch hairy male and a butch hairy female. The latter is helping to set up, while the former is engaging in feats of strength to the “oohs” and “aahs” of the gawking onlookers. Both of them also seem to be keeping an eye open for possible trouble. Yuri identifies them as tribal types, probably from the North. Perhaps they explain the smell…

There are also three caravans—one silent, one from which grunting and rattling sounds emerge, and the third the source of the music. When Yuri asks en entertainer about the grunting, he is met with a generic response about the exciting and interesting events of the evening. All in all, another blank is drawn.

Up on the parapet, Grudge is interrupted by a city guard, inquiring as to his purpose on the wall. Knowing full well that city guards are rarely well paid, Grudge inquires what the usual ‘viewing fee’ is. Once he pays his 2 silver, he settles down to wait and watch.

Back at the Bucket of Blood, the innkeeper confirms that the Doktor has a room at the inn, and unsurprisingly allows Immolatus and Torus to ransack it mercilessly. Torus emerges 20 shillings richer, but none the wiser as to the identity of ‘F’ or his pupil. So the evening’s entertainment beckons!

As the daylight dims and the crowds wend their way to the front of the stage, Torus joins Grudge on the walls and Immolatus joins Yuri in the mingling throng, each of them placed at opposite ends of the stage (Yuri with the closest view of the musical caravan). The music swells as one of the entertainers completes his welcoming spiel and the acrobats begin their rather average routine. Still, the hicks from this back-end of nowhere town seem to be enjoying the show.

The change in the music is so gradual that the screams from the crowd are the first indication that this show may not actually be as tedious and normal as first expected.

As the music grows in volume and becomes a nauseating, drumming, pounding rave beat, a number of the crowd are seen to develop the symptoms of the Green Pox at an astounding rate—pustules swelling and exploding, flesh sloughing off in sickening strips, liquids exploding from all orifices. When the four acrobats leap into the crowd and commence dancing with the crowd and slaughtering the helpless, the party realise with relief that they no longer need to strain their brains trying to puzzle out clues—at last they can plunge into the red frenzy of battle!

Unfortunately, the music of chaos has triggered a response in the pox festering in Immolatus and Torus, and their symptoms grow quickly worse—Grudge and Yuri thank again their lucky stars once again that they shook off their pox. Torus, shaking with ague, also suffers the ignominy of falling from the wall, wounding himself in the process. But this does not prevent him, and the others of the party, from plunging into combat—Grudge leaping from the wall to save time and hitting the ground running.

The tribal strongman attacks Immolatus, hitting and wounding him before falling to magic darts. The woman throws herself at Yuri (not in a good way), and they exchange blows before Yuri overcomes her (definitely not in a good way). The acrobats—cackling with glee, feasting upon buboes and diseased flesh—turn their attention upon Grudge and Torus. Torus kills his first adversary, but is wounded in the act by an infected blade, and is set upon by another. Grudge cuts the arm off his target, but it takes more than that to kill a crazed servant of chaos, and the final acrobat appears before him.

All the while, the mind-numbing musical beats continue, distracting our valiant adventures (indeed, twice driving Torus to drop his bow). Whirling, dying, pox-ridden bodies and body parts fly around the combatants.

Suddenly a figure bursts from the third caravan, holding out a parchment list a crying “Who is interfering with my quota?” Unbelievably, the town of Hugeldal has been visited by a Plaguebearer of Nurgle, accompanied by three music playing nurglings! With equal degrees of bravery and sheer stupidity (actually, more stupidity probably), Yuri throws himself upon the demon and they exchange blows. The nurglings bound off into the diminishing crowd, ganwing on wounds, tunnelling into burst pustules, and generally doing all those truly disgusting things that nurglings like to do.

As the combat continues, Immolatus, Yuri and Torus are progressively worn down until their wounds are at critical levels. Grudge largely avoids combat as he dashes back and forth between other people’s engagements. However, at last he manages to kill and break free of his acrobat adversaries, and as the city guard arrives to aid Torus, Grudge and Yuri finish off the Plaguebearer. The guards and Torus dispatch the nurglings, and a weird and eerie silence falls upon the field as the music of the damned finally ceases.

The adventurers peek into each caravan. The first is a disgusting mess. The second is also, with the added bounty of a caged mutant (quickly dispatched by Torus). The third is worst of all, but they see some papers written in ugly and indecipherable characters; though they do recognise the town crest of Ubersreik. Some strange coins are also sitting in a wooden box on the desk. Immolatus torches all three caravans.

Suddenly a piercingscream rings out—Lady Agnetha is standing at the town gates, cradling and mourning her dead son. Each of them has obvious effects of the pox. Back at the inn, the Doktor is dead—a putrefying mess in the dark. The innkeeper is surprisingly unharmed, but is seriously contemplating a change of career.

So what now? The party was sent to conduct a circumspect investigation, and has unravelled plague, death and demons.

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Is That a Buboe on Your Hand Or Are You Just Pleased to See Me?

or “Say, didn’t you kill my brovver?”
or “101 Uses for a Festering Pustule”

We rejoin our merry band of valiant psychopaths as they cough and splutter through the gaseous contraction of the Green Pox. As they fall victim to the deadly plague, their quarry flees. Immolatus (the only one who can read) remains in the surgery to find any evidence against the doctor and, more importantly, any cure. The rest of the party dash outside to inquire of innocent passers-by of the doctor’s residence, only to be told (with slightly odd looks) that they had just emerged from it.

Fortunately, Immolatus’ eagle eye spots a clue—a piece of paper on which is written:

Dear Wilhelm,
This preparation is to be mixed with ten parts water. It proved most efficacious in curing an outbreak of Green Pox in the Cursed Marshes near Marienburg some years back. Prescribe this is to the lady and her son and any other afflicted members of the town, but I suggest you administer a placebo to her husband in its place. The bereaved often heed the council of their comforters—and a noted side effect of this potion is a suggestible frame of thought.

You are right to be concerned about the attentions of a prying Sigmarite. Perhaps suggesting that he look to threats near Hugeldal to his god’s great Empire might provide you with the opportunity you require?

Once this happens you must convince the lady to move quickly to ensure the mountebanks are prevented from further retarding the growth of our healing arts. Then I will send a pupil of mine to instruct you on what to do next. Due to our need for secrecy, he shall arrive as the leader of a travelling show once our stage has been set. Consult him for further instructions.

Your good friend, F.

At last, a lead—a pity it seems complete gibberish. Reading between the lines, our heroes (cough, cough) race off to the city gates to see whether the Strigany might be able to give them some information. Passing through the gates they check with the friendly arsehole guards whether the Docktor has left town. There has been no sign of him, so must still be inside the town. Hiding, shaking with fear, the perfect prey…

Wandering through the Strigany caravans it becomes clear the gypsies are in the process of packing up to leave. A saucy (i.e. annoying) wench (i.e. complete bitch) by name Nayda, who had previously spoken to the party when they arrived, leads them to the most decorated caravan. Their leader turns out to be a wizened old crone sitting in a curtained alcove called Lyubitshka, who takes Torus’s money and gives him no useful information whatsoever apart from some vague fortune-telling (little realising how close she somes to being slaughtered and her caravan burnt to the ground). Perhaps our protagonists are learning a degree of subtlety and restraint. As Torus leaves the caravan in disgust however, she does reveal that she sees the name ‘F’ in his future…

Passing back through the gates and into town, at a loss as to how next to progress (short of burning the town to the ground and seeing whether the doctor tried to escape, which seemed a bit extreme even for our noble adventurers), the band is approached by guards from the household of Lady Agnetha von Jungfreud, bidding them to her presence. As that was an option already in their thoughts, they unusually agree to comply with the requests of authority and follow the guards to an audience with the Lady.

At the manor they present Lady Agnetha—somewhat afflicted by a cough herself—with their evidence, which although not convincing her of the doctor’s evil plans and the innocence of the Shallyan priests certainly starts doubts festering in her bosom (appropriately enough, given the pox festering in theirs). They leave her calling for her men to find the doctor.

Recent exertions have stressed their diseased bodies to the extent that Torus begins to break out in festering pustules, most notably on his hands. Fortunately, the suspicions of Lady Agnetha had not been aroused by hacking coughs and croaky throats, and pustules remained well hidden in pockets.

Once again our band is on the streets and at a loss. They decide to break into two; Torus and Yuri head back to The Bucket of Blood inn and Immolatus and Grudge go to find the Imperial Engineer mentioned by the innkeeper. Dividing is, of course, a poor idea. While Torus and Yuri stroll without upset to their destination, Immolatus and Grudge find themselves in a dark alley beset by crossbow wielding brigands whose leader’s physiognomy leaves their intended victims in no doubt that he is the brother of one Tarwin Fleischer—the bandit that the adventurers had killed on their approach to the town—and that he and his ill-visaged companions are not there to make small talk.

A close-fought battle ensures, with long range crossbow attacks doing significant damage to Immolatus and some pretty average axe-work from Grudge leaving him exposed to damaging blows from both his opponents. Ultimately, though, the terrifying effects of supernatural fire attacks (an exploding bandit head is the highlight) and the gruesome effects of a large mass of iron cleaving through heads leave two of the assailants dead, one running and the other on his knees spewing his guts up (repeatedly and forcefully). At which time Torus and Yuri arrive, with classic good timing.

The remaining thug is more than happy to spill his proverbial guts as well, disclosing with little prompting that the mastermind behind the attack was none other than Gudrun Ensslin, the innkeeper at The Bucket of Blood. The next destination of the band should come as no surprise…

At the inn, the vomit-ridden form of the defeated bandit quickly convinces Ensslin to usher the adventurers into a private room. Surprisingly, the group lets the bandit go. Are our adventurers slowly developing a sense of moral values? Or was it just the pox affecting their normal bloodthirsty view of the world? Whatever the reason, it seems that some definite socialisation change is occurring.

Ensslin reveals to them that Doktor Verfullen is hiding in the cellar below the inn, and that, in an attempt to maintain his monopoly of trade in Ubersreik, Ensslin had entered into a conspiracy with the Doktor. The latter provided him with blankets infected with Green Pox which Ensslin then sold to Strigany pedlars. The Strigany seem to have been unafflicted however, and Ensslin found himself vulnerable to blackmail when events escalated to the bandit attack on the Shallyans. Ensslin is happy to do whatever the adventurers want, who seem to be prepared to accept this, and show no immediate intention to disembowel or otherwise eviscerate the poor man.

Of course, subsequent events are to show that there is no such moral rectification and that the adventurers are just as sick as ever…

Downstairs, the Doktor realises that his refuge can just as readily be a prison. In desperation he stands, with the ‘antidote’ for the Pox held high, threatening to smash it to the ground. Calling his bluff, the heroes attack and grab the vial before it can be thrown.

The doctor refuses to respond to questions or to co-operate at all, so in keeping with the bitter doctrine of ‘an eye for an eye’, Torus bursts a pustule into the Doktor’s mouth, forcing his jaws closed and making the terrified man swallow the liquid, poxy death. In the background of this horrific scene, the innkeeper is heard swallowing deeply and no doubt mentally reminding himself not to get any further on the wrong side of these extremely anti-social individuals.

However, such acts are not without their consequences. Somewhere, the Plague Lord stirs and casts a diseased and baleful eye upon the world—each of the adventurers feels his skin crawl … but it is only Torus who suffers the corrupting influence of Nurgle—this time.

Obviously today is the day for gut-spilling, as the doctor quickly discloses that:

  • this is the last batche of the ‘antidote’ in his possession, and he has realised to his horror that it isn’t actually an antidote but merely suspends the disease (the adventurers blithely mix and consume all the remaining powder, leaving the good doctor to succumb to the Pox without the aid of medical science);
  • the Doktor does not know how to make the ‘antidote’—he was sent the doses from a Dr. F in Ubersreik;
  • he does not know who Dr. F is, but has merely been taking instruction from him;
  • his rationale for causing and then curing the Pox is to discredit the Cult of Shallya and prove the superior efficacy of medical science.

That night the innkeeper gives the adventurers his best room, where Yuri and Grudge miraculously throw off the effects of the Pox entirely (Yuri quite violently, at the cost of some damage). Doktor Verfullen is left in the cellar, with a number of barrels over the entrance, to cogitate on the errors of his ways and the terrible consequences of malpractice in the Old World.

The next day the group emerge from the inn to find the town in a quite a turmoil—three brightly coloured wagons, from one of which emerges a festival tune, have arrived outside the gates of of Ubersreik, just as the Strigany caravans pull away. Could these be the possible lead that the adventurers have been seeking? Pushing through the crowds, they come to the cavalcade. One of the entertainers gives his spiel and then he and the other entertainers start setting up for their impending performance. However, when our Heroes ask the entertainer who their leader, he tells them they have no leaders. Helpful…

Frustrated once again, the party returns to the inn to plan another method of attack. And to drink a lot.

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Going Down to Plaguetown

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go – to Plaguetown

The buboes are bursting and the ichor is dripping
When you go on down – to Plaguetown

You’re coughing like a madman and your phlegm is pretty icky
Your lungs are on the way out and your eyes are red and sticky…


Still in Stromdorf, Yuri visits the herbalist Hildette Krass, bearing a bunch of herbs and flowers, in an attempt to charm the spinster. Unfortunately he meets with little success or enthusiasm on her part. He does manage to broker a business deal of sorts, buying a selection of herbs and ingredients along with a written description of their uses, and the name of a herbalist in Ubersreik to whom he can sell these items—hopefully at a profit. He also buys writing materials, and on the trip to Ubersreik and at other times of leisure, he takes to sketching these herbs, and with Immolatus’s help, studying the notes, thus learning as much as he can of the herbalist and apothecary ways.

Torus has a drink with a noticeably more relaxed Arno Kessler, and enquires if he has ever heard any stories about one Lucidius Lavarar (Torus’s itinerant father). Kessler has heard rumours of the exploits of this character, and tells Torus that a relative in Marienburg once mentioned him as being in that area.

Visiting Klaus von Rothstein, they discover that since being informed of Lord Ascheffenberg’s desire to re-employ the adventurers, he has decided to travel to Ubersreik the next day to ingratiate himself further with the Aschaffenberg family. The adventurers learn that there is a rumour that Ubersreik is going to have its friestadt (free town) status revoked, and that there are a number of noble families currently jockeying for what could be the available position of new liege lord of the town.

Accordingly, the adventurers are engaged for the sum of 50 shillings (Torus haggles von Rothstein up from 40, requiring some slight intimidation by Grudge to make his point) to protect von Rothstein on the carriage journey to Ubersreik. The next morning—a bright and sunny day with a clear sky, as it happens—they leave Stromdorf with a small crowd cheering them as they leave the gates. The journey to Ubersreik is uneventful, and early the next morning the adventurers are dropped at the Red Moon Inn on the riverfront in Ubersreik.

As they walk in they are immediately hailed by the innkeeper, who informs them that have a message. It is from Lord Rickard Aschaffenberg’s manservant, one Leonhard Zauberlich, who informs them that he will be visiting the Red Moon over several nights in expectation of their arrival.

The spend the rest of the day buying arrows, flasks of oil and other such items. Yuri unsuccessfully tries to find the herbalist he was told about, and Torus fails to find any black powder.

That night Leonhard arrives at the inn and they all take their drinks into a booth, hidden from casual observation by a tattered curtain. Leonhard is a somewhat prim and proper character who nonetheless seems to be a regular of the Red Moon. He tells them, in slow and precise tones, that their services are required to pursue some extremely delicate enquiries in the mining town of Hugeldal, ten miles to the south. Aschaffenberg’s sister-in law (younger sister of his wife Ludmilla, a von Bruner) is the noblewoman of the town, and recently rumours have begun to trickle into Ubersreik that she has committed the unimaginable blasphemy of banning the priests of Shallya from her town. Aschaffenberg naturally wants this looked into with as much circumspection as possible, lest his good name be besmirched even further and his chances of possibly becoming liege lord of Ubersreik are ruined. Grudge suggests that perhaps his political rivals could be held responsible if such an accounting was necessary, but Zauberlich reiterates von Rothstein’s comments that Aschaffenberg is known for his geniality, sense of justice and nobility, and would not wish to besmirch the names of his rivals. Those names happen to be von Saponatheim and von Holzenauer, as Zauberlich reveals after some prompting by Grudge.

The adventurers are offered a gold piece each for this service, which they accept, receiving half upfront on the spot. The next morning they hire a wagon and driver, and head south out of Ubersreik towards Hugeldal.

About a mile from the gates of Hugeldal the wagon rounds a steep hill, cries are heard from up ahead, and suddenly they come upon a distressing scene of carnage and confusion. Five bandits have waylaid a wagon, and several Shallyan priests already lie in the dirt. An armoured warrior has been wounded and a bandit is stepping forward to finish him off; another bandit moves towards a gesticulating priest. On a wagon, a woman abuses another man for his cowardice. Three bandits stand in the treeline with crossbows ready.

Grudge and Yuri immediately charge towards the two bandits on the road, but are not fast enough to stop one of them from delivering the coup de grace to the wounded mercenary, and the other—a bald and psychotic-looking fellow dressed in black leathers—from grabbing the Shallyan priest and using him as a human shield.

Torus gets off the first shot, planting two arrows in one of the bandits at the tree line, but fumbling and dropping his short bow in his haste. One of the bandits fires and hits Grudge; another wounds Yuri. Immolatus fires off a magic dart and hits one of the bandits at the treeline.

Grudge chooses to ignore completely the fact that his opponent is holding a struggling priest in front of him, and aims a reckless cleave at the bandit with all his strength behind it, and miraculously manages virtually to shear the bandit in two without harming the priest.

Torus kills his first target with a third shot and the two surviving bandits at the treeline turn and flee into the forest. One surviving bandit remains, and he is quickly disarmed, tied up and—to add insult to injury—his trousers removed (according to Torus: “remove a man’s pants and you remove his dignity, rendering him impotent and highly visible”). He seems to know very little—even after being repeatedly prodded in the buttocks by Torus—only that he was hired by Tarwin Fleischer (the bandit killed by Grudge) and his twin brother Max (nowhere to be seen) to kill the Shallyans and make it look like a goblin ambush. He leads the adventurers to a nearby ditch where they find two goblin bodies, their ears cut off, wrapped in a tarpaulin. He then leads them down a trail (pointing out a tripwire-and-caltrop trap on the way) and to the bandit camp, now deserted. It appears that Max has taken their only horse and ridden back to Hugeldal.

