The Veiled Blade

Part Sixteen
Locked Up!

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The freshly summoned Lord of Change screams in fury and stomps towards the burning barricade that is holding the horde of beastmen attempting to invade the besieged village of Reikers Ferry. The colossal demonic creature smashes through the barricade with ease, sending burning logs crashing across the ground and a flurry of embers into the air. The young militiamen turn instantly run away in absolute terror. The group, astonished at such a terrible sight before them are made of sterner stuff and hold their ground.

With the main defences finally breached this is Father Lucius’ signal to complete his spell and a crackle of thunder and rolling clouds in the sky above mark the arrival of the air elemental who descends to the field of battle in a funnel of turbulent air. The massive creature, made entirely of animated air particles, engages the greater demon of Tzeentch in combat and the two giants begin trading blows.

With the flaming obstacle now removed the beastmen begin to flood through the gap, several of their number being trampled by the two battling colossuses. Casdrigar defends the priest of Taal while Durgar, Heinrich and Fickenja wade in to meet the invaders’ advance alongside the fighter’s of Ulric. Sir Gregor, fully recharged from the previous night’s rest finishes his prayers to Solkan and his mighty double-handed sword bursts into flaming blade. There’s a furious flurry of clashing blades and axes, bellows and screams of fury as the two sides fight a desperate battle. While most of the group struggle to land their blows Sir Gregor and his flaming sword cuts a swathe of the chaos beasts down and the last anyone sees of him is the lawful champion disappearing amidst a crowd of beastmen beyond the broken defences.

After trading several blows with each other the Lord of Change resorts to its magical abilities to defeat its foe; blasting the air elemental with a stream of multicoloured fire that evaporates the creature. The demonic monster stomps over to Father Lucius, picks him up in his gigantic talons and proceeds to tear the priest in half. Realising that their situation has become utterly hopeless the group yell to one another and turn and run as the wave of beastmen rally and charge after them into the village. Their pursuers are slowed by the abundance of villagers who have come to fight the fire at the rear of their village – the marauding beastmen cut the civilians down and disappear into the hovels and cottages.

Reaching the jetty, the group comes to a dead stop; none of them can swim and there is no boat to board. Screams and smoke fill the air and a short time later beastmen begin to stream out through the lanes towards them. With no other options left and a certain death almost upon them the frantic group leap from the jetty and into the water. They thrash around, all of them about to drown when miraculously, as if sent from the gods, a small fishing boat appears in the dark and the fishermen throw out their nets to permit the group to clamber aboard. The vessel turns and sails away leaving Reikers Ferry to its bloody fate as the forces of Chaos reave it.

Cold, shivering but mercifully still alive, the group recount the battle. The astounded fishermen, who are from Nuln, freely give out blankets and wine to warm and comfort them. A short time later the vessel pulls into the docks of Reiksdorf and the captain pays the mooring fees and bids farewell to the group who are eager to flee the dockside as quickly as possible lest the city guard arrest them for breaking the quarantine of Reikers Ferry. The group manage to make their way to The Green Dragon without encountering any trouble just before the doors shut. Karl welcomes them and gives them a shared room and some food free of charge and the group settle down for the night with only the vaguest idea of what they will do next or of what has become of Dolwen and the rest of their numbers.

Carla wakes up in the morning in the Green Dragon and asks Karl if he has arranged the means of transport to Reikers Ferry. The barman tells her that he has sent a runner to make the arrangements with a contact and that she needs to go to the ferry terminal on the docks and ask for Christof. The Tilean mage subsequently sets out for the destination and sometime later finds herself outside the back of the ferrymen’s office where she asks for Christof. The ferryman duly identifies himself and after bartering over the cost of the trip and receiving advanced payment of half the fee he instructs Carla to go and wait on the boat while he fetches his equipment. Carla walks over to the jetty and identifies Christof’s slender vessel when she spots a pair of city guard walking down the gangway towards her; turning around she discovers a second pair of guards coming from the other direction. She quickly contemplates casting a spell but instead opts to jump into the boat and attempt to flee via the river; however, in her haste and panic she over balances when trying to climb into the boat and falls into the water. Thrashing around she is fished out of the water by the guards her immediately restrain her, inform her that she’s under arrest and bundle her into a coach waiting a short distance away.

As the coach trundles through the streets of Reiksdorf the young mage considers her options before deciding to caste a Zone of Cold spell that makes the guardsmen inside the coach shiver; having seen the magical air disruption of the spell being cast there is no doubt in their minds who the cause of their discomfort is and one of them quickly knocks her out before she has a chance to caste any more deadlier spells. When Carla wakes she is in the dark, seemingly with some sort of canvas hood over her head and her limbs bound. All she can tell is that she is lying on a hard cold stone floor; from somewhere nearby she can hear the faint singing that sounds oddly familiar.

