The Veiled Blade

Session Thirty
Exiles

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The frantic battle in the crypt continues and three skeleton warriors step through the wall of flames and advance towards Carla, Heinrich, Jeffric and a dwarf mercenary as they crowd around the front entrance. A moment later the undead creatures thankfully succumb to the intensity of the flames and fall to the ground; behind the wall of flames a small crowd of undead warriors is seemingly now held at bay. Equally cut off from the remainder of their group and unable to help them, Jeffric and the others quickly slip out of the crypt and race up the steps, and wait with weapons drawn to see if their comrades can battle their way through to them.

Ulric, being closely pursued by a group of ferocious ghouls races across the main room and into the chamber to the right where he finds it is a dead end. The large room, from which the undead horde emerged contains even more skeleton warriors, although these ones are lying motionless on the floor; presumably waiting to be awoken by the powerful resident necromancer. Before he barely has time to think of anything and with no visible means of escape, Ulric is quickly swamped by the eight ghouls who tear into him, ripping him apart and eating him as he kicks and screams in horror.

At the far end of the main chamber, Durgar is still engaged in frantic hand to hand battle with a group of six skeleton warriors. He has fought courageously and has brought down a number of his foes but they are relentless in their attack and the blows eventually keep finding their mark. As he sinks to one knee, almost at the point of death, a sudden spiritual wind of unknown power boons him and he feels himself revitalised; standing up he continues to trade blows as he slowly backs away, moving ever further from the entrance.
Fickenja, taking stock of the dramatic vision and mysterious presence of the being called “Lex”, gathers herself and determines to enter back into the main chamber and “trust in the blade” as she has been instructed to do. She exits the burial chamber of St Ignacious and sees Durgar at the far end of the corridor under assault from the skeletons. She races over to her comrade in arms and strikes one of the foes down with a swift stroke of the sword. In the following few minutes the pair battle heroically against their more numerous enemy, both of them taking blows in turn. Fickenja herself feels a sudden and mysterious powerful force revitalize her at the point of death and she is able to continue the fight anew. The female beggar’s magical sword causes terrible wounds to the undead creatures and leaches their magical powers, transferring them to her; she continues to swipe and stab at them with a sudden and ever increasing ability that surpasses even the prodigious skills of the veteran pitfighter next to her.

Moments later they have destroyed all of the original skeleton horde and the flames at the other end of the chamber are ebbing away. The four remaining skeletons who were being held at bay by the flames now resume their march forward and walk out through the entrance. Seeing the way clear Fickenja and Durgar race across the room only to see to their horror four skeletons with even more ornate armour and weapons emerge from the left hand chamber, and engage them in battle. As the tired pair wage a desperate fighting retreat they quickly determine that their new foes are undead champions who are for skilled then the previous enemy. A moment later a figure creeps out from the left hand chamber – it is the Lich, a powerful undead necromancer, who is responsible for enchanting and raising all the undead creatures in Grenz. The adventurer’s have strayed into the Lich’s abode and he now directly controls the actions of the four undead champions with the aid of his scrying orb. At catching sight of the master of the undead and his glowing red eyes, Durgar is rooted to the spot in terror and takes a couple of sword blows as a result.

Outside of the crypt the others are shocked to see four skeleton warriors emerge and advance upt he stairs towards them. The dwarf mercenary lashes out with his hammer and sends one of the skeletons tumbling down; Heinrich then rushes in and the pair manage to hold the three remaining foes at bay as swords flash out from both directions. Carla, meanwhile, sits meditating, attempting to regenerate some of her powers, having almost exhausted them earlier.

Back in the crypt, Fickenja and Durgar manage to back their way out through the door and find themselves in the unenviable position of having enemies to the front and to the rear. The group are now almost re-united and can see each other. The frantic fighting continues and through a series of parries they all manage to avoid serious injury and slowly but surely, one by one, the skeleton warriors succumb to the now more numerous adventurers. With all visible foes now dispatched the group quickly decide to get the of the cathedral and Grenz as quickly as possible; there is no question of battling the Lich and Lex, having seen how many injuries Fickenja has taken, also instructs her to leave the place immediately.
The remaining group head out of the cathedral the last of their number sees the door to the crypt fly open as the eight ghouls, who have finished feasting on Ulric’s carcass, stream out with fangs and claws dripping with gore. The group race towards the treeline, hotly pursued by the Lich’s minions; moments later a terrifying roar fills the air – it is the wyvern in the cathedral tower; the fearsome creature has been disturbed from its feasting on Cadrigar’s body by the movement and noise below. Eager not to miss the opportunity of more prey the mighty winged creature takes to the air once more and quickly circles around the ruins and dives down on the extended line of figures racing across the open ground – any of the group or ghouls could fall victim to the wyvern’s deadly claws; only fate will determine who is unlucky. A moment later and the dwarf mercenary is snatched into the air above; the beast’s talons rip through the veteran fighter’s armour and a mere seconds later he is torn to pieces by the creature’s powerful jaws.

The rest of the group reach the treeline and much to their surprise they see Brent and the other two Palace contingent ahead of them with swords drawn; Sebastian, the hired battlemage is also there too. Brent gives a command to Loretti, the assassin, to deal with the fast approaching ghouls and the expert bladesman leaps forward in a lithe motion and dispatches two of the foul creatures with swift strokes of his sword – the remaining creatures quickly turn and flee back to their master, who now remains alone in the crypt, the majority of his carefully assembled army decimated by the group’s unexpected intrusion.

Sgt-at-Arms Brent quickly turns to the group, who are all bent over breathing hard from their exertions, and spots what is clearly a relic around Fickenja’s neck. He demands that they quickly hand over all the relics; Durgar and Carla both attempt to stall the demand by arguing that they all need to get back to the boat as quickly as possible and that they can’t sort things out once they are there. Fickenja makes no bones that she does not want to hand the items over. Brent will not hear of any other option and simply restates his demand for the retrieved relics and tells the group that if they do not hand them over in the next moment there will be deadly consequences. Fickenja backs away. Clearly indicating her refusal to comply with the demand. Brent turns to Loretti and tells him to take the relics before he turns to Carla, who is nearest to him, a viciously strikes her with his sword, wounding her. Loretti’s blade strikes out at Fickenja but she is too fast and she manages to parry the lethal blow. Jeffric jumps to the Tilean mage’s aid but his sword misses Brent, who strikes out at the woodsman in turn, only to find his blow is parried too. Regaining her composure, Carla mutters a spell and touches Brent with her hand, instantly sending him crashing to the floor with her Sleep spell. Having quickly dispatched the other Palace guard with a deadly sword strike, Durgar rushes over to Fickenja’s side and swings at Loretti but misses; while the Tilean assassin is distracted by the dwarven pitfighter the beggar manages to strike him down with the Veiled Blade. The vicious final battle is over in a matter of seconds and all the Palace guard contingent lay vanquished on the ground. Heinrich, who had vainly attempted to urge Sebastian to assist the group, walks over to Brent’s unconscious body and brutally murders him, showing his true cowardly and evil character.

The group take stock of themselves and most of them imbibe healing potion to recover from the multitude of wounds they are suffering – unbeknownst to them Jeffric has now taken the concoction too frequently and will shortly suffer the same hideous withdrawal that Cadrigar recently experienced. Once the potion starts having effect they race back through the Orc haunted woods, tracing their original route, managing to avoid the traps and any further encounters with greenskins. After an hour, with darkness fallen, they finally reach the boat and Mathias. Sebastian casts an Invisible bridge spell, and after Durgar says a quick silent prayer for Cadrigar over the elf’s abandoned cart, the group file onto the ship. They debate where they should go next – Sebastian is furious with them as they have crossed the Palace in the gravest of ways and he knows that he and they will not be safe if they return to Reiksdorf. Suddenly Lex’s voice speaks once more in Fickenja’s head – the angel of Illuminades instructs her to set sail North, up the Reik. The beggar-come-Lawful Champion relays the message to the rest of the group and they give a shrug of their shoulders – there really is nowhere else for them to go now and so they all relent and agree to embark on this new mysterious quest for the unknown supernatural agent. The boat slips away onto the river and plies the waters in darkness. A couple of hours later the vessel silently sails past the bright lights of Reiksdorf as Fickenja, Durgar, Carla, Jeffric, Heinrich and Sebastian watch with tired and glazed eyes. They sail into the night unaware of the future trials and tests that the Veiled Blade will put each of them under as it drives them onwards to its master’s goal far past the World’s End Mountains, across the blighted Wastelands where a towering infernal citadel awaits.