Father Bram, the Shallyan priest, tends to the wounds of Grudge and Yuri and tells the adventurers that they were on their way to Ubersreik to complain to the authorities about their treatment. Grudge convinces him that he should let their group try to deal with the matter first.

The couple on the wagon are Strigany folk (Immolatus recognises their accent) accompanying the Shallyans to Ubersreik.

After loading the bodies (including the goblins) on their wagon, the adventurers continue to Hugeldal.

Hugeldal is a small mining town built against the rocky hills of the Grey Mountains, defended by a tall wooden palisade. To the left of the entrance gate is a small stone-walled Garden of Morr; to the right, a motley collection of brightly painted wagons arranged around several firepits, where Strigany folk are gathered.

At the gate are two guards, one of which—in between coughing, snorting, sniffing and spitting—points out a proclamation against the Shallyans posted by Lady Agnetha on the town gate:

Public Proclamation

By order of Lady Agnetha von Jungfreud, the Dowager Lady of the Manor of Hugeldal

Within the town of Hugeldal and its immediate environs the performance of Shallyan miracles is proscribed on pain of a fine up to 10 gold crowns, the threat of gentler tortures, and banishment.

Should you require medical attention whilst in Hugeldal please visit the former Shallyan temple hospice on Stossenstrasse where members of the most worshipful Guild of Physicks will minister to any and all afflictions for a competitive fee and to high professional standards.

The guard suggests the adventurers drop the bodies of the priests off at the Garden of Morr, which they do (keeping the goblin corpses with them, bundled up in the tarpaulin). As Strigany children gather around the adventurers pestering them for coin, the guard abuses them—and a passing Strigany woman—as ‘scum’, in no uncertain language.

The adventurers enter the town and their driver drops them off at the impressive half-timbered Bucket of Blood inn, on the town’s main square. Leaving the goblin bodies around the back for the moment, they go inside and are greeted by the innkeeper, one Gudrun Ensslin, who offers them a good room at a cut price.

Leaving the inn (and dragging the goblin bodies), they hear someone declaiming by the nearby town well. A young fellow is standing on a box and stridently abusing the Strigany folk, blaming them for the town’s woes and offering the public his inflammatory pamphlet for “only three pence”. Grudge stands in front of him, leaning on his axe, and makes a disparaging comment, and Torus demands one of his pamphlets and hands it to Immolatus, who makes it burst into flame in his palm. The agitator is somewhat intimidated and brings his harangue to an end, rapidly heading for the Bucket of Blood taproom.

Walking further into the town the adventurers come upon the Temple of Sigmar which is closed and has several groups of refugees camped on its front steps. A farmer grabs Yuri’s sleeve and offers to tell him a tale for a few brass. Yuri obliges, and the farmer tells him of pulling down some standing stones that were part of a stone circle on his land; of encountering a daemon, and of the pestilence spreading across the land and claiming his family.

The adventurers continue to the so-called Dwarf quarter—a street of stone houses—at the end of which is a man standing by a monument hawking his wares. It turns out he is a bounty hunter selling goblin ears as souvenirs and a cure for the Blacklegge. The adventurers confront him with the goblin corpses and then threaten him to reveal to whom he sold the bodies. He admits it was to Doktor Verfullen, for the purposes of dissection.

Continuing to the Docktor’s office, they find several people waiting for treatment. When the pretty young receptionist goes into the Docktor’s surgery, Yuri looks into his office and finds a dissected goblin. Yuri then goes into the surgery and his wounds are tended by Docktor Verfullen. When he is finished, the other adventurers barge in and confront the Dokctor with the goblin corpses (and their matching ears), and their knowledge of the Shallyan massacre. He tries to deny all, but the jig is up, and Torus can tell that he is obviously lying. At that moment he suddenly reaches for a glass jar on a nearby shelf and sweeps it into the room, where it shatters; a cloud of billowing green vapour fills the room and there is the sound of the window shutters opening and the Docktor escaping.

The cloud is a pestilential vapour which affects all four of the adventurers—they have all contracted the dreaded Green Pox!

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You Really Should Get Someone To Have A Look At That …

At the Ackerland farm, the adventurers rest and recuperate for a day and a night. Yuri tries to learn some basic herbal medicine from Meg the farmer’s wife, but his attempts to find healing herbs in the local vicinity are unsuccessful. Meg attempts to help heal Yuri of the hideous wound and horrible gash he received in the fight against the goblins, but they just seem to get worse—softly closing the bandage back over the wound and wrinkling her nose at the smell she says “you really should get someone to have a look at that …”

Eventually the adventurers return to Stromdorf, and a hero’s welcome (one of the Ackerland children had run on ahead to tell everyone the news). They visit the Temple of Sigmar, where they hear Gottschalk’s concerns about the ‘heathen idol’ being constructed in his crypt, but Schulmann is overjoyed at receiving another piece of the puzzle and immediately gets back to work on his translation. The crypt is a cluttered mess; notes everywhere, books, half-eaten meals, and strange mechanical contrivances, even a small telescope set up to peer at the heavens through one of the small street-level grates. Immolatus stays with him and tells him about the final piece at the Holtz farm to see if he will sneak away on his own to get it. Meanwhile the Guard Captain Kessler asks the adventurers to see Burgomeister Adler and report on their success, which Grudge and Torus do—receiving congratulations, the remaining 25 silver for each member of their party, and a promise of a recommendation to Adler’s patrons the Jungfreuds—while Yuri seeks out a physician to cure his wounds. With Torus, he visits Dr Schneider, but the price is too high for Torus; Yuri manages to haggle him down from 20 silver to 19 for treatment, however. Schneider stitches and binds Yuri’s horrible gash. Torus visits the barber surgeon Messr and his wounds are roughly stitched up for the considerably cheaper price of 20 brass.

Torus goes to sleep in their room at the Thunderwater Inn while Yuri rogers some starry-eyed wench in an alley behind the pot room (though the experience is—ahem—short-lived). Meanwhile Immolatus sits by the fire and entertains townspeople with some amusing flame-based cantrips.

On his own and particularly grumpy—and harbouring severe doubts about the trustworthiness of Schulmann—Grudge trudges through the rain and mud back to the Holtz farm, grumbling all the way. As he reaches the derelict farm he spies a silhouette cross an upstairs window of the main farmhouse. He also notices that the lightning stone has been dug up and propped against the tree under which it was buried, and the tree itself is festooned with trinkets and totem objects.

Grudge sneaks carefully to the farmhouse door and peers within. The house is half ruined; rain is pouring in through holes in the roof, and the ground is mud and muck. He hears the sounds of movement upstairs, and creeps up the staircase with his axe ready. Charging into the main bedroom he surprises the beast man shaman Foaldeath and strikes him with a thunderous blow before it can react. The creature begins to draw a dark energy from the shadows to his hands, but Grudge is too fast, and before it can cast a spell, he has split its head open with his axe.

Grudge notices that it is holding something in its claw; prizing open the fingers, he discovers a crudely made rag doll with bestial features. Up close Grudge recognises the half-human look of the shaman, and the twisted similarities to the Holtz family.

Leaving the farmhouse, Grudge heaves the lightning stone on his back and slowly trudges back to Stromdorf—grumbling all the way.

When the last piece of the stone is taken to the crypt, Schulmann is beside himself with excitement. Everyone expects something dramatic as it is fitted into place … but nothing happens. Schulmann feverishly continues with his notes and studies, saying that results will still take some time. The adventurers, suspecting Schulmann strongly of foul play, decide to wait to make sure he does nothing untoward.

As they wait, Schulmann looks out of his telescope, there is a ‘whoosh’ sound and a blue flash, and suddenly he has disappeared.

The adventurers are confused for a moment, but Grudge thinks to look through Schulmann’s telescope and sees that it is trained on the Wissenland Gate, and a cyan blur is speeding over the rooftops towards it. They look through Schulmann’s jumbled papers and discover a strange map, with lines that seem to converge on a bend in the River Tranig, a few miles southwest of Stomdorf. There is also a document in a strange cipher that Immolatus manages to translate, that refers to a nexus of power at that spot.

Rushing from the temple and to the Thunderwater Inn, the adventurers quickly hire horses and set off in pursuit. At the gate a guard is recovering from being attacked by spellcraft, and another refers to a man in a blue cloak “riding like a daemon was chasing him” along the south road. As the storm rages around them, the adventurers gallop down the road. Grudge and Torus attempt to push their horses to greater speed, but both only succeed in making them stumble in the mud and getting pitched off. Yuri and Immolatus continue on, turning off the road and reaching a fisherman’s hut by the river, where they find a dead old man with a smoking hole in his chest, around which Immolatus sees motes of dissipating blue energy.

They are pushing an old and patched boat into the river when Grudge and Torus run up and join them, and the group pile in, heading for the centre of the river downstream where the figure of Schulmann can be seen, standing in a boat casting bolts of magical energy at the water and being enveloped in a blue haze of magical force.

Yuri and Grudge take the oars and Immolatus attempts to bail as water comes rushing in through the patched hole, but progress is slow and the boat almost founders. There is an earthshaking crack and they see Schulmann rising up into the air, surrounded by bolts of blue energy shooting up into the sky. Finally the adventurers come within bowshot range and Torus stands up in the boat, Immolatus steadying him, and lets off an arrow which hits the floating figure. Yuri shoots a crossbow bolt which also finds its mark.

In a rage, Schulmann turns his attention to the meddling adventurers and lets fly with a crackling lightning bolt at Yuri, which hits him and sends him flying backwards into the river, hitting his head as he does so. Somehow he manages to cling onto his crossbow as Immolatus drags him from the water. Another bolt hits Torus. Grudge desperately tries to row closer, but he labours unsuccessfully against the churning waters of the Tranig erupting from the nexus.

Dripping wet and angry, Yuri fires off another crossbow bolt which plunges into the wizard’s writhing form. With a scream of rage, despair and frustration, Schulmann cries “You have ruined everything! You have doomed us all!” and with an almighty roar the magical blue energy from the nexus reverses, pulling his form down into the deep waters of the Tranig. Chunks of earth and rock are ripped away from the banks of the river and plunge after him. Suddenly, the clouds part, and the adventurers see plummeting down from the heavens and towards the nexus a huge rock. Grudge begins to frantically reverse his direction of rowing, this time dragged towards the nexus, not away from it; but he manages to pull the boat away to a relatively safe distance.

The comet hits, causing a tidal wave that throws their little boat up onto the river bank and them all out into the mud. A deep cracking sound issues from the depths of the river, a final deluge of rain, and then—silence.

Schulmann is dead, Stromdorf is saved, and best of all—the rain has finally stopped.

After taking a moment to recover, the adventurers stagger back to Stromdorf, to be received by cheering crowds, some of whom think that Sigmar has returned until people realise that the comet had one ‘tail’, not two. However there is already the occasional dissenting voice in the crowd asking “the rain has stopped—what will Stromdorf be famous for now?”

The next morning, the adventurers receive a note from von Rothstein requesting their prescence; and upon visiting his house they learn that Aschaffenberg requires their aid in Ubersreik …

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Goblins n’ Vomit

After the goblin ambush is over, Torus moves among the stinky greenskin bodies, slicing off ears and performing various other atrocities so any other goblins finding them will know that their attackers meant business.

Then the adventurers return to the Ackerland farm. Immolatus, especially, is in a greatly weakened and wounded state, and recovers all the day and much of the following night. All have their wounds bandaged by Meg and her daughter. In the evening, Yuri aids the farmer and his men keeping watch, but there is no raid on the farm that night.

Before dawn, the somewhat refreshed adventurers return to the Baumer farm, noting that the goblin corpses have remained undisturbed during the night—which hopefully means that the farm has not been alerted. At dawn, the farm is quiet and the goblins have retreated out of the gray light that passes for day. The only sounds are the horrible snoring noises from the outhouse. After a final reiteration of their plan of attack, they carefully and quickly move down to the palisade near the farmhouse wall. Grudge shimmies up the rain-slick stakes with a knotted rope—they clatter as he does so and he pauses at the top to see if any creature has heard—but all is well and he fixes the rope and the others follow him up and over. The farmyard is quiet and still, save for the endless rain; then the adventurers see a window shutter move in the opposite outbuilding. Immolatus begins channelling the energy for his spells.

Taking the movement as caused by the young human figure they saw the day before last, they ignore it and continue with their plan. They wedge shut the large barn doors, open the small door in one of the them, and Torus throws in several of the goblin puffballs. Immolatus then unleashes a flameblast spell into the barn and they hurriedly shut the door and wedge goblin spears against it. There are crashes and goblin screaming from within!

Without a moment’s pause, they all run back into the yard, and Grudge runs full tilt at the farmhouse door, reducing it to splinters and continuing into the kitchen beyond. Apart from smashed plates and scattered cutlery and jars, they see an empty cupboard (presumably blocking entry to a room beyond where the large creature lairs), a trap door in a corner of the floor, and another door opposite. Grudge hardly pauses to charges through this—thankfully unlocked—door and into a main hallway beyond, the other adventurers following.

On a staircase landing above them stand three goblins armed with swords and scimitars. Grudge charges up the stairs and into them, leaping into the air to smash his axe through a hastily-raised shield and cleaving a goblin’s skull. Yuri follows, but his newly-learned skill of duellist’s strike avails him nought, and his blade bends as it hits the other goblin’s shield. Which causes Grudge to cry out in irritated frustration: “Yoo fuckin’ idiot!”

Behind them, Torus checks another door and finds a living room with an old sword hanging above a fireplace. Immolatus, in the kitchen, opens the trapdoor and hears the sounds of drunken goblin mumbling below—he shuts the trapdoor and drags an upturned table over it.

Meanwhile, one of the goblins has bolted through an oak door, and the sounds of a hasty barricade being constructed, along with the high-pitched screaming of another goblin barking orders and shouting gobbledigook, can be heard within. The last goblin on the landing is finished, then Yuri opens a last door to be confronted with two more goblin guards, and he and Grudge set to work dispatching them.

Downstairs, Torus and Immolatus bolt through the front door, out into the farmyard and up the ladder of the outhouse to look through the roof and see what is within. They are horrified to see a mighty troll, roaring in confusion, adding to the cacophony of goblin cries all around them from the barn, watchtower and gatehouse as the goblins wake up to the fact that intruders are among them. In fact, the sight and stink of the troll’s charnel-house lair is enough to make them both begin throwing up violently and simultaneously.

They decide to return into the farmhouse and as goblins—both charred and aflame—burst from the broken-down barn door and pour into the farmyard, they jump from the roof. Torus executes a perfect roll, but Immolatus twists his ankle—they both manage to make it back into the house and slam the door as goblins slam into the outer side of it.

While this is happening, Grudge and Torus have killed the last two goblins and smashed down the oak door. Within, two more goblin guards meet their attack, and behind them, balanced on an upturned chamber pot on a pile of broken furniture in the centre of the room, the black-robed goblin shaman rants and raves and screeches incantations, the chunk of stone strapped to his head spluttering with blue energy.

As Yuri fights one goblin, Grudge quickly kills the other and charges at the shaman, narrowly avoiding beams of destructive green light that shoot from the shaman’s eyes. Grudge gets in one blow with his axe, then with a screech of “GERROFF ME!”, the shaman explodes with a burst of power, knocking Grudge back. The shaman scampers for the room’s fireplace and begins wriggling up it, Grudge close on his heels.

At this point the Torus and Immolatus have run up the stairs, pursued by goblins—but some goblins detour into the kitchen and soon is heard the sound of a pantry being shifted, closely followed by roars, screams and unpleasant chomping and chewing noises. The troll lumbers into the hallway, cheered on by the surviving goblins, like a fat wrestling celebrity surrounded by his long-term fans. Only far more dangerous.

Up above them, Grudge wriggles out of the chimney stack to find the goblin shaman ranting and raving and throwing insults and hopping about the peaked roof of the farmhouse, while rain pelts down and the occasional thunderbolt strikes near him. He has no time to loose another spell before Grudge lops his head off; but unfortunately the eager dwarf also loses his balance and falls back off the roof, down onto the outhouse and through the hole in its roof, to land—fortunately—on a squishy cow carcass that breaks his fall. It takes him a moment to recover before he heads through the kitchen to join his companions.

Torus and Immolatus throw a bed down the stairs and set alight to it, but it’s a temporary respite from the horror trudging up towards them. There is no possible escape save through a tiny window through which they cannot fit. At this point Immolatus casts a Shimmering Winds of Aqshy spell and he is wreathed in flickering orange flames that increase his resistance to blows. Torus turns to him and says “I see you’re sorted then.”

The vile troll smashes through the remains of the bed and then belches a sizzling stream of potent stomach acid at a surprised Torus, wounding him and almost inflicting him with a temporary insanity. Torus fires arrows and Immolatus flameblasts, but when they realise the troll’s fleshy hide is absorbing much of the damage, they switch to more effective attacks—Immolatus to a Magic Dart spell and Torus to a more precise ranged attack. Yuri’s first attack is to lob a discarded goblin scimitar at the monster, which scratches it slightly; he then rushes up to the troll, but has little success with his duellist’s strike—which seems to be the order of the day, unfortunately.

Smelling smoke, the adventurers realise at this point that the farmhouse has been set on fire by the lightning strikes.

The troll lashes out with a devastating swing, damaging Yuri and sending a few goblins to splat against the hallway walls, but finally the creature is taken down with darts, arrows and sword blows, and topples back down the stairs, crushing yet more goblins with its death throes. The adventurers run down the stairs after it and, joined by Grudge, administer the coup-de-grace to as many greenskins as possible.

Once the way is clear they all run back out the kitchen door and are about to scale the palisade and escape when they hear the screams of a young girl from the outbuildings on the other side of the farmyard. Torus raises his eyes to the heavens, but they turn back and battle their way through several groups of goblins before rushing into a smithy and dispatching a lone goblin who is threatening a young girl—no doubt the only survivor of the Baumer family. In the farmyard, Yuri actually uses his duellist’s strike effectively against some goblins, to everyone’s surprise.