Across town Matthias leaves the hospital and heads directly to the docks and spends a considerable amount of time searching for his boat, Der Silber Kessel, but there is no sign of it anywhere along any of the many jetties. Looking about him he realises that it could easily be within one of the many boathouse that populate the dock. He decides not push his luck any further and temporarily admits defeat and makes his way back across town to Die Goblin und Hammer where he approaches Allen the barkeeper, who is surprised to see him. Matthias enquires whether the barman has seen any of his group and is told that they have not been there for several days bit Carla was there only a day before. Matthias asks if he can stay and wait awhile in the hope someone turns up and Allen happily gives him a free tankard of ale and some food. A short time later the boatman is aware of a presence standing behind him and turns to find four members of the city watch there; they tell him that he is under arrest by authority of the Palace and is restrained and taken to an awaiting coach that takes him to Der Schwartz Tor, the imposing tower outside of the Markt Platz. Inside the tower Matthias is processed by the duty sergeant before being taken up the long winding flight of stairs and into a bare prison cell. As the door closes he hears the sound of some awful singing from a nearby cell and recognises as Jeffric’s voice.

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Part Fifteen
Screaming for Vengeance

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Outside the southern gate of Reiksdorf, Captain Aldous continues to question Jeffric the woodsman, who has turned up at 10pm with a rag tag crowd of desperate, distraught and injured villagers. Suspicious and sceptical of what the woodsman is telling them, the palace guard commander unlocks the main gate, has the cart driven through while he wanders over to a couple of the nearby children. With an avuncular air and some soothing words the commander is able to quickly learn the truth from the mouths of innocents. Having ascertained that the refugees are in fact from the quarantined Reikers Ferry, Captain Aldous addresses the people and informs them that they will be loaded onto the cart and transported a short distance away to safety and medical assistance. Without further ado the small group, including the now dead body of a fighter, are put onto the cart, accompanied by guards, and are driven away to the south, away from the town.

Jeffric is not taken away on the cart with the others; instead he is placed under arrest and transported by coach under guard to Der Schwartz Tur, the imposing tower in the centre of town, just outside the Markt Platz. Inside the tower he is processed by the custody sergeant, stripped of all his belongings, and is then marched up a long winding flight of stairs to the fourth floor and placed within a small bare cell. Locked inside the small dark cell the woodsman is left to stare out of a small window at the sprawling town below, which is beautifully lit by the twin moons of Manslieb and Morslieb which shine balefully down from the night sky.

The next morning, over in Reikers Ferry, half the group are still stranded there following the theft of Der Silber Kessel. They greet the morning sun amazed that they are still alive and that the forces of Chaos have not attacked. The strange distant storm and unearthly screams in the middle of the night serve further to unnerve the Fledermaus’ and Heinrich; all three now desperately want to abandon the village to its fate but Durgar urges them all to hold steadfast and face death heroically.

Unsure of what the correct course of action now is, but unhappy to sit around doing nothing, Cadrigar heads back to the jetty once more and makes an unsuccessful attempt to orate and stir the crowd of remaining desperate fifty villagers into action to save themselves. Apathy reigns and there is precious little resources or skills left available to the huddled crowd which now largely consists of the elderly, the sick, the lame and the lazy. The best that the Elf pedlar is able to manage is to acquire a pitch fork and inspire some old ladies into knitting him a jumper.

Heinrich, the young herdsman, is by now frantic to escape the village. He spends most of the day going house to house, searching their contents and opening boxes and barrels in the hope of locating an axe to build a raft. Unfortunately all the skilled hands who could have helped construct a raft have either already fled or have been killed and worse still, most of their tools have gone with them.

The rest of the group spend man the day manning the barricades and keeping watch for anything coming out of the forest; having spent the entire night awake and alert they now catch up on some much needed sleep by using a four hour guard rotation with half their numbers sleeping in the two nearby rear cottages.

At half six in the evening Cadrigar’s sharp elven eyes detect movement somewhere in the scrubland between the village and the forest. Looking more intently he makes out the form of first one then several more beastmen crawling on their hands and knees through the long grass. The pedlar alerts the rest of the guard to the presence of the threat and Ulric, who is standing on a cottage roof, attempts to fire an arrow at one of the beastman but in doing so breaks his bowstring; he is then forced to utilise his crossbow. The beggar fires a couple of bolts and manages to strike a target, making one of the creature bellow in pain. The beastman reconnaissance group realises they have been discovered and signal back to their compatriots hidden in the forest with a series of horn blows.

A line of twenty beastmen suddenly emerge from the forest and march towards the village and the rear defences at a steady and disciplined rate. As they near, Uric and Fickenja begin to loose a series of arrows at them with varying success – managing to graze a few and seriously injure one of their opponents. The sound of the frantic shouting and bellowing eventually rouses Heinrich from his futile search for woodworking tools and he races back to the defences.

Once the line of beastmen reaches within twenty foot of the barricades they break into a charge and the group quickly give the command to set fire to the pitch and tar treated barricade. Cadrigar and one of the warriors of Ulric instantly put torches to the wood without delay and the structure erupts in a eight foot wall of intense fire; Durgar and two of the young militia men are not able to clear the barricade in time and are seriously burnt by the flames. The dwarven pit-fighter drops and rolls across the ground trying to put out the flames but suffers severe wounds before he manages to snuff them out.