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Session Twenty Nine
Farewell Sweet Elf

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The group stands within the main hall of the cathedral ruins; they have two choices before them, stairs leading down to a closed door or a flight of stairs going upwards. Cadrigar wants to go downwards, as they are on a mission to retrieve relics from a crypt; however, Jeffric and Carla want to explore the tower first. The woodsman and mage make their way up the stone steps and discover a room filled with nothing but dust and long rotted fabrics. Undeterred, they keep climbing upwards and soon find themselves emerging at the top of the tower; there is no roof, as it has long since crumbled, and there is no floor space as there is a mass of interwoven tree branches forming a nest, amidst which are the rotted and skeletal remains of some terrible beast’s previous meals. The duo stand around gawking at the sight before them when Jeffric’s sixth sense kicks in and he instinctively ducks just in time as a massive winged beast comes swooping down and makes a grab for him. The woodsman twist around and manages to see the terrible winged beast as it flaps its wings and circles back around – it is a wyvern!

Sebastian and the Palace retinue, who were all stood guard or recuperating outside the tower, run screaming off into the ruins and woods as the winged serpent glides down towards them. The rest of the group within the cathedral’s main hall hear the commotion outside, and Durgar, Ulric and Fickenja decide firmly against going out to investigate, sensing imminent danger. Cadrigar, however, takes leave of his senses, his curiosity getting the better of him; the elf pedlar leaves the safety of the cathedral and goes outside. He looks around and sees no sign of Brent and the Palace guards nor Sebastian, and is about to go wandering off looking for them when the wyvern swoops down and plucks the unfortunate pedlar up in its sharp talons which puncture his body, causing horrific internal injuries. The beast sails high up into the air and then releases its barely conscious prey – the last thing the poor heroic elf sees is the ground rushing up to meet him. A short time later the wyvern lands and snatches the limp body up and flies it up to its nest in the ruined tower where it will feast on it for the next few hours.

Unsure of what’s occurred, but fully aware that time is marching on and darkness is only a few hours away, the group inside the cathedral opt to head down into the crypt. Jeffric once more leads the way and checks for traps and finds none; he tries the handle of the closed door and finds it unlocked. The group forms up into a column and the door is opened, revealing nothing but absolute darkness and silence. They edge forward, Durgar and Ulric leading the way due to their natural night vision. As they proceed down a corridor Ulric catches sight of something humanoid move across their path a short distance away. The group creep forward and the corridor opens up into a chamber, but no one pays any heed to their surroundings, instead they are all focused on the immediate threat up ahead. They can see it more clearly now – it is an animated skeleton, marching backwards and forwards across the width of the chamber. Heinrich and Fickenja creep to the front of the group and ready their bows; they loose two arrows at the creature and miss! The creature turns and marches towards the group with its sword held ready; Durgar and Ulric charge at the skeleton and smash it into pieces with two mighty blows. They look up from the sentry to find a steady stream of armoured skeleton warriors flooding out from a side chamber.

The group recoils in horror as the undead shuffle en-mass towards them. A desperate fight for survival begins with Heinrich and a dwarf mercenary firing arrows at the enemy while Durgar, Jeffric and the two other dwarf mercenaries rush towards the threat and enter into hand to hand combat with the undead horde. The skeletons are fairly easy to destroy as they are very fragile, and the four warriors take down several with powerful and well aimed blows from their swords. Yet the undead are numerous and they continue to rain down a stream of relentless blows, succeeding in killing one of the dwarf mercenaries. At this point Ulric finally looks around and takes in their entirety of their surroundings – there are two corridors to the left and right of the chamber and a third straight ahead. The beggar and his sister push forwards while the rest of the group holds the horde at bay; the young pedlar opts to scout the corridor to the left while his sister decides to explore the one at the far end of the chamber.

The fighting continues, but as the undead continue to spill out from the adjoining chamber many of them push on coming towards Heinrich and the dwarf crossbowman – the pair quickly lose their bottle and turn and flee, running to join Carla near the entrance. Ulric peers down into the corridor to the left and spots a mass of creatures and more armoured skeletons stood to the ready – they spot the beggar and the hideous creatures, eight in number, immediately spring forward and come racing towards him; Ulric turns and flees in terror. A golden tranquil voice speaks to Fickenja and beckons her to come to him. She reaches the far corridor entrance and pushes forwards on her own, her way lit with a lantern. Jeffric and one of the dwarf mercenaries, hearing the commotion behind them and seeing Heinrich running back for the entrance lose their nerve too and turn to flee. Both men receive strikes to their exposed backs as they turn and the dwarf falls dead. The woodsman, although wounded, is still able to make it back over to Carla and the pair frantically attempt to retrieve the flagon of grease from his backpack with the intention of laying a firewall across the corridor and blocking their foes’ path.

Fickenja emerges into a smaller chamber but as she scans her surroundings she sees that there are two sarcophagi on either side and three up against the far wall. There is evidence that the room was once richly adorned with statues and murals but these are long gone and now only rotted rags and dust remain and even the once ornate carvings on the warrior tomb’s are now eroded by time. She cautiously moves to the first tomb to the left and after some initial exploration finds no apparent threat and decides that time is of the essence and pushes off the lid. The stone slab smashes onto the floor to reveal a skeleton adorned in ornate armour; but there is nothing else there apart from a sword and shield. She moves on to the next sarcophagus in line.

Back in the main chamber Durgur turns to make a fighting retreat towards the far corridor which Fickenja disappeared into. He takes several blows in the process as a stream of assailants peel off and follow him. Ulric runs screaming across the width of the chamber into the very corridor the twenty or so skeletons emerged from, still hotly pursued by the eight baying ghouls. Meanwhile the other half of the horde are almost upon Carla and Jeffric, and the pair still frantically struggle to remove the lid off the flagon of grease. The Tilean mage finally manages to remove the stopper and splashes the contents down on the stone floor across the width of the corridor, covering herself in the flammable liquid as she does so. The first line of skeletons arrive and Jeffric panics and smashes a lantern down onto the ground to ignite the grease. A wall of flame shoots up and engulfs the woodsman, Carla and the last dwarf mercenary; the trio roll onto the ground, aflame. Carla manages to cast a spell that snuffs out the flames on their bodies and restore their health, but it is too late for the dwarf as he has succumbed . The first line of skeletons march into the flames and continue to walk through them. Heinrich continues to fire arrows but Jeffric is at his wits end, and he turns and runs for the door.

Fickenja finds only an identical skeleton in the second sarcophagus; the long deceased corpse is wearing the same uniform of armour as the first. Aware that her and her group’s time is fast running out the female beggar stops and thinks for a fraction of a second, the strange voice that was in her head is now silent but her instincts tell her to skip the next subsequent tomb and move directly to the central sarcophagus. It looks much like the rest as it too is time worn. She slides the lid off and another skeleton is revealed, but this one is slightly different – its armour is different, more ornate, and it has a strange carved metal pendant adorned with a large central green gem around its neck. Putting caution to the wind the plucky beggar grabs the amulet with her bare hands and places it around her own neck – she can sense a power flowing through her but nothing else occurs. She can hear the sound of screams and fighting still coming from the main chamber. She explores the rest of the tomb’s contents and spots only a shield and an even duller worn blade next to the warrior’s body. She picks the sword up and it immediately appear to her as the most pristine and beautifully wrought blade she has ever seen.

Fickenja is suddenly pulled out from her body and she flies up out of the cathedral and high into the sky above – she is looking down on the now restored town of Grenz. A horde of hundreds of skeletons are swarming into the town and a line of knights wearing the same armour as the corpses in the sarcophagi are frantically fighting to hold them back. Then, from the rear of their ranks a warrior dressed in fine grey-sheen armour and bearing the same sword that was in her hands, strides to the front rank and begins to cut a large swathe into the undead’s numbers; and then she is propelled away in flight, over the nearby woods, across the mighty Reik, across a tremendous expanse of forest, over a massive range of mountains and across an expanse of dead and decayed blighted land. As she flies over the strange abysmal land beyond the mountains she sees nomadic tribes of strange goblinoid creatures and then sees a large obsidian city with a multitude of dark towers pointing up at the grey skies like accusing fingers. Streams of black acrid smoke belch out from gigantic furnaces and chimney stacks and she can see squat figures amassed around strange and terrible engines of death of the likes she has never seen. Then she passes over this too and is racing down the desiccated remains of a once great riverbed until a large and foreboding granite tower comes into view; she flies straight through the walls of the terrible citadel and down through its internal corridors, down into its bowels until she arrives in a massive underground chamber containing a colossal tomb of immense proportions. She sense that something alive is contained within the tomb and feels its tremendous power when the golden voice speaks inside her mind once more and tells her to come back. She instantly returns to her body and finds herself stood once more over the tomb of St Ignacious. The voice speaks to her once more, saying “I am Lex”.

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Session Twenty Eight
Fee, Foh, Fum!

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The column of adventurers proceeds to navigate its route slowly through the greenskin infested forest, ever conscious of and checking for, traps. During the journey Jeffric and Heinrich who were both severely injured in the skirmish with the Orcs imbibe some rejuvenating doses of the healing potion – leaving only five doses remaining. Thanks to Jeffric’s excellent sense of direction he is able to steer the group in the direction of Grenz and after a couple of hours of trekking stumbles across the remains of an ancient stone road. Still feeling pensive and threatened, the group opts to proceed with utmost caution and Jeffric continues to scout far ahead; twenty minutes later he spots a figure in the middle of the road and immediately dives into a bush and draws his weapon. Waiting vainly for something to happen he peeks out and discovers that the figure is perfectly stationary, so the woodsman creeps forward until he can clearly observe that it is in fact the body of a mutilated Orc strung up between trees. Closer inspection reveals that the Orc died a violent death and had been there for several weeks; resuming their journey the group soon pass more greenskin bodies, each either tied to trees or staked into the ground – all of them killed violently in the past few weeks or more.

A short distance ahead, at around two in the afternoon, Jeffric notes that the trees are thinning into a clearing and he finally spots their objective – the ruins of Grenz. The group catches up and they can see what appears to be a cathedral beyond the ruins of houses; they also see that the ground is covered with the scattered skeletal remains of humans – swords and shields also litter what was once a battleground. They are troubled by the deathly silence, the scene of death and destruction before them as well as the recently killed greenskin corpses on display; so much so that they ask Sebastian, the hired Battle Wizard, if he can detect any magic emanating from the ruins. The surly and impolite mage concentrates his mind and shortly informs the group that he can indeed detect a powerful and malign magic nearby. This information decides it for the adventurers – they can see their target destination and opt to stay concealed in the forest and work their way around the treeline until they are adjacent to the cathedral.

They slowly creep around in their staggered line, Jeffric once more being the pathfinder, checking for traps and marking the route. As he makes his way his expert eye catches sight of a bone charm alarm concealed amongst some low branches. He marks the presence of the trap on a nearby tree and unfortunately not everyone in the party is alert enough to observe it and avoid the trap; one of the dwarf mercenaries blunders into the alarm and a ear shattering rattle breaks the silence – the whole line of adventurers immediately go to ground with their weapons drawn, eyes scanning the ruins for movement. The fates, however, seem to be with them and nothing stirs; the command is given to resume the journey. As they reach the halfway mark of their clandestine approach the woodsman spots yet another bone charm, and this time he decides that he will mark its presence more clearly by hemming it in with wooden stakes made from the nearby branches. The woodsman is unfortunately too noisy in executing this task and the next thing they know is the sound of hooves galloping and they see the terrifying sight of three animated skeleton horsemen and their undead steeds racing towards the treeline where the group is hunkered down.

Carla rushes forward and breaks cover in order to cast a Windblast spell, but she fumbles the incantation and nothing happens; the skeleton horsemen now have a clear target to charge. Sebastian races forward to back up the apprentice mage but he too fails to utter the correct incantation and squanders some of his precious magical powers. Witnessing the abysmal magical performance of the group’s wizards, Durgar charges out to do battle with the undead foes. The rest of the group follows and they erupt from the woods with their blades and bows drawn. Arrows fly from both sides but all fail to hit their mark, except Cadrigar’s – the elf’s arrow is true and takes out one of the horsemen. Then, as the group splits up to meet the two charging threats they all witness the terrible sight of an armoured Ogre emerge from one of the ruined buildings. The giant creature draws its sword and enters the fray. Carla and Ulric are rooted to the spot in fear while Fickenja and Heinrich, both gripped by terror turns and flees back into the woods. Nearly all the dwarf mercenaries and Old Krieger, however, are battle hardened fighters and are able to respond to the dire situation. Two of the dwarfs take out the skeletal horseman on the right with few problems while Krieger, a dwarf mercenary and Durgar swarm the remaining horseman on the left flank and bring him down without suffering any injures themselves.
This just leaves the Ogre, but he is a much more skilled and sturdier foe than the feeble skeletons. Cadrigar, Krieger, Jeffric, Durgar and one of the dwarfs all crowd around the creature and begin to deliver blows from all sides, but it is heavily armoured and throughout the ferocious and desperate fight Durgar, Cadrigar and a dwarf mercenary will all break their blades whilst striking a blow. Carla urges Sebastian to intercede and tells him to use a Standstill spell; the Battle Mage aims in the direction of the Ogre but the fury of the terrible fighting disturbs his concentration and another large portion of his magical powers are squandered. Carla screams at him to make another attempt and this time he manages to get the spell almost right and freezes Jeffric, Krieger and the dwarf mercenary to the spot, mid-fight. Cadrigar and Durgar continue to rain blows and inflict damage but the Ogre mercenary captain is able to shrug these wounds off and he begins to strike at the three prone attackers before him, causing terrible injuries. Jeffric is knocked out cold and moments later Old Krieger is cleaved in two by the creature’s blade.

Sebastian attempts to stop the massacre by making another attempt at casting the Windblast spell and does manage to stagger the monstrous attacker momentarily, which enables the elf pedlar, dwarf pit-fighter and another dwarven mercenary to land a series of blows that begin to register significant damage on their giant foe. Having regained her composure, Fickenja rushes back in time to fire a well aimed arrow into the beast’s head, bringing it close to its death. However, a moment later and the Ogre manages to rebalance itself and unleashes a couple of furious blows upon one of the badly injured dwarf mercenaries, leaving him a bloody pulp. At Carla’s continued frantic cries for assistance, Sebastian runs forward into the thick of the battle and manages to touch the Ogre while casting a Sleep spell; the almost dead monstrosity slumps to the ground unconscious and the entire group rushes in and shoots and hacks it to pieces in frantic fury.

The expedition party reorganises in the aftermath, taking stock of their losses and how close many of them came to being killed themselves. Sgt-At-Arms Brent approaches, the three Palace contingent having remained markedly absent from the fight; he demands that the group proceed with the mission and retrieve the relics before nightfall which is only but several hours away now. Sebastian uses almost the last of his powers to revive Jeffric back to full health; the Battle Wizard tells the group that he has exhausted all his magic and they tell him that he should rest and recharge his energies and is to remain behind with the Palace contingent guarding the cathedral entrance. Cadrigar, with his night vision, creeps up to the open doorway of the cathedral and peers in – he can see a flight of stairs going up into the tower and a flight of stairs going down into the crypt. The group prepares to enter, knowing that the Ogre’s master must surely be near.

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Session Twenty Seven
Waking the Rudeboys

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Jeffric, who is being the scout for the group and leading them through the dense forest, begins to notice the sudden appearance of sharp craggy rocks interwoven amongst the trees and shortly the ground beneath his feet becomes damp and somewhat marshy. As he pushes onwards the trees suddenly peter out to reveal a clearing filled with craggy pointed rocks and he spots a crude wooden compound in the distance, constructed against a jagged outcrop of rocky cliff. He ventures a few more steps forward and suddenly detects movement somewhere in the distance – losing his bottle he instantly turns tail and runs back into the trees and halts the group, informing them of what he has seen.
As usual, there is a great debate about what is to be done about the new discovery and a lot of conjecture as to the nature of the construction – is it a lookout tower (it isn’t), or is it a human settlement (it isn’t). They discuss how to proceed with many of the group wanting to simply skirt past the structure, but this is easier said than done as the terrain is impassable on the left flank and hard going on the right. A few of the group want to scout out the compound, but there is great resistance to this idea and after some heated arguments it is settled on that Jeffric will resume his scouting but will aim to follow the tree line all the way around to the right in hope of learning of a clear route to avoid the construction.

The woodsman duly strikes out on his own and stays within the trees, never venturing out into the rocky clearing. As he comes close to the right flank on the structure he spots something odd up ahead amongst the trees – it is a stake driven into the ground at chest height, on top of which is a rotted head of an indistinguishable greenskin. Looking about him Jeffric sees that there is in fact a multitude of these stakes driven into the ground, each bearing greenskin bodyparts such as hands and heads. There are also bones scattered across the ground and closer investigation reveals that there are both Goblin and Orc bodyparts present and that all the heads are facing the East, as if warning people away from the structure. At this point the woodsman decides to check the ground around him for traps and sure enough he discovers a shallow mantrap filled with sharpened stakes. At this point he decides to return to the rest of the party and report his findings.

The group is disturbed to hear about what has been found and decide that they want nothing to do with the compound and opt to follow Jeffric back to the spot with the stakes and push on past to safety and to their goal of Grenz. The core group decides that they will strike out alone and will leave the rest of the party at the woodline in case there’s a need to beat a hasty retreat all the way back to the ship. Making their way, very very carefully, the group manages to creep up to the spot where the woodsman found the first stake – then they opt to spread out and check for further traps; and they do indeed find more crafty snares and pits scattered across the ground before them. Unfortunately, Jeffric has a slip in attention and uncharacteristically misses a trap trigger and only narrowly avoids being smashed by a levered branch; the result of which sends birds cawing into the sky. The group freezes – terrified that they have now alerted the inhabitants of the compound to their presence; The woodsman decides to move out to the woodline to check the situation.

Upon gazing out amongst the trees Jeffric can now see that he is positioned directly in front of the entrance of the compound, some forty feet away, with craggy rocks obscuring his view. He can make out that the front gates of the compound are open and as he looks more carefully he detects that a number of hunched green figures are lithely weaving in and out of the craggy rocks, coming ever closer towards him. He turns and flees back to the group and warns them of the fast approaching threat; they all take up positions behind trees and await the arrival of their attackers. A short time later and six green figures appear a short distance away and the group fires a number of arrows, which all miss. Arrows are fired back in response but these too fail to hit their mark; and then the two groups close in on each other and a desperate hand to hand battle ensues. Fickenja immediately turns and flees, hoping to find her way back to the core of the group but in her wild panic goes off in the wrong direction and blunders into a pit trap, injuring her leg. The Orc’s attacks are wild and ferocious and if it were not for a heady mix of the group’s skills, luck and dexterity, they would have quickly succumbed to the greenskin assault. Cadrigar, the elf pedlar, breaks his bow and then manages to avoid most blows, receiving only a light wound and kills one enemy. Jeffric manages to avoid blow after blow with a series of parries and heavily injures his attackers in return for receiving a number of wounds himself. Carla the mage has little time to cast any spells and is forced into hand to hand combat as well and manages to kill one of the attackers and receives only a light wound. Heinrich the herdsman assists his colleagues with his bow before closing in with his sword, injuring a number of the Orcs but receiving heavy wounds in return. Durgar the dwarf pitfighter loses his sword in the skirmish but manages to grab an Orc blade and delivers much damage to his enemies, taking out a couple. Ulric also manages to kill one of the Orcs after being engaged with much reticence having wanted to flee the scene.

Fickenja, having gone wandering into the woods, hopelessly lost and badly wounded, manages to eventually locate the main party and informs them of what has happened. Old Krieger is less than convinced on what course of action to take and the Palace guards are reticent of becoming involved in fighting Orcs. The female beggar has to make a couple of heartfelt attempts to persuade the disparate group to follow her back to the group before they agree.

With the initial Orc attackers finally dealt with Carla runs to the woodline and observes a horde of some twenty-thirty Orcs, complete with bowmen, drummer, Chieftain and Shaman, charging out from the compound towards her; she runs back and tells the group of the impending doom and all of the group, less Jeffric, wisely decide that they need to get the hell out of there before they are massacred. The woodsman foolishly wastes time laying in the dirt, trying to cover himself with leaves until he finally comes to his senses and quickly goes running off after the others who have already fled the scene at high speed. Most of the group is either lucky or careful in beating their retreat back apart from Ulric, who blunders headfirst into a pit trap and is heavily wounded – having to be picked up and carried by Durgar.

The group manages to blunder back into the rest of the main party halfway back to their original point. They can all hear the Orcs crashing through the woods and they quickly decide that to head back to the boat would be a waste of time and a failure of their mission – they opt to keep moving forwards, but to avoid the Orcs and their compound, by striking out at a perpendicular angle in an extended line with the core group leading the way. They make a move and slowly but steadily make progress despite the sound of nearby angry Orcs spoiling for a fight when suddenly, from out of the forest, an Orc scout emerges, right next to the core group. Perceiving the severity of the threat to their lives Durgar, Carla, Fickenja and Heinrich immediately set upon the scout and manage to slay him with a series of blows, only narrowly managing to prevent him from calling back to the main contingent of Orcs. Leaving the ever present greenskin danger behind them, the expedition proceeds its journey through the woods to the ruins of Grenz.

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Session Twenty Six
Party On

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Down on the docks Heinrich and Cadrigar finally manage to strike a deal for the hiring of a boat to take the party downstream, at the princely sum of 400gp. Across town Fickenja and Carla head over to The Green Dragon to reclaim possession Cadrigar’s wagon which has been left abandoned at the tavern for several weeks. Karl, the tavern keeper, informs them that the wagon is still out in the stables but he has been forced to sell the horses and wares to cover some of the costs – there is still an outstanding stabling bill of 150gp owing; Carla decides to pass the bill onto the Merchant’s Guild and heads back to the mansion to speak with the Bursar. Marius Uns is present in his office when the Tilean mage turns up to borrow yet more money and he wastes no time in telling her how appalled he is with the group’s performance so far. A chastened mage departs the mansion with the additional funds and a final warning and makes her way back to the tavern and buys back Cadrigar’s wagon which she promptly drives back with the aid of a generous stableboy and the pony and donkey provided by the guild.

Jeffric leaves the mansion compound and makes his way over to the Chancellor’s office with the attention of informing Sgt-At-Arms Brent of the start of the expedition. Upon being challenged by the Palace Guards the woodsman realises that he is in the wrong place, recalling only then that Capt Aldous had instructed the group to go to the Black Tower to contact Brent. Turning around and walking back across town, Jeffric makes his way over to the imposing residence of the city guard and enquires inside as to the whereabouts of Brent; a short time later he is taken up to the veteran’s guardsmen’s office. Jeffric tells Brent that they are in the process of setting off – something that irritates the guard, who questions why he is only just hearing about it and why the group has already wasted much of the day; Jeffric can only shrug apologetically. A short time later Brent appears outside the tower accompanied by three horses, his equipment, a guardsman, and worryingly, the assassin who tried to kill the group in Die Goblin Und Hammer a few nights ago. Opting to waste no further time, Jeffric suggests they all head straight for the docks where hopefully a boat is waiting for them to board.

Carla arrives in the mansion courtyard with Cadrigar’s wagon and is met with the unified disdain and faintest of relief from the assembled party there. It is now past midday and everyone wastes no time in loading all the supplies onto the cart, which is soon dangerously overloaded and underpowered. The citizens of Reiksdorf are then treated to the spectacle of the overladen wagon crawling unsteadily through the streets, towards the docks, pulled by a struggling pony and donkey.

Slowly but surely the expedition party all filters across to the docks and manage to locate the boat. Mathias, an experienced sailor, captains the vessel and overseas the loading of all the equipment and crew. All the group are surprised to see the assassin in the company of Sgt Brent. A short time later the boat casts off and the group are finally on their way to the ruined city of Grenz, horribly late and with only a few hours of daylight left in the day.

As the boat plies the waters south the group spots the smoking ruins of Rikers Ferry on the left bank, and many experience a tangible feeling of guilt for their actions and resultant death of many innocents. To the right they spot the open fields of Little Hook and shortly thereafter the beginning of the great forest. While sailing down river Cadrigar checks the supplies and discovers that there are two bottles of Kussen Die Drachen included – he takes a dose, finally bringing the debilitating withdrawal symptoms to a halt. The boat sails onwards several more miles until the group is eight miles away from Reiksdorf; they spot a bed of reeds and opt to moor the boat at that point. There is the technical issue of how to moor the boat as it is still three meters from the bank of earth and after much asking around and debate, Brent’s guardsman, Richter, steps forward and offers to swim ashore with the lines of rope. At 4pm the boat is secured by two mooring ropes fastened around trees – by taking the river route and avoiding the lengthy direct trek across land the group is now only three miles away from the ruins of Grenz; as far as they can see there is only deep forest.

The next issue to face the expedition is disembarking the boat; although they are safely moored up they are still two meters away from the bank and the vessel cannot move in any closer less it run aground. After another deep discussion and it is decided that Jeffric posses the required skills and expertise to get ashore and build a small pontoon bridge; after falling into the water he is fished out by Richter and dragged ashore where the woodsman immediately begins chopping down trees with his axe. Not content to wait for the woodsman to complete his task, Carla approaches the uncouth and egotistical battle wizard, Sebastian Unterschrieber, for magical assistance – the expert mage tells her he has the very spell and will cast it if requested, however, when his magic powers run out, they run out – so he advises caution in requesting his help. Carla tells him to go ahead and Sebastian renders all of Jeffric’s hard work redundant by casting a magical bridge spell which will last until the following sunrise.

A short time later and the party has unloaded the horses, pony, donkey and cart into a very small clearing. Old Krieger, the nominal expedition leader, approaches the rest of the group and asks them what they want to do in regards to setting off for Grenz; they quickly decide that night is closing in fast and there is only a hour of light left so they will make camp for the night, keeping the majority of the party on the boat to sleep and posting a rotating roster of two guards to keep watch on the camp and the horses and cart. After a meal they settle in for the night aboard the boat and the watches commence.

At 3pm two of the Dwarf guards detect something moving swiftly amongst the trees in the darkness. Everyone stands too aboard the boat; the situation is suddenly very tense and several bowstrings are pulled taught. The group suspects a goblin patrol is about the attack them – they stand and wait, watching the darkness intently, startled by the sounds of snapping twigs in the distance. Suddenly the silence is broken by a roar as something leaps from the tree line and takes down the pony; all the horses scream and whinny in terror as something strikes. Carla attempts to cast a spell, once, twice, third time’s the charm – the ball of magelight streaks out from her outstretched hand and lands on the shore, revealing, much to everyone’s surprise and terror, a thrashing Manticore striking down a donkey. Many of the group are rooted to the spot in fear, unable to act; Durgar yells at one of the dwarf mercenaries to open fire and a crossbow bolt strikes the creatures hind leg with little effect. There is much yelling and Durgar is about to send the dwarfs in to close combat with the terrifying chaotic creature when Carla runs up to Sebastian once more and urges him to act. The wizard holds his staff aloft and utters a spell and a crack of lightening streaks out as the Cause Fear spell is cast successfully and the horrific Manticore turns tail and runs back into the forest. The group does a quick damage assessment and discover that they have lost the pony and donkey in the attack; they settle back down for the remainder of the night.

The group wakes and rises early, getting themselves back to shore via the magic bridge, leaving only Mathias behind on the boat. They all breakfast and then prepare to set off on the short but difficult journey to Grenz; Durgar and Cadrigar attempt to harness the Palace Guards’ horses to the cart but are prevented doing so by an angry Brent who tells them to go to hell; this action results in the cart’s contents having to be unloaded and divided up amongst the rest of the group who will now proceed by manpacking the supplies. Old Krieger establishes the order of march – Jeffric, who possesses scouting skills will stay 30 meters ahead of the group, marking the route through the pathless forest by leaving notches in the trees; Krieger and the dwarf mercenaries are next, followed by the rest of the group moving two by two with the Palace Guard faction choosing to stay at the very rear. They then strike off in the dark forest, walking mile after mile through the featureless forest until Jeffric comes to a stop, spotting something up in the distance.

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Session Twenty Five
Badmin

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All members of the group make their way back to the Merchant’s Guild mansion and settle in for the night; before going to sleep there is a heated debate on what to do with Cadrigar as the elf merchant is still suffering from an addiction to healing potion. In the end the group decides that they will take turns in staying awake so that the ill elf is monitored throughout the night.

The next morning they decide to split up once more and continue acquiring the various items for their forthcoming expedition. Carla and the Fleydermaus siblings head off to the Markt Platz where the latter two set themselves up with one of their begging routines, where Fickenja pretends to be pregnant and Ulric acts as the father who is unable to provide for his family due to a grievous groin injury gained recently in an unspecified battle. The routing proves popular with the locals and the dishonest duo rake in 18gp for their five hours of effort. While this goes on Carla goes to The Emporium and speaks with Randal, asking the proprietor if he knows of any experienced mage who can be hired by the party. Randal tells the young Tilean woman that it’s almost certain that no one will want to risk going south, apart from one man – Sebastian Unterschrieber; the shopkeeper also tells her that the man is highly skilled but is however an abrasive and unpleasant individual. Carla asks where she may find Unterschrieber and Randal says that he is often found running a stall in the market square – but a few feet away from where they are currently standing!

Carla scours the nearby stalls and stumbles across a gaudy-looking kiosk adorned with magical signs and a sign challenging players to “Find the Lady”. Behind the counter a serious looking mage baffles and confounds a small crowd of onlookers and punters as he hides a small ball under one of three wooden cups and proceeds to shuffle them around. The Tilean girl approaches the man and struggles to get his attention, shouting out her interest in hiring him for their trip south and the potential benefits the venture offers; the man doesn’t even look away from the cups and tells her to push off once he learns that she is carrying no coin. Carla refuses to give up and spends the next half an hour observing the proceedings before realising that Sebastian is committing a fraudulent act as he is simply palming the ball with slight of hand – a scandalously petty act of criminality for a seasoned practitioner of the high arts of magic. She shuffles up to him and whispers that she knows what he is up to and that he had better comply with her request lest she makes his audience aware of his trickery. The corrupt mage is unfazed by the young girl’s threats and tells her to push off; Carla responds by addressing the crowd and declaring the act a con, to which several members of the audience begin to quiz her for details. Sebastian quickly realises that Carla’s actions threaten his lucrative means of living and he pulls her roughly aside and demands to know what she wants; she reiterates the request and after some hard haggling she manages to get his agreement to participate in the expedition in return for a fee of 250gp a day with an advance of 200 and a signed guild contract. Carla insists that part of the deal with include tuition.

Jeffric and Cadrigar visit Randolph the bursar in his office and explain to him that they need an advance of some monies and a contract in order to secure the services of Gundar’s mercenaries; after a brief discussion they ask for and receive 200gp. They then head over to Die Goblin Und Hammer tavern with the aim of rectifying the previous days travesty of a recruitment attempt. They stroll in and greet Allen, who is less than pleased to seem them again, and make their way over to Gundar and his band on mercenaries who are sat at their usual table at the top of the room. Cadrigar decides to lead the negotiations, and after some mocking over his unhealthy appearance, manages to agree the hiring of four of the dwarven mercenaries at the stated rate of 50gp per day – he then hands the down payment to Gundar, who in turn instructs four of his men to accompany the group.
Carla runs back to the Guild mansion and secures the required monies and a contract before turning back around and heading back to the Markt Platz. She goes up to Unterschrieber and manages to get his attention once more; as soon as she waves the bag of money in front of the veteran mage he is hooked and he immediately closes up shop and prepares to go home. Carla insists on receiving her first lesson and Sebastian tells her that she will have to return with him to his abode should she insist, which she does. Once at his disorganised townhouse he insists on payment, which Carla in unable to provide; after a brief negotiation the Tilean apprentice agrees to do the laundry in return for a lesson and she is duly taught the spell “Hammerhand”. After the tuition she runs back to the Markt Platz to spend her remaining coin on magical ingredients, after which, she returns back to Sebastian’s untidy abode and spends the rest of the evening attempting to clear his excess of laundry – and failing. As a result she becomes indebted to the unscrupulous wizard.

That afternoon all the group gather back at the mansion and the final list is submitted to Randolph the bursar, who assures them that everything will be awaiting them for seven the next morning. It is at this moment that the group realises in casual conversation that they haven’t in fact requested a boat – something that requires time to achieve; they realise that hiring a boat so late will involve additional cost. The night passes uneventfully and three of the group set off at five for the docks to grab a boat having secured some additional funds from the Guild while the rest duly assemble at the front of the mansion at seven to find Old Krieger, Serge, Gottlieb, Sebastian, four dwarfs, a large pile of food and weapons and a pony and a donkey are standing in the court yard. They then realise that the Palace contingent are missing due to no one having told them of the expedition meeting time and place. What’s more, the veteran mercenary and expedition leader, Krieger, is clearly distressed and he demands to know where the rest of the men are – the group explain to him that because they are planning a river-bourne insertion via boat there is only a requirement to hire four dwarf mercenaries; Krieger tells them that such a thought is suicidal and that they must hire more immediately. The group also realise that they don’t have a cart to load all the supplies on due to their imprecise request; fortunately they recall that Cadrigar has left his ponies and wagons at The Green Dragon stables, and several of them set off to retrieve them.

At the docks Cadrigar, Heinrich and Mathias approach the harbour master and engage him in conversation, telling him of their wish to hire a vessel for a couple of days to sail down river. The harbour master tells them that it is a tall order and that most people will be reticent to risk renting out a vessel to such a dangerous destination. After some persuading the grizzled old man leaves his office and begins to talk to some of the boat owners on the docks on the group’s behalf. The three men wait a considerable amount of time before realising that the task at hand is indeed time-consuming and by no means a certain thing – they therefore send Mathias to return to the Guild mansion to inform the rest of the group of the delay. As the morning drags on it becomes clear to all members of the group that their departure is going to be very much delayed due to their extremely poor planning and preparation. Who knows what will happen to them once they leave the relative safety of Reiksdorf for the Orc-ridden wilderness?

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Session Twenty Four
Bar Crawls and Questions

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The Chancellor finishes up his briefing of what it is that he wants the Merchants Guild to do on his behalf. Before dismissing them, he tells the group that he expects them to start the expedition in three to four days time and that they will be accompanied by Sgt-At-Arms Brent; several members are unable to stray far from petty thoughts of weapons and armour, much to Gottlieb and Serge’s annoyance. A short time later and they leave the building and pick up a coach back to the guild mansion.

The group are brought into an upstairs office where Marius Uns is sat with the guild bursar and registrar. He asks the entire how the meeting with the Chancellor went and tries to determine the exact nature of the ask being made of them all. It is clear to the shrewd merchant that the Palace has a hidden agenda but he is unable to determine its nature. He is satisfied that the group has had plenty of experience in the local environs and makes it clear that this will be their first official tasking as initiates of the guild. He instructs the group to learn more about St Ignacious and Grenz and to come back to him and the bursar, Rudolph, with an identified leader, a list of personnel, equipment and supplies for the expedition – since the bursar will have to finance the expedition he will have ultimate authorisation and say so of its composition.

It’s now late in the evening, gone six thirty, so the group decides to split up into pairs and tackle different tasks. Carla for her part, strikes off alone, deciding to research the mysterious saint and the town at the nearby university; but she quickly comes unstuck when she finds her way blocked by a forceful gate keeper who demands to know her business. The pompous university official is deeply suspicious of the unkempt mage and quickly informs her that she may not enter as she is not a student; Carla unsuccessfully attempts to bluff her way in but failing that resorts to casting a sleep spell, but fluffs her lines as she grasps the man – which enrages him and he sends her packing with threats of arrest and manhandling. Flustered but undeterred, she beats her way over to the Markt Platz and The Emporium, which is miraculously still open. Randal is at least pleased to see her and reconfirms his message concerning Cadrigar’s unfortunate addiction to medication. Dismissing the treatment of the elf, due to the high cost, Carla opts to ask if the proprietor knows anything of St Ignacious. Randal tells her the story of the champion is the stuff of local legend and little firm and reliable information is known beyond the common tales. Apparently the time of St Ignacious was 150 years in the past when Reiksdorf was but a small fishing village and Grenz was the largest town in the region. In that once lively town there lived a noble who fell out with his father-in-law and resorted to employing the black arts of necromancy; the said noble then laid siege to the town with an undead horde, destroying much of the place; then a holy warrior arrived from Nuln and defeated the necromancer and his army, suffering mortal wounds in the process.

Cadrigar and young Heinrich make their way across town to the Temple of Ulric, which was previously visited over a week before by Fickenja and Mathias. Inside the temple the duo are struck by the sombre decorations of armaments, painted depictions of battle and wolf pelts; they find the priest, Brother Jacob, knelt before the central fire pit, meditating. They approach the priest and engage him in conversation – he is somewhat alarmed at the wild state of the elf who is still being wracked by his addiction to healing potion. Heinrich asks the priest if he knows anything about St Ignacious and Grenz and the older man relates a tale very similar to that which Carla is told on the other side of town. The herdsman presses and asks if the saint really is related to Prince Ruprecht and if he had any enchanted weapons but the priest of Ulric is unable to verify either of these points as the legend is too sketchy and vague for such details. Finally Heinrich asks if there are any fighters known to the temple who might want to take part in their expedition but Brother Jacob says that all the local fighters have only recently left to fight the forces of Chaos nearby!

Fickenja and Jeffric first head over to The Green Dragon where the woodsman quickly renegotiates his current debts with Karl. Once this has been successfully conducted they head across town to another familiar drinking haunt, Die Goblin und Hammer; as they brazenly waltz in, having forgotten that they were barred only a couple of days before, they bump into Allen the barkeeper. An exchange of words and threats quickly fly and it is only through the power of bluff and by mentioning that they have now joined the Merchants Guild, that they are permitted, with reticence, to remain in the tavern. Quickly, they head over to their goal, the group of rowdy dwarf mercenaries sat around a long table at the far end of the room; Fickenja taps the leader, Gundar’s shoulder, interrupting his braggart conversation. The dwarf captain recognises the female beggar and he previous unsuccessful attempt to engage his services; he demands to know her business and she tells him that they are now on a mission for the Merchants Guild and the Palace. Then, for reasons only known to themselves, Fickenja and Jeffric decide that they want to hire the services of the mercenaries but are loathe to reveal the true nature of the mission, instead choosing to spin a vague yarn concerning robbing the Orcs to the south of their treasure. Gundar smells a rat – the duo’s story lacks details and sincerity and after several prompts to tell the truth he finally loses his patience and dismisses them both as time wasters.

Durgar and Matthias walk across town into Der Drachen district and its rundown working hovels and make their way to Der Dunkel Schlupfwinkel tavern. They enter the subdued and sparsely populated environs and immediately spot the object of the trip – the drunken slumped figure of Old Krieger, surrounded by empty wine bottles. Durgar makes the mistake of strolling up to the beleaguered drunk and grabbing his shoulder, which results in a dagger being swiftly jabbed up against his throat; fortunately Matthias quickly and eloquently defuses the situation and talks the old mercenary down by reminding him of his previous fateful venture south of Reiksdorf that had resulted in the massacre of his band of fighters. Over the subsequent conversation the dim boatman suddenly recalls all the questions he failed to ask on the previous encounter with Krieger and quickly establishes that the previous attempt by the Palace to obtain the relics of St Ignacious was indeed conducted by the old mercenary; unfortunately he too is unable to provide any insight into the warrior saint or Grenz. But what Krieger is able to tell them is that his original mission failed due to the unexpected number of greenskins he encountered and not having a good scout or wizard in the party; this information makes the dwarf and boatman figure that they should approach Grenz from the river rather than heading due south from Reiksdorf. Considering the information they have just heard they decide to offer the old and weary fighter the opportunity to have a second go at the mission and lead the expedition.

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Session Twenty Three
The Sweet Taste of Progress

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Cadrigar reaches the hospital and manages to locate Mathias and Ulric; fortunately both of them have miraculously escaped being visited by the Theives Guild’s hired assassin and have also managed to recover much of their wounds, including the boatman’s mangled hands. The elf pedlar spends some time on updating the two men on what has recently transpired; once they have finished conversing they set off for the safe house. Carla briefly visits the Markt Platz and spends all her coin on some much needed ingredients before returning to the safe house. Inside the house Fickenja has been busy practising picking locks while Durgar has been teaching Heinrich the herder some basic swordsmanship techniques.

A few hours later they are picked up by coach and escorted by a couple of guild men, one of whom is called Gottlieb. They travel across town and stop outside a large mansion called Hochberg, only a couple of streets away from Marius Uns’ abode. They are taken inside and are brought into a large banquet hall where many familiar merchants and shop owners from around the Markt Platz and the rest of the town are sat on two rows of benches partaking in a feast; at the top of the room is the head table where three men sit, one of them is Marius Uns. The merchant brings the room to order and begins to talk, and it is clear at this point that Uns is not merely a patron of the Merchants Guild but is in fact the leader. In his speech he tells the assembly that due to the good work and successful completion of a number of important tasks the group are being sworn into the guild as probationary members. After the ceremony, in which they pledge their loyalty and swear and oath, they are taken aside into a nearby room where Marius has news for them.

Marius tells the group that he has been able to settle the blood debt on their behalf with the Thieves Guild for the payment of a princely sum of 2000gp; for this fee the Thieves Guild have agreed to withdraw the contracts on the groups’ lives. The merchant informs them they will have to pay this fee back to the guild by signing contracts for indentured service for a total of five years each; all the group decide that there is nothing else for it but to sign the contracts. At this point Marius also relays some tragic news – Dolwen’s body was fished out of the water two days ago; the elf merchant had been tortured and murdered for the group’s actions against the Thieves Guild. Many of the members are surprisingly without much sympathy for their unfortunate elf boss and only Carla says that she will visit his body in the temple of Morr. Fickenja then chooses to confess the latest palace job to Marius; she tells him that they have been tasked to place two mysterious packages within the home of a Til Vorman. Uns reveals that Vorman is the leader of the Thieves Guild and has the two mysterious packages opened by Gottlieb – the first contains a bloodied dagger, which the group theorise is the murder weapon used on Tarquinius, while the second package consists of Crimson Bliss, a powerful narcotic. The group realise that this narcotic is what they have been delivering to various locations around town for the Merchants Guild. It is clear to everyone in the room that the Palace has the intention of destabilizing and destroying both guilds. The group suggests taking action against the Palace but Uns warns them that they don’t understand just how dangerous the Palace is; he informs them that he will go and speak with the Thieves Guild again to discuss what should be done. Uns instructs the group to remain in the mansion where it is safe, until he returns.

The group retire for the night in a single room and go to sleep; everyone that is but Cadrigar, who feels shaky and ill. The elf pedlar is unsure what is happening to him but he really wants another dose of the restorative potion, Kussen Die Drachen. Unable to get to sleep and craving the elixir, Cadrigar decides to steal Jeffric’s money so that he can use the coins to buy another bottle; unfortunately for the elf, the woodsman wakes up to find the pedlar’s hands upon him. A scuffle ensues and Jeffric calls to Durgar for help and between them they manage to subdue the elf and tie him up. Waking up the rest of the group they discuss what has occurred, several of them doubting what they are being told – but it becomes clear to many of them that Cadrigar is addicted. The group spends the next few hours vainly trying to acquire some help for their elf companion, even sending a runner to the Markt Platz to ask Dr Schrodinger and The Emporium if there any cures for Cadrigar’s ailment. Upon the runner’s return they learn that a cleansing potion can be purchased for 100gp and that magical aid can also be obtained for a price; unfortunately the group has little coin in their possession. They attempt to obtain some help from their new employers but the Guild is loathe to help in such a personal matter at this time of considerable trouble.

Marius returns to the mansion just after lunch and tells the group that the slate has been cleaned with the Thieves Guild and warns against antagonising them further. He then reveals that he was approached by Captain Aldous, who is curiously well informed about the group being in the merchant’s employ. Their plans disrupted by the group’s actions, the Palace is now overtly compelling the Merchants Guild to carry out a pressing task for them. Marius instructs the group to go along with Gottlieb and Serge to see Ludwig Camus, the Reiksdorf Chancellor, and learn the details of the mission.

At 4pm Sgt Brent arrives outside the mansion with a coach; the group plus Serge and Gottlieb climb aboard and are driven across town to a completely different and unvisited district – the Palace district. They pass the well kept promenades and gardens and spot the imposing palace itself; the coach finally pulls up to the ornate offices next to the regal abode itself. They are escorted into the building, and taken up to the Chancellor’s opulent office where they find Captain Aldous and the mysterious man who recently took custody of the handwritten letters waiting. The Chancellor, a wily and shrewd politician, informs the assembled visitor that the regent himself, Prince Ruprecht, has an urgent yet dangerous task that needs to be accomplished. The job is to travel to the ruined town of Grenz which lies 12 miles to the south, beyond the great forest. They are to find the tomb of St Ignacious, an ancestor of the Prince, and retrieve all the heirlooms and artefacts contained within less tomb robbers steal them. The mysterious man, revealed as Pieter Quince, the court mage, gives them a couple of leather bags to transport the antiques. The group mutters few questions, some sensible, some impertinent, prior to being told to shut by the horrified Gottlieb. What they do learn is that St Ignacious is famous for fighting a powerful necromancer 150 years ago and that his tomb will probably be located near the centre of the ruined town.

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Part Twenty Two
Who You Gonna Call?

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The minutes tick by and the four adventurers consider all sorts of fanciful ideas of how to circumvent the surmised affects of the magical crystal that sits upon the ledger they wish to steal. Finally they come to a decision and Carla sneaks all the way back downstairs to the foyer and casts a locking spell on the room where they have heard people speaking and assume to be the nightwatchmen’s office. One of the room’s inhabitants thinks he hears something but unbeknownst to him his colleague is as deaf as a door post and has been bluffing his way through the job for years – reading the other man’s lips the deaf man says that he doesn’t hear anything.

Upstairs the group readies themselves, with Cadrigar and Jeffric clinging close to the door of the office, anticipating an alarm about to go off as soon as the crystal is moved. Fickenja bravely volunteers to do the dirty work and walks over to the safe, grasps the ledger and gives it an almighty tug free before turning around and running back towards the door and the others. Before she has even gotten halfway across the room a green ethereal ball of glowing light appears and a screaming ghostlike skeletal figure dressed in armour and clutching a battleaxe. The ghostly apparition glides straight for Fickenja and reaches her just as she reaches Cadrigar; the creature swings its axe and strikes the female beggar in the back – its blow does not cause a physical wound, but Fickenja feels herself become instantly weaker. They all run for their lives with the ethereal creature pursuing them down the stairs. The ghostly axe swings again and strikes Fickenja once more in the back, and again she feels herself weaken – she understands that the ghostly creatue is stealing her lifeforce and that it is homing in the ledger.

The injured beggar shouts to Cadrigar and throws the book towards him, but in the poor light and in her panic, she throws wild and the tome falls on the second floor landing. The ghostly creature immediately switches its pursuit and glides straight through the banisters and down to the book. Cadrigar comes running onto the landing and dives down, grabbing the book and manages to avoid the swing of the axe. Jeffric also manages to run past but the creature is already on the move again by the time Fickenja reaches the same spot.

As Cadrigar comes flying down the last flight of stairs he too is struck in the back by the apparition and feels some of his lifeforce being taken away. Durgar, Heinrich and Carla witness the horrifying scene – the Tilean mage recognises the creature as a Wight and immediately understands that it cannot be hurt by non-magical weapons. She sprints forward at a right angle to the pursuit and attempts to caste a Fireball spell but fails, expending the last of her magical energy. At that moment they hear a door being broken down and seconds later a nightwatchman armed with a sword and a lantern appears – Durgar immediately charges at the guard and engages him with his sword, taking a mild wound in the process but is able to injure the man severely enough that he is falls unconscious. The man’s deaf colleague comes running into the foyer and is immediately attacked by a frenzied Jeffric who cuts him down, killing him.

Heinrich, terrified at the sight of the apparition and the appearance of the nightwatchmen goes running for the front doors of the rathaus. Cadrigar and Fickenja run through the basement doors, head down the corridor and makes it back to the original point of entry; the elf pedlar and human beggar quickly jump through the opening, back into the sewers, and run all the way back to the manhole, at the time pursued by the wight, which keeps swinging its axe, but fortunately misses. Reaching the manhole cover, Cadrigar fights to climb the ladder and reach back up to the street while the wight flounders below. Finally, the elf finds his purchase and breaks free from the sewers, ledger in hand – the wight, having strayed too far from its crystal source, dissipates into the air.

Having dealt with the two watchmen, Durgar and Jeffric decide to flee the scene and manage to navigate safely back to the manhole and Cadrigar and Fickenja. Heinrich and Carla are not so fortunate, taking a wrong turning and spending several hours scuttling blindly through the fetid tunnels before surfacing somewhere completely different in town. Meanwhile, the others, having experienced something of a fright, run off to a nearby square to wash off the blood and filth covering them. They discuss what to do next with dull Durgar suggesting they take the ledger straight round to Marius Uns’ mansion; fortunately one of them distinctly recalls their instructions were to return to The Green Dragon. They duly head over there and meet Serge and Karl, the latter taking the ledger off them and the former taking them to the same safe house they had previously stayed in.

Once in their new quarters they are told that they are to stay put until they are fetched by Uns. All of them having suffered injuries through the previous 24hrs and they are all grateful for the chance to rest their weary heads. Carla and Heinrich finally, having trudged halfway across town, reach The Green Dragon; they hammer on the locked doors and Karl answers and then lets them in. After letting them clean themselves up the barkeeper tells them it’s too late to take them to the safe house and that they can stay in the tavern instead. Fortunately for the entire group neither site receives any nocturnal visitors.

The next morning both parties of the group awake and breakfast, during which they remind their hosts that they are expected to return to the Black Tower and give the stolen letters to Captain Aldous – they fear the repercussions that will be visited upon them if they fail. Karl takes the ledger off to Marius, during which time one of his runners takes Carla and Heinrich over to the safe house to be reunited with the others. When Karl returns an hour later he informs the group that Marius wishes them to attend a banquet that evening around five where he will reward them for having successfully completed the job. Karl also hands the group a tied stack of handwritten letters – the counterfeit letters produced by Marius’ wife. The group thank Karl and tell him that they will return for the evening meeting but must first depart to complete their task of handing over the letters.

They subsequently arrive at the Black Tower and tell the duty sergeant that they are there to see Captain Aldous. A short time later they are ushered up the steps to the fifth floor and the captain’s office. The Captain is sat behind his desk with Sgt Brent stood to the side and the mysterious man in flowing robes sat nearby. Fickenja hands over the letters to the captain, none of them having read the contents and therefore being completely unaware of what is transpiring. The Captain hands the letters to the mysterious man who checks them and nods his satisfaction before packing them away in a satchel and leaving. Aldous then tells the group that he is happy with their performance, so happy in fact that he has another pressing job for them.

The group are annoyed and reticent to take on another job and voice their unhappiness, but are less than surprised when the captain assures them that it is his town and that if they refuse he will still have them hanged; he does however, point out that he always has a need for useful and efficient people. The group relents and asks for the details. Aldous tells them that this time he wants them to break into another mansion and put something in. The place is the mansion of a Til Vormann and is called Mont Eidelweiss. He produces a wrapped leather purse and tosses it to Cadrigar and tells them that they are to place it in the bedroom of Vormann. He then pulls out another, smaller package and tells them to place it in the children’s toy box. He tells the group that they have 36 hours to complete the job and that once it’s done they are to get word back to him immediately. The group then ask a number of questions about the layout and defences of the mansion and Fickenja asks for a set of lockpicks which are duly provided. Carla asks for some coin to buy magical supplies and is given 20gp. The group is then led out and they ponder their next step.

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Part Twenty One
Coming Clean and Getting Down and Dirty

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The merchant begins to speak to them saying that he has been impressed with the work that the group has done for the Merchants’ Guild so far and that he now has an urgent job that needs to be done. Marius is about to continue but Fickenja halts him, she has considered the current situation and has decided to come clean; she tells the merchant that the Palace has employed them to steal some letters from his study. The merchant is visibly shocked to learn of this plot against him and manages to put two and two together and understands why Carla is suddenly employed within his kitchen – he has Herr Baudach fetch the Tilean mage to join the group. Weighing up the situation, the merchant’s thoughts are disturbed again by Fickenja who suggest that they produce fake letters to hand over to the Palace – Marius thinks this an excellent idea and informs her that he will get his wife to perform the task over the next few hours.

Marius then goes on to tell them the details of what he needs of them – he needs them to commit a burglary of the Rathaus, the town hall, and to retrieve a ledger from the Chancellor’s office. In return for doing this job he will grant them all expedited entry into the Merchants’ Guild – they will become probationary members upon completion, something that will afford them a modicum of protection from the powerful enemies they have already garnered. The group duly agrees and they are instructed to go with Karl who will kit them out and take them to where they need to go to conduct the job.

A short time later and they are in a coach on their way back to the Green Dragon where they receive a hemp bag of tools. A short time later their guide, Serge, turns up and they set off on another coach journey across town where they are deposited a short distance away from the town hall at 7pm. Serge points out a sewer grate that is the suggested route into the governmental building and he tells them to return to the tavern once the job has been complete; he then departs, leaving the group alone. The group go straight over to the sewer grate and start to prize it up, drawing a small crowd of passer buys who they fortunately manage to move along without any dramas. They make their way down with Cadrigar leading the way while Carla takes up the rear. Below ground they find themselves within a tight and decaying brickwork tunnel that makes them proceed in single file, a foot deep in effluent.

Cadrigar the elven pedlar thicks he has memorised the route to the rathaus, has forbidden the lighting of torches for fear of starting a fire, and the group relies on him and Durgar for their night vision to show the way, but in a manner of minutes he has led them down the wrong tunnel and they proceed several hundred of feet before the elven lead bumps into something sitting below the water line. The next thing he knows an Amoeba has risen from the filthy waters and launches a savage attack, swallowing Cadrigar, Jeffric and Heinrich as it proceeds back down the tunnel. Durgar flails and falls backwards, knocking himself out cold, also taking Fickenja down also while Carla is completely blind to what is going on, only hearing shouts and splashes in the absolute darkness.

Cadrigar, enveloped by the beast, begins to suffocate and slashes frantically with his sword, briefly managing to escape its embrace before being consumed again. Fickenja attempts to rise from the sewage and Carla, having learned that they are under attack, attempts to cast a cold spell but fails, expending the ingredient. Heinrich battles and briefly breaks free before being re-swallowed, dropping his sword. Carla tries to execute a flame spell but in the panic miscasts it also. Jeffric also fight free and attempts to flee back towards the rest of the group but the monster sucks him down once more. With all the group down and taking wounds, seriously in peril of dying, Carla retries casting the fire spell and manages to light a makeshift torch which she then thrusts into the amorphous monster, sending it fleeing.

The group pick themselves up, dust themselves down and trace their route back to where they began and restart their journey. Jeffric, who has suffered a lot of injuries in the attack, takes another swig of the Kussen Die Drachen, the last of it. Twenty minutes later an dthe y come to a brick wall that they believe leads into the Rathaus cellars. Using the tools they have been provided with, they smash teir way into a room with crates and barrels; the filthy hoes slither into the room and are confronted by a locked door. Cadrigar suffers serious doubts about whether they are in the right place but the majority of the group is certain that they are and they quieten him down. Carla attempts to open the door but fails and the group uses a hammer and chisel to break the door open; the group ventures outside and find themselves down a corridor lined with locked doors.

Progressing to the end of the corridor, in the dark, they find a flight of stairs and another locked door. Once more Carla attempts to showcase her skills and casts an Unlock spell which manages to open the door. They peer through the open doorway and the two members of the group blessed with night vision observe a moonlight drenched foyer and a grand flight of stair leading upwards – from the rich tapestries and fine ornaments it is clear that they are in the right place. Durgar and Heinrich opt to remain at the cellar doors and act as the rearguard while the rest of the group proceed up the stairs.

On their way up the Cadrigar’s big pointy ears pick up the distinct sound of a couple of men chatting nearby – these are presumably the nightwatchmen that they have been warned about. The group carefully and cautiously tiptoes upwards to the third floor where they are told the Chancellor’s offe is located. There are two locked doors on the landing and Cadrigar creeps over and listens carefully to both but hears nothing; he summons Carla over and she manages to cast another successful Unlock spell which permits them to enter a corridor. Looking around in the darkness, for it is 8.45pm, they spot another locked door to the left. Carla has used up nearly all of her magic and ingredients at this point and they have to rely on Jeffric to use a hammer and chisel to attempt to break the door open, which he fails to do. Cadrigar steps in and manages to successfully knock the handle off without alerting the guards downstairs.

The four group members find themselves in a plush office complete with large ornate oak desk and a large portrait, as expected. They approach carefully and explore the portrait and discover the hinges and swing it open to reveal a small safe, as they were instructed to find. They have a short debate about how to tackle the safe before they finally set about breaking the safe open with the hammer and chisel again. On the second attempt Cadrigar manages to pop the safe open and they find the ledger that is their target, upon which sits an odd-looking crystal. Carla and Jeffric both inspect the strange crystal, and both believe the object to be some sort of magical trap, but they are unable to determine the exact nature of the trap. The night wears on and time is running out, they must make a decision as to how to handle the unknown trap and obtain the object.

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