Meanwhile Immolatus searches outside the palisade and finds the head of the goblin shaman with the glowing stone tied to it.

Torus bundles the girl’s struggling form under his arm and the adventurers run back to their rope, scale it, and the group runs off northwards into the night. Behind them, the farmhouse and barn collapse, and screaming goblins scatter in all directions into the hills.

The adventurers return to the Ackerland farmhouse, where the girl—her name is ‘Flea’—is tended to by the family. After a night’s rest, they return to the blackened remains of the Baumer farmstead, and search among the house ruins until they find the other large piece of the marble stone, which they put on a cart and take back to the Ackerland house. Exhausted, wounded, bleeding, wet, tired, and in two cases spattered with vomit, the adventurers finally take a well-earned rest.

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Stick ’Em Wif Da Pointy End

Before leaving to investigate Tempus Knap, Immolatus visits the market square to buy a set of durable new clothes. Yuri continues to recuperate at Dr. Schneider’s surgery; rumours of a sponge bath treatment are rife among the other adventurers.

The adventurers drop in at the Temple of Sigmar’s crypt, to find that Hieronymous Köpfchen has returned to his study, and Niklaus Schulmann has set up a cot and brought over some of his equipment, books and notes from his room at the inn. He seems a bit more haggard and manic than when they last saw him; he says he is making progress on the translation but requires the other pieces of the puzzle. He also tells him that he had a vivid dream the night before: a green fiend, with a throne and a crown of stone; a voracious, all-consuming cavern of fangs; a chattering horde of devils surrounded by night.

The adventurers walk south towards Tempest Knap; on the way they encounter a cart and horses heading towards Stromdorf and talk briefly with one Herr Gubo Ackerland, the owner of a farm several hours south, in the Blitzfelsen Hills. He is on his way to talk with Burgomeister Adler to request his aid in dealing with a recent spate of raids on the farms in his area. The adventurers tell him that they will most likely see him again soon.

At Tempest Knap, the adventurers clear away about a foot of muddy soil from the roughly twenty foot square area enclosed by the ruins, and discover a marble floor with a circular space section in the centre missing, and several small shards of white marble with carving on them similar to the marble mapstones they have already found.

Immolatus and Torus begin to feel the effects of their constant exposure to the rain and cold.

Returning to Stromdorf, the adventurers tell Schulmann about Tempest Knap and discuss with him their theory that that another piece of the stone is buried in the crypt of the Temple of Sigmar. Torus checks the lightning rod attached to the temple and sees that it is grounded via a brass rod down the side of the temple from roof to earth. They all discuss ways of checking under the crypt without alerting or upsetting Lector Gottschalk, and eventually Schulmann suggests that he might be able to make some kind of celestial distraction while they dig up the floor stones.

Entertaining the idea that perhaps the stone is in the sewers beneath the crypt, the adventurers visit Captain Kessler’s office to ask him if there is a map of the sewers below the town, and are informed that there are none at all—the constant rain keeps the streets ‘clean’. While they are there Kessler informs them that Burgomeister Adler wishes to see them. At Adler’s office, the now much recovered—and bathed—burgomeister informs them that he has had a visit from a farmer called Herr Ackerland, and that the town is in now serious danger of famine, since the granneries have been destroyed in the night’s gale, and these raids are threatening the southern farms. He asks the adventurers to track these livestock thieves to their leader, and immediately puts down half of a 50 silver shilling per person payment; remarking that if these troubles continue the town coffers will soon be empty…

That night the adventurers return to the crypt, now rejoined by Yuri, newly recovered from his injures. Schulmann goes outside the temple and begins conjuring an arresting display of coloured lights in the sky, and Yuri shouts out to the passing townsfolk; eventually a crowd gathers. When Lector Gottschalk emerges from the temple he takes the display as a sign of doom sent by Sigmar, and exorts the townspeople to sink to their knees in the mud and pray.

Meanwhile, Grudge and Torus are levering up the flagstones in the temple floor and digging at the yellow earth beneath. They are almost interrupted by the return of the initiate Chlodwig Fromm, but Yuri manages to distract the Brother before he re-enters the temple. After some fifteen minutes or so of digging, a shovel hits stone and they unearth another piece of the marble puzzle—no doubt the seerstone buried beneath the temple when it was first built.

The adventurers desperately begin attempting to replace the flagstones and clear up the mess they have made, even going so far as to have Grudge vomit on the floor and then use this as an excuse to wash it down with water, but their efforts make little difference to the obvious disturbance. The coloured light display over, Gottschalk enters the temple and hearing noises, goes down into the crypt.

Gottschalk stands looking at the mess of stone, dirt, water and vomit that covers his crypt floor, and Torus tells him that the marble stone spontaneously erupted from beneath the flagstones and that it is obvious the entire night’s events are the work of Sigmar. There is a moment of silence as Gottschalk takes this in and … “it’s a MIRACLE!”, he cries. Calling the townsfolk into the temple he exorts them all to pray and repent in thanks at this astounding display of Sigmar’s power.

The next day, after an evening sharing a few ales with Ackerland in the tap room of the Thunderwater Inn, they ride on Ackerland’s cart along the muddy road south. As it has every day since they arrived in Stromdorf, the rain pelts ceaselessly down. After two hours they pass the grey bulk of Tempest Knap to the east, where Ackerland makes the sign of Sigmar’s hammer and avoids looking at the hill, then after two hours more they arrive at the small Ackerland farm, where they are greeted at the farmhouse door by a welcoming firelight and the farmer’s wife Meg. The adventurers are introduced to his eldest son Kleb and and 16-year old daughter Marien (who takes a shine to Yuri), not to mention nine other offspring. Sitting at the kitchen table and enjoying food and drink, Ackerland and the adventurers pour over a rough map of the farm and discuss the plans for the night ahead.

While Ackerland and a hired farmhand patrol the Far Field, and two shepherds patrol the Long Field, Immolatus and Yuri hide themselves among rocks in the Far Field and Grudge and Torus station themselves between the two fields north of the watchtower. All is dark and quiet—save for the rain—until around midnight, when without warning something lands with a thud at the feet of Immolatus, there is a sudden spray of fine mist or smoke, and he finds himself overcome with drowsiness. Yuri cries out for the others and they head towards the cattle lowing in the darkness, but the cannot yet see anything in the thick night. As Grudge and Yuri run, they both trip and fall face first in the mud, further slowing them down. As Yuri gets to his feet he sees small cloaked figures ushering several cattle away from the herd and southwards.

After some confusion the adventurers meet up to the south of the farm, and Immolatus, somewhat recovered, lights up the sky with a flameblast spell. In the brief red flare they see two groups of black-cloaked figures heading into the trees, the sheep and cattle they tried to steal now abandoned; one turns and the snarling, ugly, long-nosed green face of a goblin is revealed. Then all goes dark again.

The adventurers set off on the goblin’s heels. An epic chase of several hours through the stormy night follows, that rapidly takes its toll on the stamina of the heroes: first Immolatus (already weakened), then Yuri, then Torus fall behind, until only Grudge, axe in hand and a stony expression of hatred and determination on his face, finally catches up to the goblin band and charges into their midst, whirling his axe about his head. His strength is fearsome, but he is badly outnumbered by the loathsome greenskins, who quickly surround him and begin sticking him with the pointy end of their spears, doing terrible damage.

Torus finally gets in range of the melee and manages to rapidly fire off an arrow or two, successfully hitting even in the darkness. Just as Grudge begins to weaken and feels that he cannot withstand any more attacks and live, the goblins finally break and flee, heading over a ridge. Grudge follows and crests the ridge, to see below him a fortified farm overrun with dozens of goblins; the breaking goblins are running towards it shouting and waving their arms. Grudge manages to take down one with his axe, and the last is silouetted against the night the sky at the crest of the hill as Torus draws back his bow, aims, and fires—and the goblin falls. Torus and Grudge fall to the ground, grab the legs of the dead goblins and silently drag them back over the ridgetop and into the darkness …

Stretched full length on their bellies, the adventurers briefly survey the farm: it is a well-defended compound surrounded by a ten foot high palisade of stakes and watched over by a stone tower and gatehouse. The farmyard swarms with four dozen goblins or more.

Huddling together, they discuss their next move. Grudge decides to return to the Ackerland farm for some well-needed rest and recovery, while the other adventurers take shelter in a nearby shepherd’s shelter and keep an eye on the farm.

Grudge reaches the Ackerland farm just past dawn, takes some food and ale and goes to bed after learning that the farm belonged to the Baumer family. Back at the Baumer farm, the other adventurers make a map of the compound. At one stage Torus attempts to scale the palisade near the barn, out of sight of the watchtower and gatehouse, but fails. Just before dawn they witness a strange goblin—perhaps a leader or shaman—emerge from the farmhouse, carried on a marble slab born aloft by two bearers and accompanied by bodyguards. He has a shard of grubby white marble tied to his head with leather thongs. He blathers imperiously in the gutteral goblin speech and the other goblins grovel in the mud around him; suddenly, he shouts at one of the goblins and blasts him with a bolt of green lightning. After this display of power, he is carried back into the farmhouse—hitting his head on the door lintel as he passes through.

The only other events occur just after first light when the goblins have returned to the barn and the compound is quiet. Torus spots a small figure—not a goblin however, perhaps a human child—climb up out of the farmyard well and dart into an outbuilding. Also, from within a single-storey extension built onto the farmhouse with a hole in its roof, can be heard the enormous growling snores of some creature.

Late the next day Grudge returns, somewhat refreshed. That night, adventurers decide to set up an ambush for any new goblin raiding party. On the path back to the Ackerland farm they select a suitable area, and lie in wait for their quarry. An hour or so before midnight ten goblins, walking two abreast, fall into the ambush. Torus rises from behind a rocky outcrop to the side of the line of goblins, Yuri rushes in from the other side, Grudge confronts the goblins at the head of the line, Immolatus appears at the rear, and combat is joined.

The goblins spot all their assailants quickly except for Yuri, who charges out of the darkness unseen. Torus rapidly fires arrows into the goblins as they rush towards him. Grudge charges in with his trusty axe, and Immolatus tries to gather energy for a spell but fails to do so before goblins engage him in combat.

Immolatus is close to death as Yuri rushes up behind the goblin and thrusts his sword into its back; Immolatus then reaches forward, grabs the goblin’s face and unleashes a flameblast spell directly onto its head. The body slumps to the ground and Immolatus is left holding a charred skull, which he crumbles in his fist and lets fall. Eventually only two goblins remain, who turn to flee, but they are quickly cut down with an arrow from Torus and a swordblow from Yuri.

Squatting near the goblin dead, after a long and detailed discussion huddled over their roughly-drawn map and a final resolution of the details of their attack, Immolatus butts in with “umm.. so what’s the plan?”

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Mourning Has Broken

The adventurers search the mortuary room, noting the vats of embalming fluid and medical tools in the alcoves, and the skull-carved altar and heavy stone font before the locked black metal door which appears to be the only exit. Yuri ingeniously suggests using one of the medical tools to lockpick the door, and Torus sets himself to the task without success. Yuri pushes him out the way and makes an attempt, but his fat Kislevian fingers only succeed in breaking the tool within the lock.

A less subtle approach is suggested, and Torus, Grudge, Yuri and Gottschalk lift the heavy stone font from its base—tipping out the water sacred to Morr—and smash it against the door. The metal buckles and breaks, providing access to a flight of stone stairs leading upwards into the grey daylight. Led by Grudge, the adventurers climb the stairs and find themselves in the Garden of Morr, usually only the province of priests of the Lord of Death and Dreams.

The garden is surrounded by a high wall, the grounds filled with gravestones and the occasional monument, and almost overgrown with bushes of black roses that are beginning to whither. Rain patters against the stones, and the sky is low and overcast. An occasional bolt of lightning hits the roof of the mausoleum, to be dissipated safely by a brass lightning rod. Gottschalk, who has been here before, points out the path ahead, leading through the graveyard leading to a mausoleum against the far wall, and the central tomb of the hero Olaus Stichelm.

The adventurers cautiously advance, keeping an eye in all directions. When they reach the tomb they see that it has split asunder—from inside. Torus attempts to climb to the top of the low tomb to examine an empty niche, but slips and falls on his back in the wet grass. Yuri then climbs up, and is surprised by the sudden appearance of Waltrout, who seems to have entered the garden via a different route. Around the niche are chips of marble indicated that a headstone once here has been removed.

Without warning, a hand shoots up from the ground and grabs Yuri’s leg; then another, then another! Waltrout shrieks as the dead burst forth from the earth in a wave of rotting flesh; a shambling horde of decaying men and women dragging themselves from their graves, groaning with hunger. Undead lunge at Gottschalk from behind a grave statue, and he and Yuri desperately fight off the horrific creatures. Other groups of zombies engage the others, as the entire graveyard seethes with the living dead.

The adventurers fight off the dead; Immolatus firing bolts of flame, Torus rapidly shooting off arrows, Grudge wielding his mighty axe with thunderous blows. Each exerts himself to the maximum to beat off the grasping hands and then sprints towards the relative safety of the mausoleum.

After short and desperate combat they all sprint to the mausoleum door, only Yuri critically wounded with a bite to his left arm. Immolatus opens the door—thankfully unlocked—and the adventures tumble forward into the darkness, slamming the door behind them which soon shudders with the blows and scratching of the undead.

Immolatus brings forth a flame, and looking around them the adventurers see the room is an ossuary; every conceivable place is decorated with human bones. A pyramid of skulls eight feet tall dominates the room, a flight of stone stairs descends beside it. As they take in this macabre scene, a clattering and shifting is heard and bones knit themselves together and fall from the ceiling, forming full skeletons that bare their way to the stairs. Again, battle is joined as the adventurers force their way through to the only exit.

Finally the entire party runs down the stairs and into a crypt, closing a door behind them. They hear the muffled sounds of the zombie horde beating at the mausoleum door, and the terrifying clacking of the skulls above gnashing their teeth. Thankfully, the crypt seems relatively safe. Several curtained alcoves are searched by Torus, who after discovering a larder, well, and wardrobe, is startled by a statue of a skeleton in another alcove.

Grudge carefully peeks around one of the two doors leading of the room, and sees a short corridor leading to a small dark room—behind a large shape on the floor is a dark figure, and some kind of green mist glows between them. Torus investigates the other room and finds a study complete with table, chair and bookshelves. Immolatus casts a spell to cauterise Yuri’s would and temporarily cure him of its effects.

The adventurers prepare themselves to confront the shape in the first room. As they enter, Grudge at the front, followed by Torus, they see an ebony coffin with a still figure dressed in black lying in it; behind the coffin, her hands clutching at the recumbent figure’s head and seemingly drawing out its life force, is the rotting corpse of Madrigal, the woman in Burgomeister Phillip Adler’s dream. She is dressed in a ragged, dirty, purple gown; her cheeks sunken, her eye sockets empty, her pale skin rotten and writhing with maggots. her long black hair hangs lankly over her shoulders. Her mouth seems to leer in a lop-sided grin where her lips have been eaten away. A silver pendant hangs around her withered neck, set with a large, black gem.

Her mouth cracks open and a hoarse voice tells them that the festering corpse is driven by the will of the necromancer Lazarus Mourn … Suddenly, Waltrout, falls to the floor of the corridor, calling Mourn his master, babbling nonsense, and ripping his shirt off to reveal his chest and back scarred with tiny words.

At that moment, from where it was hidden near the door, the huge, armoured skeleton of Olaus Stichlem steps out to block the adventurers’ passage. He wears plate armor green with age and wields a mighty great sword. Lashed to his arm and serving as a shield is his headstone—a marble slab that flickers with blue energy.

Grudge attacks with his axe, Torus fires off his arrows, and Immolatus sends blots of flame towards the ancient skeleton. The battle is hard-fought but eventually, with a groan of relief, it collapses into dust. Mourn casts a spell of Mortification and Immolatus is surrounded with a green mist, sapping his will. But Mourn alone is no match for the adventurers, and the corpse is taken down with two arrows fired by Torus. As it falls, a green mist pours out of its mouth and eye sockets and into the pendant’s gem, and the cacophony of zombies beating against the mausoleum door and the gnashing of skeletal jaws suddenly ceases. There is a moment of horrible recall as the corpse whispers “where’s Phillip?”; and then the remnants of Madriga’s tortured soul return to rest.

The adventurers rest and tend their wounds. Torus searches the bookshelves in the study and finds an old scroll, which unfortunately no one can read. Brother Grabbe, the figure in the coffin, is found to still be alive, but in need of medical attention. After several hours rest the adventurers carry him, still in the coffin, out into the garden—a horrific sight, the ground disturbed and litted with corpses in all stages of decay—and back to Stromdorf.

Waltrout is tied up and led back to town. Gottschalk carries the breastplate and shield of Stichelm, to be placed in the Temple of Sigmar. The occasional lightning bolt seems to follow the marble headstone that the adventurers have identified as another piece of the strange map or code stone they are discovering. Gottschalk remarks that it reminds him of the lightning that often strikes the Temple of Sigmar during his sermons, and Grudge asks him if the temple has a crypt, which it apparently does.

Back in Stromdorf, the adventurers are hailed again as conquering heroes. Brother Grabbe is taken to Dr Schneider for healing, and later Yuri also goes there to be healed of his critical bite wound, though he must stay there several days at a cost of nineteen silver pieces to fully recover. Gottschalk is grateful to the adventurers for the opportunity to ‘get back in the saddle’ as it were, and returns to his Temple. Kessler is informed of Waltrout’s connivance with the necromancer—he supplied him with bodies he ‘borrowed’ from Morr’s Garden—and thrown into gaol. Adler is enormously grateful and very emotional, saying he has dishonoured his predecessors and vowing to immediately return to his duties as burgomeister. The adventurers are paid fifty silver each as a reward.

Back at the Thunderwater Inn, Sebastien Brenner buys the adventurers drinks. Torus tells him that they encountered his dead wife, but that she had been laid again to rest and ‘her last words were of you’. Brenner takes this news in stony silence and walks away. Niklaus Schulmann is eager for news of any ‘lightning stones’, and when told that the stone rests at the Temple of Sigmar, he immediately rushes off to begin his study of it.

The adventurers visit the eccentric Professor Hieronymous Köpfchen, ask him to decifer the old scroll (he cannot; it is in classical Tilean), and tell him of the lightning stone, who accompanies them to the Temple. There, Gottschalk hails them before the congregation as heroes, then leads them down into the crypt where Stichelm’s armour and sword and the stone are being kept. Schulmann and Köpfchen begin working together to decifer the inscriptions, Köpfchen mentioning that the stone reminds him of stories of an ancient Elven seer stone that the temple was supposedly built over, or perhaps moved to make way for the temple. Torus looks around the temple for anything that might indicate the prescence of another stone, but without success.

That night as the adventurers rest, a huge gale sweeps through the town, smashing tiles from roofs, toppling chimneys and breaking windows. The next morning Stromdorf is alive with the news that the granneries have been destroyed, and the harvest stored there ruined.

The next day, the adventurers (except for Yuri) gather some digging tools together and plan to head out of the town towards the lonely haunted hill of Tempest Knap.

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Early evening in Stromdorf, and the adventurers visit the townhouse of Klaus Von Rothstein, to return the ring of Florian Wechsler and collect their payment. They are shown into a study by a butler, and after waiting some minutes, Von Rothstein appears, dressed in a somewhat frilly, brightly colored tent of a dressing gown. He greets the adventurers with delight and enquires after the progress of their search.

The adventurers wish to discuss the question of remuneration however, and attempt to increase the agreed-upon sum of 20 silver per man to a total of 100 silver. Von Rothstein baulks at this at first, even when confronted by the charm and guile of Torus, but a veiled threat from the taciturn Grudge eventually makes him come around, and the adventurers are paid. Grudge then offers to send him a young girl to be trained for a position in his household—no doubt thinking of the young Holtz girl, and Von Rothstein agrees to have his butler take care of it.

The adventurers then repair to the Thunderwater Inn, where they find the taproom packed with patrons taking shelter from the rain outside. Standing at the bar, they talk with Sebastien Brenner, the gruff, scowling owner of the Inn, who offers them a free drink and introduces them to the inn patrons as the group who discovered the Holtzes and brought them to justics. There are general cheers and back-slapping, and Torus decides to shout everyone a drink, which is very well received indeed.

After a dinner of lark pie and gravy with vegetables and several pints of Thunderwater Ale, the adventurers repair to their room upstairs. On their way they knock on the door of Niklas Schulmann, who after a short delay opens the door. He is a strange and imposing figure, dressed in midnight-blue robes, a high cowl and skullcap, and holding a staff capped with a clockwork device—the garb of a Celestial wizard. He seems little interested in what has been going on in town, but does seem interesting in talk of a stone that attracts lightning. It is decided to meet for breakfast and more talk in the taproom.

After a rejuvenating sleep, the adventurers meet Schulmann for breakfast before going to the town hall for the Holtz trial. Schulmann reveals he is actually on a mission from the Celestial College, who have him seeking a number of strange stones, supposedly in the area, that are said to have the ability to attract lightning. He asks the adventurers to let him know if they discover any such stones, as there will be a reward for their retrieval.

Afterwards, Grudge goes off by himself to the town hall to try and talk with Holtz, the young girl, but Kessler refuses to let anyone see the prisoners before the trial. Grudge does not attend the trial or the subsequent executions.

When the trial begins, the town hall itself is packed and people stand outside in the rain crowding the front steps. After a damning prosecution by Kessler, who accuses the Holtzes of everything from witchcraft to consorting with Chaos, Torus steps up to state the facts on behalf of the party. Marie Holtz breaks down when the mysterious figure near the hag tree is mentioned, revealing—shockingly—that he was her son. All present are horrified, and despite a half-hearted attempt by Torus to assert the relative innocence of the Holtzes—or at least the younger members of the clan—the outcome is never in doubt. The town elder summarises the case, and the Holtzes are immediately marched out to the Field of Verena just outside of the Reikland Gate, and the entire family strung up, struggling, on the town gibbet tree. Their bodies swing in the cold rain as the townspeople slowly shuffle back through the gates.

The adventurers decide to visit the Temple of Sigmar, and after a brief conversation with an initiate, meet Lector Magnus Gottschalk, a huge, bull-necked veteran warrior priest who reveals he has been experiencing visions and dreams sent by Sigmar. The adventurers ask him to accompany them on their next adventure, and he readily agrees, seeing a last chance to serve Sigmar in combat against His enemies.

That night, Torus is woken from sleep by the sound of somewhat shouting. As he wakes the other adventurers, they hear the front door splintering under the weight of heavy blows and Brenner and his sons running for the stairs. Reaching the landing, they see to their horror that the reanimated corpses of the Holtzes, along with two badly decomposed bodies and a watchmen, are shuffling into the inn, arms outstretched, eyes white, cracked lips moving as they moan softly. Brenner reaches for his blunderbuss behind the bar and blows off the head of the watchman zombie, as his sons freeze with terror. The adventurers step forward and to will take care of the situation. Grudge and Yuri rush forward into combat, fighting off the onlaught of zombies, while Torus and Immolatus stand behind them and higher up the stairs to shoot arrows and employ spells. Dead Holtz children mindlessly repeated “Mam-a” as they chew on ankles; corpses catching on fire after being hit by a flameblast by Immolatus; the taproom of the inn is a true scene of nightmare, but eventually the adventurers prevail.

From outside they hear a voice crying “it’s alive, it’s alive”, and they rush out to encounter an old man in purple robes hobbling down the street. Once calmed, he reveals his name is Hieronymous Köpfchen, and leads the adventurers to his house, where they find a medical skeleton suspended from the ceiling of his study, flailing about, its teeth chattering. They destroy the skeleton, and accept a rejuvenating cup of tea from the Professor, who is a specialist in history and linguistics.

Returning to the inn, they find Arno Kessler and his men clearing away the bodies. Kessler seems genuinely furious with the situation, and blames necromancy, mentioning one Lazarus Mourne, who was tried and burnt on the Field of Verena for that very crime a year go. It appears that even the incessant rain ceased while the mysteriously silent Mourne burned. The adventurers ask what the burgomeister is doing during these important events, and while Kessler seems to defend the man, he concedes that something must be done, and eventually says he will speak with him, and that the adventurers should meet him on the steps of the town hall in the morning.

After a restless night, the adventurers keep their appointment outside the Town Hall with Kessler, who informs them that the Burgomeister, somewhat surprisingly, has agreed to see them. They enter Burgomesiter Adler’s office and find the man sitting behind his desk, staring with red-rimmed eyes at a small portrait. He is gaunt and unkempt, and smells unwashed. After quietly eferring to the woman in the portrait my “his dear Madriga”—Torus overhears this—he puts down the portrait and tells the adventurers of a terrible dream he had; a visit from her decaying corpse, asking him to save her. He asks them to visit the Garden of Morr outside of town and fetch Brother Grabbe the priest, who can hopefully tell him the meaning behind his terrible dream.

They leave the office. Kessler quietly tells the adventurers that Madriga was Sebastien Brenner’s wife, and several months ago she went mad and drowned herself in the town well.

Accompanied by Lector Gotschalk, the adventurers leave the town by the Reikland Gate and head south along a coffin track. Just before leaving the gate they bump into Schulmann again, who reminds them that if they should encounter the lightning phenomenon again to keep an eye out for the mysterious marble stones. Walking along the track, they spy movment in a corn field tracking them, and Grudge walks into the field to discover a small simpleton of a man with bulging eyes and stinking of fish. This turns out to be one Waltrout Glöckner, who explains that he is a friend of Brother Grabbe’s, whom he is going to visit.

Before visiting the graveyard, the adventurers decide to continue on to the local landmark known as Tempest Knap, a hill some one hundred and fifty feet high and surmounted by mysterious—and some say haunted—ruins. Glöckner will not approach the ruins and waits for them at the turn-off to the river. They scramble up the muddy hillside, and examining the ruins, Torus hears ghostly voices on the wind, from which he recognises a few words of arcane Elvish. Briefly excavating in the wet soil, the adventurers discover small pieces of what could be the marble that the lightning stone is made of, with traces of carving on them.

Returning to the track and meeting up again with Glöckner, the group continues until they reach the River Tranig. A bell hangs on a post and a raft is tied to a willow tree on the other side of the river. Glöckner rings the bell but is upset when Brother Grabbe doesn’t answer. Grudge ties a rope around himself and swims across the river quite successfully, though he is bitten by one of the Reikland eels that live in the river as he does so.

Before long all are on the opposite bank and facing the imposing walls of the Garden of Morr. They enter the gate and a dark tunnel. Immolatus conjures a magical flame to guide the party. At the end of the tunnel they enter a dark room—perhaps a mortuary of some sort. Behind curtains are six alcolves, and in three of these, corpses reposing under shrouds sit up, moaning—the dead come to life! One, an old man, attacks Yuri; a small boy, calling mindlessly for his mother, lunges for Grudge; and as Torus watchs, he is grabbed from behind by the corpse of a fat middle-aged woman, who begins to try to drag him back into the alcove to feast upon his flesh—or perhaps for something worse! As Torus struggles, Immolatus fires magic darts at the abomination, whose fatty flesh sizzles at the impact; Lector Gottschalk strikes it down with his hammer in the name of Sigmar. Grudge and Yuri quickly deal with their repulsive assailants.

A black door leads out of the room.

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Those Bloody Beastmen

The adventurers consider their next move, questioning the mysterious figure. It transpires that a huge beastman called Izka the Madtooth is the leader of the beastmen of the swamp, and using the lightning stone, which brings down bolts of lightning from the heavens, he is inciting them to war against Stromdorf. Formerly they have been mollified by the sacrifices that the Holtz clan have brought to them, with the help of the greedy halfling Keila Cobblepot, who drugs out-of-towners at the Stewpot Inn, steals their valuables and gives the poor unfortunates to the Holtzes.

Otto Holtz retrieves a cart from nearby, which the adventurers drag into the swamp. During the brief flashes of lightning they spot other distant figures converging towards the place up ahead where it is striking. After some difficulty, pushing and pulling the cart through the muddy pools of the swamp, they begin to draw near. Torus goes on ahead and sneaks carefully up to the edge of a clearing.

There he beholds a huge beastman before an old standing stone, a muddy marble slab tied to the top. Izka bellows his rage at the sky and harangues a gathering of beastmen in his guttural tongue. Occasionally a bolt of lightning descends from the sky and strikes the stone, and each time this happens the beastmen are whipped into an even greater frenzy. More are arriving as Torus watches.

Torus creeps back to where the others huddle around a stunted tree and explains the situation. The adventurers argue for some time about their next course of action; perhaps they should wait until the beastmen leave to destroy Stromdorf, and then steal the stone; or perhaps wait and see if the beastmen eventually end their revels and sleep, when they can sneak among them and reach the stone?

Torus sneaks up to the clearing to spy further, and a small band of four beastmen stumble upon the other three adventurers. There is a brief, desperate battle in the swamp. Luckily no other beastmen are alerted and the small group is dispatched.

When Torus returns again, a plan is finally formulated. Covering himself with mud, Torus creeps around one side of the clearing and as far into it as he dares, and there prepares to shoot arrows into the huge beastman leader in an attempt to draw him away from the stone. Immolatus does the same on the other side of the clearing, planning to distract another group of beastmen with flameblasts. Yuri and Grudge prepare to run directly for the stone.

The die is finally cast. Torus manages to hit Izka with a couple of arrows, who is initially confused but then spots the interloper and, bellowing in rage, lowers his sharp horns and charges into battle, looking to impale this upstart human. Torus is struck with terror and almost faints, but manages to gird his loins enough to stay conscious; Izka does terrible damage to him but he survives and turns to run into the swamp for his life. Another group of beastmen rush towards Torus, joining their leader. Things are looking very grim for Torus as Izka closes in for the kill, but at that moment Foaldeath appears by the standing stone and chants strange words. Up from the very mud and earth of the swamp come grasping vines and tendrils, clawing and entangling the hooves of Izka and the beastmen and slowing them down; and Torus makes good his escape.

On the other side of the clearing, Immolatus lets fly with a flameblast, which kills a beastman. The survivors rush towards him. Yuri and Grudge move forward to support Immolatus. As Torus runs for his life into the swamp, combat is joined between Immolatus, Grudge, and Yuri on one side and the beastmen on the other.

Eventually Torus manages to get enough ahead of his pursuers to induce them to give up and return to the clearing. As they do so he follows them, harrying Izka with arrows all the while. Back in the clearing, around the lightning stone, the final battle is joined as Grudge and Yuri charge at Izka and, weakened by the arrows of Torus, he is finally brought down by a final blow from Grudge’s axe.

There is a moment of deadly quiet; suddenly one beastmen bellows at another, then a beastmen charges at another … then all hell breaks lose as all over the clearing the beastmen begin trumpeting ghastly challenges and headbutting each other. The fight for the new leader of the tribe is on. By the standing stone, the bestial figure of Foaldeath cackles with pleasure, then disappears into the darkness.

Immolatus conjures up flame enough to burn the ropes holding the lightning stone, and it crashes into the mud at their feet. Hauling it between them, with the bellowing and fighting of the beastmen ringing in their ears, the adventurers make haste to escape the clearing and reach safety.

After much difficulty they reach the Holtz farm again. The Holtzes are in hiding, but the adventurers decide not to pursue them, and move on to the Eigel farm, where they find Tristan Eigel, sitting among the ruins of his family’s home, sobbing into his hands. He is cheered by the arrival of the adventurers however, and rushes on ahead to Stromdorf to tell the populace of their exploits. In the meantime, the adventurers bury the lightning stone under a tree, which seems to calm its lightning attraction powers somewhat. They then walk on, muddy, wounded, wet, tired and sore, to Stromdorf; reaching the town as the sun is finally rising above the horizon.

At Stromdorf a small crowd is waiting, and the adventurers are cheered as “beastman killers” and town saviours, even though no one is really quite sure what happened in the Oberslecht. In any case, the very fact they seemed to survive a trip deep into the swamp is reason enough to make up plenty of wild stories. The watch captain, Arno Kessler, steps forward and makes enquiries, but the adventurers decide to play it coy and tell him nothing, though he is naturally suspicious. Grudge says nothing, refusing to turn in the Holtzes, as he had made a promise to Marie Holtz not to betray her family which he intends to keep, and he takes no part in the subsequent decision to inform Kessler.

The adventurers leave the somewhat disappointed crowd and head for the Stewpot Inn, which they find deserted and showing all the signs of a hasty departure. Splitting up to run to the three town gates, they pursue Cobblepot. Grudge finds her on horseback near the north gate, grabs her horse, and endures a thrashing with a riding crop before he intimidates Cobblepot severely and takes her back to the inn, now a broken woman.

There the adventurers interrogate her. It is not long before the entire ugly truth comes out—the druggings, the stealing of valuables, the selling of the victims to the Holtzes. Grudge searches her belongings and finds Florian Wechsler’s merchant signet ring.

The adventurers decide to come clean with the law and visit Kessler’s offices, taking Cobblepot with them to be arrested. Kessler listens to the story, then immediately sends a party of watchmen to arrest the Holtzes. In the meantime, the adventurers return to the empty Stewpot Inn and take comfortable rooms in which to finally rest.

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Welcome to Stromdorf

Dawn is just tinging the sky and smoke drifting over the estate as the battle finally comes to a close, the last remnants of the attacking beastmen force vanishing into the dark trees of the Reikwald. Dead bodies lie scattered over the muddy ground. On the roof, Grudge pokes his head over the edge and waves to Torus below. The remaining cultists—four young, blubbering servants—huddle behind him in terror. Aschaffenberg looks shocked and bewildered at arising from a drugged sleep to discover the aftermath of a desperate battle which has virtually decimated his staff. After a brandy however, he begins to organise everyone in to the great hall for a head count.

Most of his main staff members were cultists and were killed on the roof by Grudge’s axe: Gregor Piersson, his steward, Vern Hendrick, his manservant, Dr Stefan Sieger, physician, Otto Giezhals, librarian, Bertholdt Granhof, his gardner. Even his cook Karla Wagner, who must have been responsible for drugging the evening’s meal, seems to have fled or been carried off into the forest. Olver Gand and his dogs and several of the guards are dead, though Captain Anders Blucher and another guard survive, battered and bleeding. Some of the staff had been drugged and were spared: two of the servants and the coachman, and of course the two wounded guards in the hospice, along with Sister Sonja and the mad dwarf Korden Kurgansson.

Klaus von Rothstein, almost the sacrificial victim of a mad cult, is dazed and confused, but can dimly recall being pushed off the roof and into the mud at one stage. He is grateful for his life however. As he whinges and moans, Aschaffenberg leans to whisper into Uri’s ear, “Perhaps you do a fellow a favour and take this von Rothstein character off my hands, what? Wouldn’t do for him to get lost in the forest after surviving this ruddy great drama! No doubt they’ll be a few shillings in it for you as well.”

Grudge retrieves Kurgan’s hammer from the Sigmar shrine and returns it to the hospice. Sister Sonja explains how she hid the hammer at Kurgan’s request when he was raving about ‘them’ getting their hands on it. Grudge returns it to Kurgan who clutches it desperately. Grudge then promises Sister Sonja to let his clan at Karak Asgaraz know about his plight.

After the head count, everyone shuffles wearily to their beds for a well-earned rest.

The next evening the adventurers are feeling better, and Aschaffenberg asks them into his sitting room and pours them all a brandy. While lamenting the loss of his manservant, he theorises that Hendrick must have thought the adventurers were incompetent, otherwise why would he have hired them? “You certainly showed him!” he guffaws good-naturedly.

Aschaffenberg explains that he must stay and repair the estate and replace the staff, but he invites the adventurers to visit him when he returns to his house in Ubersreik in a week or so, where he can talk to them about the possibility of a modest stipend while they do some odd jobs for him. In the meantime, he will pay each of them six shillings for the day’s work as agreed, and an extra six shillings each.

Von Rothstein is desperate to get home to his house in Stromdorf and hires the adventurers to escort and protect him on the journey. He offers each adventurer four silver per day, but is easily bargained up to five per day after a bit of intimidation by the dwarf. He also mentions that they will like Stromdorf, as “there are plenty of things to kill around there.”

The next morning at dawn, the adventurers climb onboard the coach—Grudge riding up front with the coachman, they other three on the roof, von Rothstein inside—and bid farewell to Ascheffenberg. After several hours travel along the rough roads, they come to a place where the road passes through low hillocks to other side, the trees are dense and almost bare, and the ground is covered with a damp layer of brown leaves. A tree trunk has fallen across the road. As the coach pulls up a somewhat raffish-looking man holding a bow pops up from behind the log and announces “My name is Dirk Kleber, and I—oh dear, you are all rather well-armed—”

Unfortunately the die has been cast, and two bands of four rogues each come running down the slopes to either side of the coach as several arrows thud into its sides. Kleber does not have time to withdraw his attack on a coach that is rather better protected than he’d hoped. As von Rothstein cries and whimpers from within the coach, the adventurers prepare to earn their shillings.

An arrow from Kleber’s bow pings off Grudge’s chainmail as he launches himself into the air and onto the log, simultaneously bringing his axe down in a reckless cleave. It seems that Kleber is destined to be immediately chopped in two like so much firewood, but at the last minute he manages to avoid the blow which plunges into the treetrunk. The two exchange blows, Grudge chopping out great chunks of the wood like an axeman on festival day. In the meantime, Immolatus channels the fiery winds of magic through his body and lets loose with a flameblast at the men running for his side of the coach, turning two of them instantly into charcoal. The other two reach the coach fired up on shear bloody-minded rage however, and manage to strike at him with their swords.

On the other side of the coach, Yuri and Torus are not faring too well. The adventurers, no doubt exhausted mentally and physically after the events at Grunewald Manor, seem to have difficulty landing a hit on the ruffians. Yuri especially, despite his attempts to kill the men, is pretty much ignored as Torus takes the brunt of the attack, dropping his bow and drawing his dagger as the combat becomes hand to hand.

Eventually however, Grudge fells their leader with a vicious riposte, Torus manages to stab one of Immolatus’s assailants and the other is felled with a magic dart, and the remaining two thugs run off into the forest screaming.

The journey continues and they arrive at the free market town of Ubersreik. Here they are put up for the night at Bridge House, and take the opportunity to buy a few items from the nearby shops and stalls. Grudge finds some Karak Azgaraz dwarves and lets them know about Kurgan back at Grunwald Manor. Von Rothstein does not socialise with the adventurers, but he does reveal that he had a letter waiting for him with the news that his wife’s cousin, a small-time merchant called Florian Wechsler, has gone missing on a visit to Stromdorf. Von Rothstein engages the adventurers to try to find Wechsler when they reach the town, but notes he is more concerned about the retrieval of Wechsler’s merchant guild signet ring—and avoiding any damage to his reputation that its loss may incur—than the missing man himself.

The next morning they continue their journey by boat. As the hours pass, the blue sky clouds over and darkness gathers, and before long rain begins to fall, intensifying as they sail further down the River Teufel. By late afternoon they are near the western bridge of Stromdorf and in the grip of a thunderstorm; the river has overflowed its banks and their small boat is tossing on the raging waters. The wooden bridge has been broken and smashed, and as they get closer a beam smashes into the side of the boat and the captain falls into the water with a scream and is swept away. One of the adventurers grabs the tiller but the boat keels over and everyone is thrown into the raging river. Immolatus and von Rothstein are swept towards the ruined bridge while Grudge, Yuri and Torus desperately scramble up the muddy banks. Torus immediately runs for the bridge and manages to grab von Rothstein, but Immolatus struggles vainly and almost reaches the confluence of the Teufel and Ober rivers before he manages to reach the shore, exhausted and close to drowning.

Wet, tired and on the verge of collapse, the party staggers down the muddy road to the walls of Stromdorf and finally enter the town, locals staring at these strange visitors. After stumbling through the thick muddy streets and to the main square—which is raised on wooden planks to avoid the mud—they eventually escort von Rothstein to his house and then find a room and a warm fire at the Thunderwater Inn.

The next day the adventurers begin their enquiries into the disappearance of Florian Wechsler. After learning where he was staying, they engage in a long discussion with the proprietress of the Stewport Tavern, a friendly halfling woman named Keila Cobblepot, and learn that two weeks ago Wechsler left early in the morning after paying his bill and she has not seen him since. They also learn he had a cart and a white pony with him.

After talking with the guards at the east gate, they learn that a farmer, Reiner Holtz, was seen leaving the gate around midnight with a cart and a white pony which no one on the gate recognised. The adventurers decide to visit the farm of the Holtzes.

There has been no lessening of the continual rain; in fact the thunder and rain has steadily increased. As the party leaves the city and heads south on a muddy track over grey, sodden fields to the edge of the swampy morass known as the Oberslecht, they notice flashes of lightning that seem to be striking one spot repeatedly deep in the swamp.

Close to the edge of the Oberslecht, they see a ruined and smoking group of farmhouses, and investigating, discover cloven footprints in the muck and all the signs of relatively recent devastation. On a low hill to the north is another farm, presumably that of the Holtz clan, and they head in that direction.

The party arrives in the middle of a heated argument. A tall, gangly, tattered and soot-stained figure is violently remonstrating with a shorter, darker figure with close-set eyes and a weak chin. Several other figures look on: a thick-necked, strong-armed man, a dark-haired woman, a grim-eyed, dark-haired small man, and a teenager; and there are others about the farmyard; all bear the unmistakable signs of inbreeding; the worst examples of Empire commonfolk.

Torus sneaks into the barn and discovers the cart and white pony within. The gangly figure is accusing the Holtz family of being responsible for the death of his family at the hands of beastmen, and eventually attempts to stab the other man, at which point Grudge and the other adventurers intervene. The shocked Holtz clan are quizzed about their involvement in the disappearance of Weschler, but deny everything. When confronted with the evidence of the pony and cart, Reiner Holtz says Wechsler sold them to him at a bargain price at the Stewpot, and that he “must have been planning to disappear.”

Eventually the dark-haired woman, her face lined with grief and worry, steps forward and asks the adventurers to come with her; there is someone she wishes them to meet. Accompanied by the hulking form of whom you guess to be her husband, she grabs a lantern from a hook by the barn door and begins to lead the adventurers past the farm buildings, past the fields and to the edge of the Oberslecht. By the lantern’s feeble light the figures climb onto a small hillock, a rise above the boggy ground, and to the north is a massive, squat, brooding tree. It is leafless, and festooned with fetishes and charms, the pelts of animals, and collections of feathers and bones. The knotty trunk is stained here and there with what looks to be old blood. The adventurers realise they are walking over old bones; a cow’s skull, a horse’s leg, and other—more disturbing—remains.

The woman calls into the twisted trees around you. “Are you there? I’ve brought people who might help.” There is a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder. “Please, we don’t have much time.”

A hunched, cloaked figure shuffles out of the darkness, leaning on a wooden staff capped with an animal skull and festooned with feathers, teeth, and semi-precious stones. The figure’s torn robes are similarly decorated, with a leather mantle worked with animal bones. The figure speaks in a voice that rasps and crackles.

“I hope you can help. She speaks true; time is running out. This very night Izka the Madtooth comes to destroy the works of Man. He will not stop until no stone stands on another, until all the gods of Man are cast down and destroyed. You must take the source of his power and strip from him the favour of the Dark Gods. You must steal the lightning stone.”

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An Eye For An Eye

Immolatus fetches Torus and Yuri. As they meet outside, they witness the arrival of a coach at the gatehouse, and Klaus von Rothstein hauls his fat body out of it and to the ground. 

Back in the house, Torus and Lavarar climb down to the cellar through the trapdoor while Yuri guards the library. Meanwhile, Grudge has explored one of the other passages, which leads to a shaft up which he climbs to discover a secret entrance which he assumes leads to behind the bookcase in the master bedroom. Torus explores the last passage, which comes to another secret door that he thinks leads to the kitchen cellar; he hears faint sounds of banging pots and pans beyond.

All the adventurers save Yuri gather in the cellar. Unable to read the books, Torus and Grudge have a heated discussion about whether to burn them or not, but eventually they decide not to and return to the library. Yuri meanwhile has managed to convice Otto Geizhals, the corpulent librarian, that they are catching vermin. Nearby, several servants giggle to themselves as they dust the old paintings.

Ashaffenberg enters the gallery and motions Yuri aside, explaining that Von Rothstein has arrived unannounced, no doubt to curry favour with the new von Bruner family member, and he is well known as a notorious gossip and unpopular fellow from whom it is important to conceal any whiff of scandal.

Yuri takes Grudge and Torus into the sitting room, where he has already been and experienced a strange and forboding atmosphere. Behind heavy velvet blue curtains they discover an horrific painting of an eye, an image so terrifying that Yuri is temporarily reduced to a nervous wreck after seeing it.

A servant appears to inform them that dinner will be served in the main hall in an hour.
Torus and Grudge move to the kitchen trying to get to the cellar to confirm their suspicions about the cellar passageway, but the cook is having none of it. As they return to the grand gallery Grudge discovers a note on the floor. Unfortunately none of the party can read…

Torus enters the main hall to show Aschaffenberg the note; interrupting his conversation with Von Rothstein. Moving out to the gallery with him, Aschaffenberg reads the single word on the note: ‘Goose’, and returns to his guest.

After getting changed—Torus borrows some fresh clothes from the guard captain—the adventurers gather in the grand hall for dinner. Outside darkness falls and the rumblings of thunder presage a storm. Apart from Aschaffenberg, Klaus Von Rothstein, and the adventurers, the dinner guests are Vern Hendrick, Dr Sieger, Otto Geizhals, Captain Andreas Blucher, and somewhat later, arriving wet from the rain that has begun to pelt down, the master of the kennels, Olver Gand. Yuri attempts to amuse Gand with a joke about his name, but it is not received well; Torus however eases the tension by enquiring after Gand’s dogs.

The first course, a spicy vegetable soup, is served as Grudge goes to the kitchen cellars to retrieve a barrel of beer. He unsuccessfully tries to find the secret passage, and instead takes a barrel and sits outside the house by the kitchen door, drinking in solitude. Soon after Torus follows him to the cellar, finds the secret passage and leaves it unlatched, and takes a bottle of wine back to dinner which he takes care to drink from.

Meanwhile, the main meat dish is served by the increasingly incompetent servants, scolded by the annoyed butler, Gregor Piersson. The guests are offered a choice of goose or venison; all choose the venison save Torus, Yuri, Geizhals, and Sieger. As the meal begins, over the sound of the storm outside is heard the distant barking of dogs. Gand excuses himself to check on his animals.

As the desert arrives, several guests, including Immolatus, begin showing signs of exhaustion—yawning and speaking in slurred voices. Eventually  Aschaffenberg excuses himself and suggests Yuri join him for a brandy in his room to discuss the day. Hendricks and Immolatus retire. Torus remains at the table talking with Geizhals and Sieger, but soon decides to go outside. Grudge takes his barrel back into the cellar and goes through the secret passage into the underground temple, intending to wait for the arrival of any nocturnal worshippers.

Outside, Torus sees that there is some sort of commotion down near the gatehouse; figures with torches run about, there are shouts, and outlined by lightning flashes he sees bestial figures crawling through a gap in the walls and invading the compound. He rushes down through the rain to lend aid.

Yuri’s conversation with Aschaffenberg ends abruptly when the nobleman falls suddenly into a deep sleep where he sits. He hears the commotion outside and runs to investigate. Immolatus sleeps the sleep of the drugged, unaware he is being tied up by Hendrick, who had faked his exhaustion in order to set in motion his nefarious plans for the evening …

All is chaos at the gatehouse. In the storm several guards and Gand desperately try to fight off growing numbers of beastmen. Torus sprints for the nearby kennels where the dogs bark and jump, maddened by the strange bestial odours. He jumps up on the cage and unlatches the door, and Gand’s three great mastiffs charge forth to lock their jaws around the throats of the nearest beastmen.

Immolatus wakes, groggy and in the dark, and finds himself bound. He burns off the ropes with a cantrip and heads downstairs.

After trading quick blows with the invaders, Torus and Yuri run back towards the house, pursued by beastmen. Yuri reaches the house first and takes up a defensive position in the main doorway; he manages to block a beastman’s blow with the heavy wood, but is locked in battle with three of the creatures. Behind him, Immolatus staggers down the main staircase, cinders falling from his wrists, and seeing the fight at the doorway begins to channel the winds of magic.

Outside in the storm, Torus is sprinting for the house ahead of another three beastmen. As he reaches the covered walkway around the courtyard he makes a desperate leap up a column and for its roof, but he fails and falls back stumbling in the mud.

Back in the cellar, Grudge finally tires of waiting and climbs through the trapdoor into the library. As he passes through the gallery he notices the door to the sitting room is open; he charges in brandishing his axe but finds only the discarded frame of the painting, some ichor- stained bandages, and evidence that someone has disturbed the ashes in the fieplace. Discovering iron rings at the back of the chimney shaft, he climbs up to the roof and out into the storm, where he beholds a dreadful sight.

Luridly lit by the sickly green glow of Morrslieb moon, which seems to grin down through a swirling gap in the storm clouds, a group of cloaked figures chants around Hendrick and Piersson. The latter’s bandage is gone, revealing an horrific, huge, black, baleful eye. He holds the corrupted painting of the eye up to the light of Morrslieb. Hendrick leads the chant, reading from a book bound in mottled leather. Before them kneels a bedraggled Von Rothstein, blubbering and almost hysterical with fear.

What fiend from the deepest pits of Chaos are they summoning from the painting? Grudge does not wait to find out. 

Below, the desperate fight against the beastmen continues. Hendrick fights at the door as Immolatus casts flame blasts and magic darts; Torus gets off an arrow or two before having to drop his bow and defend himself with his dagger. A mighty wargor leader, wounded by Gand but still alive, charges toward the fray.

Back on the roof, Grudge charges towards the cultists without hesitation, dodging and pushing aside the twisted followers—who include Sieger and Geizhals—to reach Hendrick. With one almighty blow he splits the cult leader in twain! The body falls in two pieces from the roof and lands next to Torus as he fights below—to his surprise and confusion. On the roof, Pierson tries desperately to draw his dagger across Von Rothstein’s throat and complete the ritual, but only wounds him, as Grudge whirls about and dispatches three cultists after riposting their blows. Bodies fall like rain around Torus as he fights for his life against two beastmen, armed only with a dagger. Finally, Piersson too is killed by Grudge’s vengeful axe. The ritual has been interrupted and the summoning stopped; the storm clouds close again and Morrsleib’s light is hidden.

Grudge drags the groggy and bleeding Von Rothstein to the edge of the roof and pushes him off, aiming for the beastmen fighting Torus, but misses. Von Rothstein hits the mud hard.

After a hard battle Yuri and Immolatus kill several beastman and their leader. Torus has killed one beastman and the last flees. A horn sounds by the gatehouse and the remaining creatures flee into the forest, demoralised and beaten, but at a great cost in lives.

Yuri and Immolatus hear a sound behind them and turn. Down the stairs shuffles Aschaffenberg, yawning and scratching his head. “Did I miss something?” he asks.

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An Uneasy Alliance

At the Gibbous Moon Inn in a small, nameless village just outside of Ubersreik, near the Grey Mountains of the Reikland, four troubled, disparate—and desperate—characters happen to be in the common room when a man runs down the stairs and loudly enquires of the innkeeper whether the coach from Altdorf has arrived. When he is informed it is now a day late, he turns to the room and asks in a troubled voice “which of you men will undertake to find that coach and retrieve an important parcel for me? I’m paying 25 silver shillings.”

Chairs are pushed back and the three men and one dwarf gather together and gruffly introduce themselves—Torus Lavarar, a bounty hunter; Immolatus, a scarred and wild-eyed bright wizard in red robes; Yuri Ilich Stubbindrikov, a fighting man from Kislev, and a dwarf from the mountains who introduces himself only as ‘Grudgebringer’.

Torus makes a brief and unsuccessful attempt to hold out for more money, and as they leave the innkeeper tells them to look out for the roadwarden with the coach, a man by the name of Rutger Abend. Soon the four hastily assembled companions are on the muddy road north under an overcast and grumbling sky, looking for the missing coach. After some three hours of brisk walking, they round a bend and come across a terrible sight. The coach is halted by the side of the road, its front axle broken, its horses dead in their traces. The coach driver appears to be lying dead on the ground nearby. Around the coach, terrible creatures cavort and howl.

Two of them—green-skinned, short and scrawny, with large pointed ears and noses and mocking toothy grins—stand near the back, pulling off boxes and packages from where they were strapped to the top of the coach, and hurling them to the ground. Two more beat at the coach door.
A fourth creature, much larger and stronger, with a hulking, broad body and long, heavily muscled arms and wielding a huge cleaver, stands near the front of the coach, attacking a roadwarden, most probably Rutger Abend! Abend is already badly wounded, and his attacks are growing more feeble.

The adventurers run quickly forward to help; Grudge and Yuri through the trees and around to the other side of the coach, and Immolatus and Torus in full view towards the goblins, who see them, cry out, and rush towards them. Torus pauses to pull back his shortbow and unleash an arrow, which strikes true right through the head of a goblin and into the head of another! As they fall, Immolatus feels the pent up anger and magic within him grow, and in one explosive moment he channels the winds of Aqshy, or Fire magic, and unleashes them—in the form of a blast of flame that turns the remaining two goblins to ashes.

Grudge and Yuri near the coach and discover another hulking orc lurking in the trees on that side; it rushes towards Grudge bellowing a war cry and strikes furiously, the crushing blow inflicting a horrible wound on the dwarf. Grudge bellows in return and lets fly with a mighty reckless cleave with his great axe, and the orc is almost finished. Yuri steps forward and runs it through with his sword.

Seeing his fellow warriors sliced and fried is too much for the remaining orc; he breaks off combat and runs for the forest, taking a last arrow from Torus in the shoulder as he escapes. Abend collapses gratefully to the ground.