The beastmen are held at bay by the wall of flame and Ulric, Fickenja and Heinrich continue to rain arrows and crossbow bolts down on them through the fire, killing or injuring a great many of them. Struggling to see past the flames several members of the group manage to discern Grimalpapa, the dread Chaos sorcerer and commander, stood at the forest edge, surrounded by beastmen. Timo Graf, the Chaos warrior, stands nearby and is directing another line of twenty beastmen and marauders into the village.

Cadrigar also sees with alarm that the firewall is also setting alight the outer perimeter wooden walls on both sides of the village flanks – which threatens to turn the entire settlement in a raging inferno. The elf pedlar races back to the jetty as fast as he can and manages to convince the frightened crowd that they must help fight the fire and save their village and themselves; the villagers duly run back into the village to get buckets of water while Cardigar returns to the rear defences.

The arrows continue to fly down onto the beastmen and the group’s ammunition begins to rapidly deplete. Ulric decides on a solo plan of drastic action to get over one of the defensive flank walls and attempt to sneak over to the forest edge and assassinate the Chaos commander. Father Lucius and Sir Gregor stand to the side of one of the rear cottages, praying and meditating intently, and when asked by a frantic Heinrich why they aren’t doing anything to help the battle they respond that they are waiting for when the barricade breaks before unleashing and spending their powers.

As the last arrows fly from the bows and crossbows of the group they see that the second line of beastmen and marauders join up with the first group on the other side of the burning barricade and moments later the night sky above begins to turn a series of strange hues comprising of vibrant greens, pinks and purples amidst rolling clouds which emit a series of forked lightning bolts. Through the scene of battle a couple of the group manages to see Grimalpapa lift his staff into the air, completing the last part of his summoning spell and a funnel of thick multi-coloured smoke rapidly descends from the heavens into the middle of the scrubland and a horrific feathered bird-like monstrosity, standing over twelve feet tall, emerges from it and utters an ear-shattering scream of rage and fury that rends the air.

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Part Fourteen
Waiting for the Man

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Confronted with the terrible scene of the goblin wolf riders riding through the crowd of panicked evacuees, hacking them down with spear and sword, Jeffric leaps off the raft and charges up the bank with sword drawn. The other five men on the raft follow him although only three of them have weapons. The goblins are absorbed in the mad glee of their slaughter and fail to notice the men’s arrival and the woodsman is able to kill one of the wolves instantly, sending its rider tumbling. The other goblins turn and attack the small party while the villagers scatter, except one man, running for their lives.

A deadly battle ensues with the seven men fighting frantically against the ferocious beasts and their evil riders. Splitting into two groups they face up to the goblins, seeking to take out the wolves first, and blows are exchanged. Three of the men are killed outright in the battle and another severely injured before all the evil creatures are all dealt with, leaving Jeffric, who has received a couple of light wounds himself, to bring order to the chaos of the aftermath.

Organising the nearest of the villagers into search parties, Jeffric waits half an hour before he decides that they all need to get away from the forest at the soonest opportunity for fear of more greenskins turning up – he decides that those who have chosen to flee into the forest for safety will have to be left to their fates. At three o’clock in the afternoon Jeffric leads 16 men, women and children past eight bodies of the fallen and keep along the river bank, heading north for Reiksdorf.

While Carla waits in the Markt Platz she is approached by Tariq Qaleem who engages her in casual conversation before he tells the young mage that Tarquinius would like to meet with her and the rest of the group as soon as possible in the Green Dragon. With no better options open to her Carla decides to make her way over to the tavern where she finds the Merchant Guild’s fixer in conversation with Karl. Speaking with Tarquinius she is told that one of the major patrons has a very important and urgent job for the group following their excellent performance in Der Kopf. Carla asks if she can start the job on her own but is told that the majority of the group is required – she then asks that instead of being paid for the job if the Guild can do something in regards to the current situation with Dolwen’s abduction; Tarquinius assures the Tilean mage that this is possible.

With a clear plan of action before her but no idea of when the rest of the group will return to Reiksdorf Carla is at a lose end and she asks Tarquinius if there is anything she can do to earn some money and he tells her that she should speak with Karl as there are more packages to be delivered around town. Speaking with the barman Carla learns the details of the deliveries – deliver two packages to Elke Klein in Linz Strasse and Bill Becker in Der Dunkel Schlupfwinkel and take payment of 60gp, keeping 20gp for herself.

Striking out from the Green Dragon Carla heads across a bridge into Der Drachen and struggles to locate the first address, quickly becoming lost in the warren of worker’s hovels. She stumbles into a drunkard who she asks for directions – the man offers to lead her to her destination and the young mage accepts. It’s only when they go down steps and arrive at the filthy canal that Carla senses things are not right; before she can say anything the drunk punches her in the stomach and demands she hand over her bag and money. Moving swiftly the mage touches the drunk and casts a Sleep spell and seconds later the inebriated attacker falls to the ground fast asleep; