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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