Finally thunder cracks, the heavens open and a heavy downpour begins. From within the coach come the sounds of whinging, pleading and berating. A fat merchant called Klaus von Rothstein arrogantly demands the adventurers collect his things and fix the coach, telling them there’s a ‘shiny shilling’ in it for them. Grudge complies and starts collecting the discarded luggage and packages. Yuri climbs over the coach and looks through the other window, spying a package under the interior seat with a seal on it—the package they were instructed by Hendrick to retrieve. But von Rothstein refuses to cooperate, insisting that everything belongs to him and the adventurers must get him to Ubersreik as soon as possible.

After receiving his shilling, Grudge begins to threaten von Rothstein; Yuri tries to employ logic and reason, and Torus attempts to fool him by saying he has spotted more goblins on the way. Von Rothstein is astonished at the arrogance of these grotty menials, but eventually Grudge brings the discussion to an end by completely losing his temper and tearing off the coach door. Von Rothstein is shocked into quiet compliance.

The adventurers retrieve the package, gather some of von Rothstein’s belongings, and the group sets off back to The Gibbous Moon Inn. They arrive back at the inn muddy, soaked and exhausted. Von Rothstein quietly goes off to a room. When Hendrick asks for his parcel, Torus suggests the price has changed; this however does not sit well with Grudge, and he and Torus engage in a heated argument which ends with Grudge thwacking Torus about the head with a tankard, another grudge written in the dwarf’s little book, and both threatening future consequences.

Will these hotheaded young adventurers be able to work together in future? Only time will tell …

Hendrick receives his parcel for the original price, and probably against his better judgement—and the fact that there is no one else even vaguely competent to hand—he offers the adventurers a job at Grunewald Manor, an isolated fortified lodge in the Reikwald Forest under the shadows of the Grey Mountains. Hendrick’s master, Rickard Aschaffenber—a nobleman from Ubersreik—has recently been betrothed to a member of the powerful von Bruner family, and entrusted with the care of the lodge until the youngest von Bruner son, Leopold, comes of age.

However since Aschaffenberg has arrived the lodge has not only been attacked by beastmen, but Aschaffenberg suspects that something is not quite right with the surly, uncooperative staff. He therefore entrusted Hendrick to employ some men to get to the bottom of the affair, under the pretence of them helping with moving in his goods.

The adventurers negotiate and agree on a fee, and the next morning they all set off for Grunewald Lodge on a wagon piled high with Aschaffenberg’s furniture and possessions. They travel for several hours through the increasingly gloomy and ominous forest, and the adventurers begin to suspect that shadowy shapes are following them under cover of the densely packed trees to either side of the road. Their suspicions are confirmed as they arrive at the clearing dominated by the lodge compund. From the overgrown ditch surrounding the wall charge several beastmen, while several more break from the forest behind them and begin running towards the wagon.

Hendrick climbs on top of the piled boxes and brandishes a dagger, shouting to the guards on the gate tower to open the gate and let them in (who seem in no hurry to do so). The adventurers meet the beastmen charge and dispatch them without too much effort. The arrows of Torus and a fiery spell of Immolatus make short work of several beastmen, though the power of the winds of Aqshy overwhelms Immolatus with a insane manic fervour, which luckily he manages to control. Finally the gate is opened and the wagon allowed into the compund of Grunewald Lodge, where they are met by Rickard Aschaffenberg, a great bushy-bearded bear of a man, who invites them into the house. Surly staff, some of them with bandaged wounds from the earlier beastmen attack, unhitch the horses. As they walk up to the main house they notice a figure watching them from an upstairs window that quickly slips back into the shadows when spotted.

Carrying boxes, the adventurers, Aschaffenberg, and Hendrick walk through the impressive main hall, up the staircase and into Aschaffenberg’s bedroom, where he fills them in on the situation. Although he suspects something strange is going on at the lodge, he does not wish to get the authorities involved because he wants to avoid a scandal for the powerful von Bruner family.

The adventurers immediately get to work. They walk down the corridor to the hospice that has been set up in the guest bedroom, where those wounded in the recent beastmen attack are being cared for. There they talk briefly with an uncooperative Dr. Stefan Sieger, and meet Sister Sonja, a blind Sigmarite sister. Grudge listens to the strange rantings of Korden Kurgansson, a dwarf who seems to have been driven insane since the attack and babbles incoherently about ‘the eyes’ and ‘the hammer’ and begging them not to let them shave his beard.

A nearby stairwell leads the adventurers down to the kitchen, where they meet the cook preparing the evening meal. She has the smell of alcohol on her breath. Torus walks over to the guardhouse to talk unproductively with some of the guards.

Immolatus returns to Aschaffenberg’s bedroom on a hunch; examining a bookcase he discovers scrape marks on the floor that suggest a secret passage behind it. As he talks with Hendrick, the butler Gregor Piersson arrives and introduces himself.

Yuri heads for the run-down shrine to Sigmar in the gardens. He finds it neglected, though a recently-used candle points to a worshipper having been there in the not-too-distant past. He notices that the hammer in a weathered brass wall triptych looks suspicious, and discovers that it is in fact a real hammer concealed in plain sight. After examining it he returns it to its place, and goes off to meet Torus at the guardhouse.

Grudge visits the library, where he discovers a corpulent fellow with bushy mutton-chops reading in a comfortable armchair. Scanning the room and immediately focussing on an ornately-patterned rug, Grudge lifts it and discovers a trapdoor underneath. Immolatus arrives at the door, and seeing Grudge discover the trapdoor, he goes off to find Torus and Yuri. Ignoring the librarian’s offended protests Grudge opens the trapdoor and climbs down into a cellar passageway which leads to a large chamber lit by torches that apparently has been used for some dark ritual. The room is dominated by a six foot long block of jet-black granite covered in dry blood, and an eight-pointed star is sketched on the floor.

Clearly all is not as it seems at Grunewald Manor.

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Character Stories

Torus Lavarar, Bounty Hunter

Eighteen years ago, during the height of the Middenheim Carnival, a dashing young rake called Lucidius Lavarar and his friends came to stay at the Templar’s Arms. Lucidius immediately noticed the attractive young blonde barmaid and asked her name.

“Eva,” she replied, “now kindly take your hand off my leg and tell me what you want to order.”

Lucidius devoted several hours to flirting with Eva, telling her outrageous stories and trying to persuade her to come to his room. He claimed he was involved in defeating a dark and dangerous plot to overthrow the Emperor and usher in a new era of chaos and darkness. She of course, didn’t believe a word of it, dismissing him as just another good-looking seducer looking for a fun night with a waitress. She wasn’t that easy though, and eventually Lucidius gave up.

Only a few nights later though—Oh Horror!—a band of hideous creatures: ratmen, beastmen, and goblins invaded the Arms itself, right there in Middenheim! Lucidius and his friends defeated the ratmen while Eva cowered under the bar. When they were all dead, Lucidius found her and held her in his arms while she sobbed out her terror.

She soon discovered that his story was true and that he was in fact a famous ‘adventurer’, being honoured by the Graf himself for his services. He was also suddenly rich and began showering Eva with gifts, including a purple velvet cloak that must have cost at least four crowns.

A few days later his friends brought him into the Arms late one night in a terrible state: paralysed by some awful poison. Eva sat up all night bathing his brow, and when he awoke, she was the first thing he saw.

His first words, were “You saved my life, you beautiful woman,” and her heart melted. The next day, the last of the Carnival, Lucidius and his friends were named honorary Knights Panther by the Graf. When Lucidius returned to the Arms, mantled in wealth and this ultimate sign of respectability, he once again tried to seduce Eva. This time she relented and took him to her bed.

A grey dawn saw Lucidius gone and Eva with child. He had left sixty crowns by the bed, but she never saw him again. Nine months later, after 18 agonising hours of labour, Eva gave one last convulsive heave to eject her son, then bled to death in her bed within the hour.

Before she died, she beseeched Torus Geschmecken, the owner of the Templar’s Arms, to help her. With bloody fingers she pressed the sixty crowns into his hand, “Please sir, you have no son, swear you will look after this child, raise him as your own, let him know his father is a knight.”

The innkeeper swore he would, and was good as his word. The boy grew hale and hearty, believing that the innkeeper was his father, leading the rough-and-tumble life of a pot boy in a busy inn. On his sixteenth birthday, Torus decided it was time to tell him the truth.

“You mean my real father, this supposed knight, seduced my mother and left her for dead, leaving a handful of coins?” exclaimed Torus indignantly. “He treated her like a common whore, the bastard! Where can I find him?”

From that day, Torus became obsessed with the idea of finding his father and avenging his long-dead mother’s honour. He spent days searching for information on his father’s whereabouts, but to no avail: he had disappeared without trace. It was almost as if Lucidius Lavarar, the once-famous ‘Merry Prankster’ and Knight Panther had never existed.

Despite this, nothing could dissuade Torus from his quest and, eventually, Torus senior called him to his room one night.

“Torus, if you are serious about finding your father you will need to learn properly how to track a man. Running about getting angry will not help you. Now, I know a man who is an expert at this. He is a bounty hunter. I have spoken to him and he is prepared to take you on as an apprentice. You have a choice to make: stay here and work with me and one day you will inherit this inn, or go with this man and learn the skills of the men who hunt men.” He handed Torus a scrap of paper with a name and address on it.

“Tell me your decision in the morning.”

In the morning, Torus’s room was empty of all but a note:

“Thank you Father, for that is what you will always be to me, my father. Keep the inn for me if you can, and when I have tracked down the whoremonger I will return to you. Torus.”

Torus spent the next two years apprenticed to Karl Reinheitz, a bounty hunter who made a good living tracking down escaped criminals and debtors, as well as spying on adulterers to provide evidence for betrayed spouses.

Burning with the fire of his personal quest, Torus was a quick learner. He swiftly learned to be agile and inquisitive; to be ready for anything; always to be questioning and observing. He learnt how to creep stealthily through the city; how to fire a bow with deadly accuracy, and not always to kill; how to eavesdrop and how to hunt men.

On the night of his eighteenth birthday he approached his master.

“Master, I have served you well for two years, but it is now time for me to find my father. I ask you please to release me from my bonds of apprenticeship.”

“I will do that Torus, on one condition, that you swear to me now on the soul of your dead mother, that if you ever find your father, you will not take his life or harm him.”

“I can’t swear to that!” exclaimed Torus.

“One day boy, not long from now, you too will spend a night with a barmaid and be gone in the morning. Do not censure your father for something many men have done, now SWEAR!”

“I swear then, on the soul of my dead mother, that if I find my father I will not harm him.”

“You have a good heart boy, don’t let it be consumed by thoughts of revenge. Come and see me if you’re ever in Middenheim, and if you’re ever in trouble, send me a message. Now go, and may Sigmar go with you. Oh, and Torus, take these.”

Karl picked up his bow and a quiver of arrows and handed them to him.

“Thank you master, I will repay your generosity.”

“Never mind that, go and look for your father, and remember that what happens along the way is your life.”

Torus rode out of Middenheim the next day. He hadn’t told Karl, but he had unearthed a rumour from a priest of Sigmar that a man answering to the name Lucidius had been seen in Altdorf, disguised as a witch-hunter. The time for action had come.

Immolatus, Apprentice Wizard of the Bright Order

When misfortune is visited so profoundly and visibly upon an individual, should one forgive those who choose to look away for fear of being joined in pain and misery? What if that individual is but a child? Perhaps the story of Immolatus may help you decide.

In retrospect the signs were readily visible to all, and many were looking for such things, but it was the love of a father that gave him a chance at life when others sought to end it.

His mother, bedridden with a terrible fever and a thirst that no amount of water could quench, died shortly after giving birth to him. What a strange babe he was: hairless, shrivelled, and with a sickly complexion the colour of ashes unique to that created during human cremation. However, as with most sad events, Time moved on and the circumstances of his birth were forgotten.

Yet Misfortune had only just awoken, and again her gaze swung to the small valley in the far north of Reikland.

Less than a year later, father and son were attacked by a pack of starved, mangy grey wolves that carried the babe away into the dense forest adjacent to what remained of the family’s small farm. After recovered his wits and arming himself with an old shovel, the badly injured father gave pursuit. Fearing the worst, he was amazed to find his son sitting quietly in the midst of a circle of dying embers, next to the body of a black, charred wolf, still smoking from the fire that had wholly consumed it. Perhaps the father was blind to truth, refused to accept the obvious, or feared the reaction of the villagers. Perhaps all that was of no import compared to protecting the life of his only child. Again Time moved on, and his father did his best to forget what he had seen and told no one of the events.

As the child got older and more adventurous, his strange nature became impossible to hide. Weather held no import; he was equally comfortable in the deep cold of winter as in the heat of summer, feeling neither blistering heat nor the cruellest cold. He was never wet, even after being caught in a rainstorm. More than once it was noted that fires seemed to move in his presence, becoming more aggressive or more subdued, as if following some invisible instruction, or seeking the same from an unseen master. The child was clearly unaware of it, so those looking for such things had no real grounds for accusations.

Notwithstanding the rumours, most found him entirely approachable and the cool intelligence behind his green-grey visage quite engaging. His gentle disposition was coupled with a fierce curiosity, and even at a young age his endless questions dominated any encounter with the villagers. Surely the rumours were nothing but gross exaggerations of idle or vicious minds.

While the local villagers respected the family’s unfortunately history and from time to time came to their aid, there were those who retained deep but private reservations about the child. There were too many unexplained stories, and persistent rumours. Human nature being flawed as it is, these reservations grew slowly into subtle fears, then fierce argument and eventually cunning plans to take action. Ultimately, perhaps it was simply base animal instincts that led to that fateful night, barely days before the youngster’s tenth birthday.

A handful of villagers, drunk with their fear of the unknown, decided to rid themselves of the child once and for all. In the darkest hour of the longest night of the year, four men armed themselves and set out from the village. With torches shielded against the wind, they approached the farm with dire intent.

His father woke to the front door exploding as it was kicked inward. As he leapt out of bed, he was smashed with the flat of a blade, and hit the ground dazed but conscious. Lifting himself off the floor and turning to find his attacker, he saw his son surrounded by the men with their torches held high and weapons drawn. His son turned, leaned past one of them and smiled at his father, then lifted his hands slowly in surrender. Drunk with dominance, the leader of the pack turned and without warning thrust his sword viciously into his father’s chest.

From the boy there came a primal, otherworldly roar, far deeper than the small chest should be able to render. Simultaneously the flames from the torches exploded and leapt directly onto the faces of the four men. The fire burned with an all-consuming ethereal blue colour, like that barely visible at the bottom of a candle flame. There ensued an eerie silence as they clawed at their faces in vain, for one cannot scream with lungs full of fire. As his father died, the flames surged to completely engulf the house and everything within it, including the child and the four writhing forms on the floor. Such a conflagration no one could survive.

The next morning as the villagers investigated the smoking ruins of the farmhouse, they found the boy half crushed under a fractured oak beam. Still breathing by some miracle, but unable to speak, there were no clues as to the cause of the horrible accident. The body of his father was not recovered. As a final act of compassion to the badly disfigured boy, he was passed into the care of a renowned healer, a wizard of sorts it was said, who was thought to be the only person who may save his life.

To this day, no one knows where the four men went in the middle of the night, although it was generally accepted they were murdered foul while whoring in a neighbouring town. There was no evidence of them at the farmhouse, and what business would they have with a poor farmer, after all?

It was sprinkling and there was a light morning mist in the valley. Looking across the valley, Fuegoletras was pleased with his work and his charge. Six years earlier he faced the most difficult challenge of his long, long life. Nursing the damaged boy back to the world required all his concentration and considerable resources for more than two years, yet his aura was brighter and cleaner than any other of its type he had seen, and this was a type with which he was intimately familiar. He had to be saved. Only the most powerful Bright Order wizards had magical auras of this potency, and here lay but a child. Such willpower to survive he had never witnessed. Once speech and willingness to talk to others was renewed, he learned of the boy’s remarkable childhood. Yet he refused to offer a name. Perhaps he no longer recalled it, or it was connected with a past now discarded in his mind.

His new ward was a quick study, rapidly absorbing difficult concepts and mastering the foundation methods of Channelling the winds of power. There was little doubt of his raw talent for controlling flame, but the teacher sensed a still raw and untended wound deep in the boy’s psyche. Such things were beyond his ability to heal, and he could only hope the rage that lurked there was to remain hidden lest it be released and fuel devastating destruction.

Taking him as an apprentice, Fuegoletras named him Immolatus, in recognition of and fear that the hidden potential within the boy would one day escape and consume him.

Fuegoletras was amazed at the extent of the child’s ideas. To Immo, fire was intimate and universal. At barely fifteen years of age, he theorised that all matter contained different levels of potential, and that this could be released slowly to give light, heat and warmth, or released in an instant to create titanic explosions. To Immo, fire was essential in transformation of matter, to sustaining life, beautiful yet deadly. Through fire things come into being and pass away.

With this level of natural ability, or perhaps a strange bond formed in the furnace of the farmhouse fire, his mastery of Aqshy’s Lore of Fire was effortless, and his degree of awareness of magical winds was strong. For a number of years he studied ways of gathering and controlling the winds without releasing the inner rage.

On his sixteenth birthday and after much thought, Immo decided to venture forth to discover more about the world, examine his theories, and apply his ideas to discover even more. With the blessing of his first Master, and now an Apprentice Wizard, Immo turned to the south, and began walking toward the rising sun.

Following the tragic events of his youth and his apprenticeship to the wizard Fuegoletras, Immolatus wandered the land in search of adventure and knowledge. He quickly learned that common folk greatly feared magic, and was from time-to-time forced to flee when his anger got the better of him in an argument, or when pressed by city thugs or bandits on the road. The results were usually spectacular and deadly, with charred corpses, burnt farmhouses, flaming wagons and scorched fields left in his wake. Reports of a young man with dangerous fiery magic eventually came to the attention of Édur Petard, a ranking Wizard of the Bright Order, who became concerned that a rogue Apprentice or Exeat of the Order may be the cause.

The search for the suspected rogue caster took many months, whereupon they found Immolatus in the service of a mercantile trader and loan shark—right under the very nose of the Order in Altdorf! It seems his way with fire was helpful in certain ‘negotiations’. Petard observed the raw power of Aqshy flowing in and around the young man, and quickly realised he had limited control over it. “Such a talent must be harnessed by the Order—it cannot be left untended or it shall flare into pure destruction”, he realised. Approaching Immolatus and revealing his College identity, he suggested there might be more rewarding work in the service of the College, along with the opportunity to develop his powers and no longer be concerned about the fears and reactions of ignorant common folk—or the town guard.

Immolatus became apprenticed to Petard, and so it was the story of his youth and his first master was shared over a charred boar one cool night in his master’s quarters. Indeed, what a surprise! Fuegoletras was known to the Order as a Jade Wizard of some renown who disappeared into the wilderness decades earlier, seeking to perform his own research into “healing the wounds of the earth”. (That a Jade Wizard of such power should appear in the story of Immolatus itself would in later years become part of both Jade and Bright Order legend. Many later theorised this early exposure to Jade magic had opened Immolatus to the winds beyond Aqshy, and he was likely tainted from the very start by the winds of Ghyran.)

Three years passed and Immolatus’s skills grew substantially, his focused learning intensifying his obsession with Aqshy. His temperament remained a difficult challenge, but it was not uncommon for members of the Bright Order to be quick to anger, so this was accepted even as his channeling, spell casting and experimentation became more reckless with each year that passed. It was this explosive disposition, sheer capacity for the Winds of Aqshy, that first hinted at his potential as a Battle Wizard. It was common practice that such individuals were developed by exposure to real conflicts in the world beyond the College, and so Immolatus left Altdorf seeking the successes that would lead to becoming an Acolyte of the Bright Order. Thus he found himself sitting in the Gibbous Moon Inn outside of Ubersreik, hoping that the bounty hunter, Kislev fighter and the mad cranky dwarf would attract some interesting challenges.

After battling beast men, retrieving lightning stones, fighting zombies in cemeteries, defeating a small hoard of goblins, exploding a few skulls and almost getting crushed by a comet, news of his exploits as one of the ‘Heroes of Stromdorf’ had already reached the Order at Ubersreik by the time of his return. He was subsequently inducted as an Acolyte of the Order, and after a brief ceremony, some story telling and a magic missile tournament, he rejoined his colleagues in the city to continue his questing. Christoph Engel, the Master Wizard in Ubersreik, said he would watch his development as a potential Battle Wizard with interest, but it was obvious they were glad to see the back of him.

The Grudgebringer, Dwarf Pit Fighter

The Tale of the Grudgebringer

“Uncle Grilli, Uncle Grilli, tell us again the story of the Grudgebringer! Did he really do everything they say he did? Did he really rip out the heart of a stone giant with his teeth? Was he really so wealthy that when he died his entire tomb was made from gold and diamonds?”

“Ah, children, he certainly did many things in the World of the Manlings. Whether he did all they say….well, stories often grow in the telling. And, by the Mighty Hammer of Smednir, the Grudgebringer’s story did not begin well. Not well at all…..”

Grudges: A Beginner’s Guide

Everyone knows that, even more than gold, dwarves prize Honour. And the dark twin of Honour is Pride. How many feuds, and even wars, have been fought, how many dwarves, elves and humans have died, because of the Pride of Dwarves? The race of dwarves have taken Pride to a level unknown to the other races, and in the height of their Pride the dwarves created the Grudge. To understand dwarves, one must understand that the Grudge is no mere bitterness, no small grievance, no minor enmity. A dwarven Grudge is an overwhelming hatred that consumes the holder like a fierce blaze, occupying every waking hour until the Grudge is satisfied. As the dwarf saying goes: “Revenge is a dish best eaten hot, bloody and with an axe in your hands!”

Of course, not all Grudges need to be to the death. Indeed, there is a certain kudos associated with ensuring that the restitution matches the cause of action—‘An Eye for an Eye’ is (often literally) a very good rule of thumb (and indeed has often been quoted as ‘A Thumb for a Thumb’).

And Grudges exist at every level—from those written in the Dammaz Kron at Karaz-Karak, the Ultimate Book of Grudges held on behalf of every dwarf (in which every Grudge is registered), through the Grudges maintained in the Great Book of Grudges held by each Karak, through those held in the Clan Book of Grudges of each dwarven clan, right down to the book of Grudges held by each individual dwarf. You might almost say there was an industry of Grudge creating, Grudge bearing and Grudge satisfying, and (for one reason or another) Snorri Sturluson, aka The Grudgebringer, was a master of the craft.

Back in the Karak

Snorri Sturluson was born in Karak Azgaraz in 2477 to normal parents in a typical clan. On its face, there was no reason to think that he would not spend his life in the Karak, as for hundreds of others of the karak-born, leading a normal life with a normal occupation as blacksmith or Ironbreaker or brewer. But at his birth the Ancestors were sleeping, or have a sense of humour much more evil than that with which they are usually credited. For Snorri became a focus for Grudges, a veritable eye of a Grudge hurricane. Some Grudges he held himself (and his book of grudges is a very full one indeed); some others were held against him; some were held between third parties who had the misfortune of crossing his path and somehow being drawn into the maelstrom of malice. As the following small number of examples shows, Snorri was not a dwarf that Karak Azgaraz could afford to keep as a citizen for long, without risking significant long term damage to its social (and possibly physical) integrity. “A walking grudgestone” they began to call him. And finally—“The Grudgebringer”.

As Snorri’s mother died at his birth, Snorri’s father Sturl held a Grudge against the mid-dwarf who delivered him, and eventually drowned her in a vat of Bugman’s. As punishment, Sturl was banished (more for ruining a vat of Bugman’s than for killing the mid-dwarf, who was universally recognised as more dangerous for babies than the murderous cave rats—it would have been a capital offence had the beer been Bugman’s XXXXXX, or even Troll Brew, but it was only Beardling’s Best Effort). Of course, he never made it out of the Karak, for he was killed by Kudrik Ironbar (a third cousin of the mid-dwarf) shortly after receiving sentence.

Grudges added to Snorri’s book:

  • Father Sturl for doing such a bad job of killing the mid-dwarf—crossed out on Sturl’s death;
  • Kudrik Ironbar—crossed out when Kudrik died from a rock fall, although strangely the rock that killed him seemed to be shaped like a child’s rattle made of rock; Snorri was at first suspected, but how could a 5 year old kill a fully grown dwarf?
  • The 3 thanes on the clanhave that exiled Sturl, not because of the exile (which would have been in accordance with Karak Law and thus acceptable) but because of certain gross inequities in the legal process—crossed out over time: one accidental death (genuinely accidental); one killed by greenskins (it was never quite clear how the greenskins found him, but it was pretty clear that Snorri wouldn’t have liaised with the greenskins to arrange the death, as Snorri really really hates greenskins); and the third, Loremaster Marzel, killed in a brawl with Snorri in 2519 (one of the reasons Snorri was banished).

Grudges added to other’s books against Snorri:

  • Kudrik’s 2 brothers and son—although as there is no evidence of foul play, it’s more a “hope he dies, soon” sort of Grudge;
  • Loremaster Marzel’s brother, two sons and 3 cousins—they have been trying unsuccessfully to kill Snorri for some time, and are still trying. The brother, one of the sons and 2 of the cousins are now dead through their attempts: one cousin was killed in the Karak (more fuel for this family’s Grudge), the others were killed at various places in the Empire including the son in a pit fight against Snorri (a very exciting ‘dwarf on dwarf’ match up that very rarely comes along…). Snorri expects continued attempts until he is dead or the remaining two family members have journeyed to the House of the Ancestors; and
  • The surviving members of the band of greenskins who encountered Snorri in the mountains above Karak Azgaraz and were driven away by him with significant loss of life (although they did fortuitously encounter some senile old dwarf in the course of their flight, whom they proceeded to kill).

As a child, Snorri almost lost track (though, thanks to his Book of Grudges, didn’t totally lose track) of the broken bones, broken toys, broken hearts, stolen property and other offences committed against him which needed to be revenged. And almost always were, successfully. He lost his 3 best friends (yes, he did manager to have friends, not least because of his fierce but often misplaced loyalty) because of various Grudges held against him, or generated by his mere presence: one died in an ambush meant for Snorri; one died defending Snorri from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (which in Karak Azgaraz are actually quite real and usually pretty terminal); and the third died as the result of a very complex feud between a number of dwarfs (excluding Snorri, for a change) which happened to arise from an off the cuff remark Snorri was overheard making during a rather boring dinner. As would be expected, each of those deaths generated Grudges in Snorri’s book of Grudges, although given the number of people involved and their mind boggling complexity Snorri eventually cancelled them all after a sufficient number of deaths and the payment of appropriate ‘blud-gelt’ (aka ‘blood gelt’).

As a young warrior, his penchant for Grudges initially seemed a good thing—he was certainly very meticulous and driven in cancelling out his Grudges against greenskins, the odd Skaven, human bandits and even the occasional Chaos marauders. However, the Grudges seemed to work both ways—survivors of battles with Snorri took great pleasure in seeking him out in later battles, and some of the dwarven warriors became a little reluctant to be in his war parties (although others, with a more traditionally dwarven view of battle, sought him out as a guaranteed lightning rod for the tougher elements of any battle). And woe to any dwarf who shirked his part in any combat involving Snorri—another Grudge was in the book. Often satisfaction of these Grudges involved taunts, insults or refusals to fight beside the offender again. Unfortunately, one or two recipients of such conduct are believed to have sought their deaths by throwing themselves suicidally into battle against impossible odds. Which of course lead to new Grudges against Snorri….

Finally in 2519 (when Snorri was 42 years old), the clanhave of Karak Azgaraz came to the conclusion that Snorri—now almost universally known as ‘The Grudgebringer’—had to leave the Karak. Drawing on a very old piece of Karak Law (passed in necessity in the past to prevent the complete annihilation of the Karak under a burgeoning Grudge culture), all Grudges held by or against Snorri were cancelled (Loremaster Marzel’s relatives managing to exempt their Grudge under an even older piece of Karak Law) and Snorri was banished “until such time as no Grudges were held by or against him, and that state of Grudgelessness had persisted for a period of not less than one year and one day”. Sensibly, any Grudge created by the banishment itself was also cancelled by the Law, otherwise Snorri would have held a very big Grudge indeed.

Why did Snorri accept the banishment and cancellation? As noted above, the Grudge is but a side effect of Honour, and failure to comply with the Law would not be honourable. Many things have been said about Snorri, but pursuing dishonourable Grudges is not one of them.

“This ’ere Empire Isn’t Big Enough for the Both of Us…”

Moving into the world of manlings, for the first few years the beardling Snorri took up a number of jobs involving strength, stamina and (where possible) the consumption of beer (albeit only weak-as-piss manling-made elf-spit). This included stints as a bodyguard, courier, bouncer and militia man. Provided his employers were fair and treated him well, Snorri was an exemplary employee. But if any man treated him unfairly, out came the book of Grudges. Examples abound.

Snorri was hired to find and recover a barrel of gunpowder for a fee of 1g. When the barrel was recovered, the client offered a fee of 30s on the basis of ‘liquidity problems’. Muttering “Liquidity Problems?!?! I’ll show you Liquidity Problems!”, and showing a decided lack of knowledge of financial terminology, Snorri dropped the barrel in the nearest creek.

Hired to transport a client from one village to another in safety to escape violent creditors, the client disappeared without paying the agreed fee (a possibly foreseeable result, given the fact that the client was fleeing creditors in the first place). Tracking the ex-client down, Snorri tied him up, transported him back to the original village, and left him to his just desserts.

As a militia man in a skirmish with goblins, Snorri and his band were deserted by two of the members of the militia. Although the punishment for desertion was death, Snorri decided on a more appropriate punishment—each of the deserters faced a captured goblin in the fighting pits, ostensibly giving the deserters a fighting chance. However, it transpired that there was a reason the militia men had deserted—they were crap fighters. Hating to leave any business with goblins unfinished, Snorri took care of the goblins in the pits himself. Which lead to his job with Don Rex…

Finally, in Ubersreik in 2522, Snorri was contracted as a pit fighter to Don Rex following his showing against a couple of goblins, and for 7 years found settled employ for one of the longest periods of his life. ‘The King’, as Don Rex was known, treated Snorri well and paid him fairly. In return, Snorri, now fighting under the nom de guerre ‘Grudge’, fought hard and won often. Any Grudge in the pit was settled in the pit, and on occasion Grudges outside the pit could be settled in the pit (just ask Loremaster Marzel’s eldest son, although you can’t actually ask him now because he’s dead). Indeed, Grudge could have stayed as a pit fighter in Ubersreik for many years except that Don Rex got greedy, and set Grudge up for a fall in a rigged and dangerous match.

Unfortunately for Rex, Snorri won against the odds, and declared a Grudge (pun intended) against his former mentor. In a period of a few days Don Rex’s stable of pit fighters ended up in various stages of physical damage, Don Rex’s properties ended up burnt to the ground, and Don Rex himself will not be walking without the aid of the stick, or doing two handed push ups, ever again (not that he ever did two handed push ups in the first place, but you get what I mean). The damage by Grudge to Rex’s outrageous hairstyle (albeit shorter term) probably hurt Rex almost as much as the rest of the damage put together.

We now find Grudge without gainful employ, hunted by a number of enemies, and without any decent beer in the offing. Surely things can only get better from here…

Yuri Ilich Stubbindrikov the Mercenary

“In Altdorf they call me Kislev Yuri because I come from Kislev and my name is Yuri. They are thicker than cold borscht in Altdorf.

I was raised by Ilya Stubbindrikov the caravan guard. Although he is not my real father he is the only father I know and so I call myself Ilich Stubbindrikov in his honour. He said he found me in the ruins of Yazki after it was destroyed by chaos raiders. He said everybody else was killed. He could have left me with the Ulric priests in Polotsk but he said they couldn’t raise flies with shit. I learnt that he himself was raised by the Ulric priests so I guess he’d know.

He said I had the look of a southerner and had the sound of the south upon my tongue, but all I knew was that i lived in Yazki and had a brother and parents that had lived there too, but I could not remember my family name.

Ilya had been working the caravan routes betwen Kislev and Polotsk but he gave it away in favour of local work in and around Kislev town. He said he was sick of the travelling but I believe that he was greatly disturbed by what he saw in Yazki that day and he never was ever so close to the Worlds Edge Mountains again. I think he also wanted to stay in one place until I was old enough to travel with him, which I eventually did. In the meantime he trained me in sword craft and the use of the crossbow.

When I was old enough I joined him on the road and we guarded the rich easy caravans heading up to Kobrin and the river traffic on the Lynsk. Sometimes we even went south into the Empire. Eventually Ilya retired and bought a share in a small tavern near Pinsk on the Kobrin road.

Now I can move as I want and I’ve a hunger to travel and learn more of the world. I’ve followed the caravans south. Maybe I’ll find out something of where my family came from. I have nothing to go by except luck and a locket that Ilya found on the body of my mother. Maybe I’ll find my brother Vladamir who I’m sure is not dead, I’m sure I’d know if my twin had died.”

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Willkomm en Marienburg!

8th Ulriczeit IC 2522 (con’t)

The underground chamber is in utter chaos. The theatre troupe actors, now revealed as mutants, rush among the crowd, attacking the audience. The zealots wield their flails with righteous anger among the perverted thespians (and any audience members who get in the way), and Captain Aichorn wades into the crowd with a whirling sword. Braziers are knocked over, and screaming, burning figures blunder through the crowd, setting others alight; mad cackling laughter comes from somewhere in the maelstrom of panicking figures …

duCourt briefly considers grabbing a brazier and bashing a daemonette, but instead elects to rush after the escaping von Wolkenstein. With typical Elven agility he skips past the clicking pincers of a gloating, horribly sensuous daemonette and sprints after the architect of all this chaos, running up a rough staircase to emerge among the tombstones of the cemetary through an open sepulchre. In the dim moonlight he sees von Wolkenstein running away through the undergrowth, fallen stones and detritus, and sets off after him.

Back in the pandemonium, Bierschtein launches himself at the daemonette who had turned to pursue duCourt, jumping onto her back, but she twists her flexible body and he falls off and onto the floor. Lavarar grabs a passing runner, finds him to be a big burly fellow, lets him go, grabs a helpless woman, and then throws her into the path of the nearest daemonette. The daemonette advancing on the floored Bierschtein—making lewd suggestions all the while—attacks him with her horrific pincers but misses, and he manages to get to his feet and draw his hidden dagger. The other attacks Fitzue and wounds him.

Bierschtein, faced with two daemonettes, makes a risky run for it, and luckily for him the vicious swipe of one of the daemonette’s claws just misses his back as he sprints for the graveyard exit. Only Lavarar and Fitzue remain to hold off all three daemonettes—it seems hopeless. Then Fitzue, by this time gravely wounded, summons up the Aethyric energy for a last ditch effort, and succeeds in casting a Pall of Darkness spell; violently he belches forth clouds of darkness that engulf himself, Lavarar and the daemonettes. One of the beasts takes a blind swipe that just misses one of her companions, as Lavavar sprints out of the cloud and to temporary safety. Fitzue is on his heels; luckily two of the daemonettes stagger out of the cloud in the wrong direction and into the crowd, but the last is close behind Fitzue as he escapes.

As Fitzue runs for his life Bierschtein turns and—calling down the divine favour of Sigmar—conjures a twin-tailed comet that streaks toward Fitzue, who lunges backward as it streaks over his head and hits the daemonette. Fitzue turns and flings some hastily-conjured shadow knives at the burning daemon which seal the matter … it is a simple matter to finally finish it off by breaking its neck.

After covering some considerable distance with the elf in hot pursuit, von Wolkenstein trips and falls over a stone, while duCourt pushes desperately through a thick patch of brambles to reach him.

Finally duCourt catches up to von Wolkenstein, who makes two attempts to cast some horrible Chaos spell at his pursuer but fails, only finally getting out some kind of confusion spell at duCourt as Lavarar runs up to join them. duCourt, luckily, manages to shrug off its effects and deals a punishing slash to his assailant’s thigh that opens up an artery. von Wolkenstein is on the ground and begging for help from his dark lord—but no help comes.

Close to the chamber exit, Bierschtein casts healing spells on Fitzue on himself, and limps forward to join the others. von Wolkenstein’s wound is bound, and wrapped in a cloak the adventurers take him to the cemetery gates and through the icy, night-bound streets, to his fate at the hands of the Ordo Fidelis. Behind them, there is a crash and clouds of smoke as the underground chamber partially collapses.

Back at the Ordo Fidelis the adventurers desperately search their memories for the password before duCourt remembers ‘Magnus’ and they are let in. von Wolkenstein is led away to a cell, and in the comfortable wood-panelled office they meet with Eschlimann, woken from sleep and in a red dressing-gown, who pours them all a glass of brandy (Lavarar belts his brandy down and grabs duCourt’s). After recounting the night’s events they are congratulated on a job well done by Eschlimann, who tells them that a word had been leaked to the Knights Panther about the event; not only making use of their soldiers but leaving it to them to clean up any mess. A good night’s work, all told.

The adventurers return to their inn for a well-deserved rest.

9th Ulriczeit IC 2522

The next afternoon the adventurers return to the Ordo for a meeting with Eschlimann. He asks that they travel to Marienburg and get as much information about this child, his origins, and the so-called crusade, as they can. Their contact in Marienburg is a witch hunter called Osric Falkenheim, who has been out of touch recently, but should be able to fill them in on the latest developments, or at least direct them to where they can find the information. He can be found at the Temple of Sigmar in the Ostmuur district by leaving a message in a secret spot in the temple.

Eschlimann continues: “Witch hunters must be licenced to practice in Marienburg, a restriction we, of course, ignore. However it is even more important than it is in the Empire proper that you do not reveal you affiliations to anyone. You can expect no assistance from the local authorities and indeed, will be hauled off to Rijker’s Isle like a common criminal should you give the Black Hats reason to do so. For obvious political reasons, we could not help you should that happen.”

He then speaks to each of the adventurers in private.

10th – 27th Ulriczeit IC 2522

The trip to Marienburg is 350 miles by boat and takes 17 days. The owner of the riverboat is Merkel Schwalb, a Marienburger who is happy to answer questions about the city’s layout and provides them with a rough map. He recommends Koester’s Boarding House in the Kruiersmuur district as somewhere to stay.

27th Ulriczeit IC 2522

The first sight of Marienburg from the Reik is impressive. After days of travelling through a dreary landscape of reed-marshes, the river—almost a mile wide, and very slow-moving—rounds a bend, and the reeds part to reveal the city a mile away. Their boat enters the port of Marienburg through the Strompoort, a great channel flanked by high walls and artillery towers. A Marienburg pilot boards the boat, and steers it through the deceptively shallow and ever-shifting channels to a berth in the Suiddock.

The adventurers disembark and move through the busy crowds, north over the huge Hoogbrug bridge. In the northern districts they enquire about accommodation at a tavern and, after rejecting the more lower-class establishments, the barkeep recommends the Gull and Trident, a posh place in the Paleisbuurt district.

Vaguely pretending to be an Elven arms trader and his retinue, they book two rooms with balconies overlooking the Reiksweg. The proprietor is Wilhemina Thistledown, a small rotund old woman who likes to smoke a foul cigar.

Bierschtein heads for the the Temple of Sigmar while the others enjoy a drink, and he finds the small temple in a semi-deserted courtyard. Its carved wooden doors are closed and locked. After knocking several times they are opened by a scared-looking 12 year old in the robes of an acolyte. Eventually he lets Bierschtein in to pray. Bierschtein finds no message in the secret spot, so he leaves a message there for the witch hunter to contact ‘Hans’ at Koester’s Boarding House.

The young acolyte reveals that father Helmut, the head priest, was involved in some kind of riot that took place outside the old temple of Sigmar where a Shallyan priestess and a witch hunter named Falkenheim were denounced for not believing the boy was Sigmar reborn; Helmut then left with the crowd and presumably with the Crusade, out of the city.

The adventurers also learn that the Shallyan priestess is locked in a gibbet outside of the Old Temple, and that there is a both a Shallyan temple and an orphanage in the city.

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We Swore What Oath?

33rd Kaldezeit IC 2522 (con’t)

The adventurers are searching the showboat of the Slaanesh cultist theatre troupe they just fought and killed, when they are confronted by a watch sergeant and four watchmen on the dock at Halbherzig. The sergeant demands they drop their weapons and gather on the dock as he sends one of his men to check over the boat. duCourt points out that they have just thwarted a gang of cultists; the sergeant becomes obstreperous. As the confrontation becomes more heated and villagers begin to gather around, three horseman ride out of the shadows and, showing great authority and some form of identification to which the watch immediately submit, order them away and take over the proceedings.

The adventurers recognise the leader, a tall, rangy, muscled fellow with a scar down the left side of his face and dark hair and blue eyes, as Wolfhart Reise, the guide who stole their horses back in Delberz. He offers his real name, which is Matthias Hoffer. With him is a heavily built man in full plate armour and closed helmet called Jacob Bauer, and a man wearing a black cloak and big black hat with a silver buckle, whom the adventurers recognise, to their surprise, as Father Odo the Sightless, the smelly, crazy priest at the Temple of Sigmar in Middenheim. His real name, it seems, is Ulrich Fischer.

After an initially friendly meeting, Hoffer and duCourt argue over Hoffer’s demand that they come with him and the other two witch-hunters to Altdorf via the road. duCourt in turn demands that they go by river on their boats. Eventually the argument gets so heated that they fight until first blood—which duCourt achieves with a quick slash to Hoffer’s upper arm.

Lavarar, Fitzue and Bierschtin attempt to defuse the situation, and eventually Lavarar manages to calm Hoffer down enough to allow them to organise a later meeting with Bernhard Dampfler, the owner of the Maria Borger, in Altdorf. Hoffer and duCourt, both glowering at each other, agree to suspend their hostilities until later …

Eventually the group, accompanied by a couple of guardsman and a cluster of fifteen or so mutants and heretics chained together and wearing head cages who bring up the rear, are riding through the forest and then south to Altdorf.

1st Ulriczeit IC 2522

Bierschtein attempts to make small talk with Fischer but the man is keeping to himself. Lavarar tries to smooth things over with Hoffer but he is obviously one to hold a grudge.

2nd Ulriczeit IC 2522

The next day they suddenly come upon a rough barricade across the forest road and simultaneously hear a deafening WAAAARGHHHHH!!! from the forest. Arrows fly from the shadows, hitting both Bierschtein and Fitzue, the latter in the head! Then twelve orcs rush out from the darkness of the forest, wielding rusty choppas, their leader a huge black orc rejoicing under the name of ‘Ballbasher’, who waves a huge axe around his head as he charges for Fischer.

A fast and bloody battle follows, punctuated by duCourt and Hoffer shouting out “ONE!” then “TWO!” as they slice their way through the attacking orcs. Eventually duCourt finishes off the last (his fourth) orc, and Hoffer (at three) leans nonchalantly up against a tree and gives him a slow appreciative clap. He seems impressed with the way the adventurers have handled themselves in the ambush, and the ice between he and duCourt thaws a little. Later on the journey duCourt even offers Hoffer an apology for their initial clash, to the great surprise of Lavarar, Fitzue and Bierschtein.

3rd – 7th Ulriczeit IC 2522

After several days on the road the group arrives in Altdorf—city state, Imperial capital, largest city in the Empire. The city’s size, the sheer number of people in the ever-crowded streets, the height of the buildings towering over the roads and cutting out light, the unbelievable range of smells—it is all overwhelming. Humans, halflings, elves and dwarves, in the dress of every known nation, are jostling one another in ill temper in the streets. Buildings are all tall, at least four stories, grouped close together, so the streets are in near-permanent shadow, with only a narrow strip of sky visible. It is Ulriczeit, and the weather is cold and wet; there is a soft black drizzle of rain blackened by smoke and soot and a heavy fog rolls through the streets at night.

The party rides slowly past the refugee camp crowding the North Gate, past the guards without challenge, and into the city proper; down the wide and busy Königstrasse and eventually across the Three Toll Bridge close to the meeting of the Reik and Talabec rivers and the chaos of the busy Altdorf docks. They catch their first glimpse of the mighty Cathedral of Sigmar, probably the most impressive structure in the known world outside of the Elven homelands. Into the side streets around the Templeplatz and eventually to a nondescript alley and an iron-bound door, where Hoffer knocks, speaks a whispered word to the guard behind a slot in the door, and the door is opened. The group files within into an antechamber. The poor prisoners (including the actress/Slaanesh cultist Fran Poppenbutel) are led through a side door and down a spiral staircase into some deep Sigmar-forsaken dungeon below from which cries of despair echo; the adventurers are taken through another door into comfortable living quarters and eventually into a well-appointed, wood-panelled room. Behind an imposing desk sits a cruel-eyed, grey-haired man in his mid-fifties who introduces himself as Kaspar Eschlimann and invites them to sit and pour themselves a glass of an excellent Tabecland vintage. They are in the presence of the head of the secretive Ordo Fidelis, the legendary order of witch-hunters.

Eschlimann informs the adventurers that the Ordo has been watching them for some time, and feel they have the right ingredients to become members. He can offer them “support, funds, information, authority, training and most of all, a purpose.”

When asked what the Ordo Fidelis is, he answers: “we are the most effective of the orders of Witch-hunters of the Holy Temple of Sigmar. We operate in secret, unknown to all but the highest functionaries of the temple. We find that there are less … complications … that way. And we hate paperwork. And besides, agents of Chaos, when captured by more conventional authorities, often go straight to the stake. We prefer to effectively question them, learn their affiliations and masters, and thereby root out the deepest, strongest cancers instead of just scraping away the surface sores.”

He offers a part in “the most glorious battle of all— the destruction of Chaos and the victory of the Empire”.

The adventurers listen and decide to think on it until the morrow. In the meantime they give the mysterious mask that cost Krauthösen’s life to Eschlimann. Then they are given rooms at an inn called the Burning Table in the city’s north, and Lavarar spends the night having a very good time indeed with a waitress and some excellent drugs after perhaps his most difficult seduction to date.

By the morning they have all agreed to take the Ordo oath and join the organisation, though all, especially duCourt, chafe at having to follow orders, even those from a powerful and secret organisation which would supposedly give them more power and resources to continue doing what they have been doing.

8th Ulriczeit IC 2522

Back at the Ordo headquarters, they submit to a small ceremony and repeat the words of their oath with their hands resting on a huge bound volume of Sigmar’s words. Eschlimann makes a point of pressing upon them the seriousness of the oath they have taken and the secrecy of the Ordo, saying that it protects its own ruthlessly, and just as ruthlessly it pursues those who betray their oaths to it.

It transpires that they know of the so-called ‘Crusade of the Child’ that has recently erupted in Marienburg and wish the adventurers to insinuate themselves into its hierarchy, find the heart of Chaos that beats with in it, and snuff it out. But first, Eschlimann has a small mission for them—“call it a test, if you will.”

The Hermann von Wolkenstein the adventurers killed in Halbherzig has a brother in Altdorf named Erasmus, a theatre owner who disappeared a month ago. The Ordo has suspected him for some time of being in league with Slaanesh, and information gathered from agents such as Krauthösen has confirmed it. They suspect that he is involved with a new craze in Altdorf, the ‘Theatre of the Damned’ (he gives them a copy of the flyer that has been posted throughout the city, which under a picture of laughing and crying theatre masks says ‘Tikkets, look for X’). He wishes them to find von Wolkenstein, clean up any foulness they find with him, and bring him back alive for questioning.

Hoffer returns and invites the adventurers for a strong Zhufbar ale at the nearby sign of the Flayed Wench, which has a back room reserved for the witch-hunters use (with a trapdoor under the rug for quick escapes).

Lavarar meets Bernhard Dampfler at a tavern on the docks called the Voyager’s Spirit (or locally, as the Voyeur’s Spit) and, slightly to Lavarar’s surprise and certainly to his admiration, Dampfler hands over the 230 Karls he owes for the boat. Lavarar returns 50 of them as an investment in Dampfler’s next cargo.

Lavarar has recognised ‘X’ as the symbol for Ranald, god of tricksters and the criminal element, so he and Fitzue go to the Drecksack district, the scummy area of town, and Lavarar disguises himself in a comedic costume intended to be a parody of Dietmund Falkenheim, an Altdorf noble well known for his large ears, penchant for polo, and affair with an older, uglier woman. An urchin runs past and steals his hat as he gets changed in an alley. He then stands on a soap box where two main muddy streets meet and skips about on a wooden hobby horse, making strange noises of feined pleasure and basically satirising the aforementioned noble riding his horsey paramour. A few local peasants gather but none seem overly impressed by the performance. Fitzue, embarrassed, retires to a nearby pub called the Black Swan and watches from its window over an ale.

Lavarar’s antics achieve little, but quick enquiry of a local tells them that the tickets can be got from members of the Brotherhood of the Oiled Palm, a local gang that hangs out at The Black Swan. There they see a heavy-set fellow with beady eyes and a receding hairline sitting at the back, his legs up on the table; two crossed nails embedded in his boot-heel make an X sign. He lowers his feet as Lavarar and Fitzue approach.

This is one Anton Schopranus of the Brotherhood of the Oiled Palm, and a few questions and some passing of gold crowns convince him to sell them tickets to the Theatre of the Damned that very night.

Meanwhile, duCourt has dressed in foppish upper class finery, and accompanied by Bierschtein, who has sourced less obviously Sigmarite armour and weaponry from the Ordo and is posing as duCourt’s bodyguard, they find a gambling tavern in the upper class Palast district. There duCourt quickly joins a game of cards at a back table with other young nobles and presents himself as a somewhat flighty and silly noble from out of town looking for fun and excitement. He loses several rounds but wins the last and comes out 20 Karls ahead. He also learns of the Theatre of the Damned—one of the nobles is going that night in fact, the noble had his servant find the tickets at a pub called the Black Swan in the Drecksack district, and the ticket was actually tattooed on the servant.

Back at the Black Swan, Lavarar finds a drunken sot lying in the gutter behind the pub and shaves a good hunk of skin off his upper arm, which he takes down to the Swan’s basement and presents as his ‘skin’ to be tattooed. A wiry, elderly chap called Nadel, with a long scar running over his blind left eye, takes the skin and a bribe, and twenty minutes later the adventurers have their tickets to the Theatre of the Damned. They are told to be at the south gates of the Ruhstatt Cemetery in the Reikhoch district, near the river, unarmed and at midnight.

The adventurers are there just before midnight as a fog rolls in from the river and curls among the gravestones and the high gates of the cemetery. The area is dimly lit and no watch patrols are in sight. Other retinues start to arrive and soon an excited, yet nervous, buzz of conversation fills the air. Nobles in the crowd are all ‘slumming it’, and their ragged outfits seem to be a source of much delight and bemusement to the giggling ladies.

Precisely at midnight a manhole cover scrapes open and a dirty, ragged jester climbs up, followed by an armed thug carrying two lanterns. Gleefully the jester cartwheels to stand in front of the gathered crowd, welcomes them with a toothy grin full of rotting teeth and proceeds to check everyone’s tickets. Then he addresses the crowd:

“If the play you want to see,
Then you follow me.
But keep a handkerchief close,
Or the stench will surely sting yer nose.
And always listen to my bell and keep the lanterns in yer sight,
Or you will get lost and take fright.”

The jester unlocks the gates and the theatregoers nervously follow him and the thug. After about ten minutes wandering through an area of narrow ‘streets’ formed by mausoleums they arrive at one in particular. The iron gate is opened and within it is lit with braziers, and empty coffins line the walls. A staircase leads down opposite the doorway. Cheerful music can be heard coming from below. At the bottom of a long flight of stone steps the Jester stops at an archway and announces in a ceremonious voice, “behold, the Theatre of the Damned!”

The theatre is built in an old, large burial chamber, perhaps Dwarven made. About thirty feet above, a narrow gallery leads around the room, lined with alcoves, some which still hold statues. The large space is littered with hundreds of candles, and at times the air is thick with smoke; shadows dance on the walls.

The theatre is full of cheery people and there is a lively mood and an excited buzz of conversation; most of the theatregoers are dressed in rags or worn clothes, and many wear masquerade masks. Mugs of ale and sugarcoated apples are served for a few shillings; entertainers of many sorts perform amongst the crowd, jugglers, dancers, musicians with their out of tune instruments, even fire-eaters. The stage is a large square sarcophagus in the centre of the room, standing four feet above the floor. A section of it has collapsed, leading to an underground room from which the performers will presumably emerge.

When all the theatregoers have arrived, a hunchbacked figure hobbles on to the stage and blows a trumpet three times to signal the start of the play. All the actors are dressed in lousy garments, and their acting skills leave a lot to be desired, but it appears the humour is black and to the point, as soon the audience roars in laughter (except for a few whose turn it is to be insulted). After a few comedy bits, a pompously dressed, handsome man takes to the stage, introduces himself as Erasmus von Wolkenstein, and receives roaring applause. The adventurers recognise him as he looks much like his brother Hermann, though he is older.

Hermann makes a speech introducing the climactic act, and three golden ropes fall from the ceiling to the stage. Three female figures dressed in flowing diaphanous robes begin a display of sensuous acrobatics. Slowly they descend; the audience looks upward in fascinated silence; slowly the robes fall off to reveal their naked, mutated, scaly, daemonic bodies.

The crowd gasps in horror and sick fascination.

Suddenly a horn being blown is heard. A captain of the Knights Panther charges into the room from the stairs, accompanied by a band of zealots; he proclaims in a loud voice:

“I am Captain Ezekel Aichorn of the Knights Panther. The Mutants of this blasphemous theatre, and all persons associated with them, are forthwith cast out from Our Holy Sigmar’s graces, and declared Heretics as stated by the laws of His Empire. The penalty for this crime is death, put into effect immediately. Cease and desist!”

There is total pandemonium. The daemonettes drop to the floor and bar the escape of von Wolkenstein, as the adventurers rush to capture him.

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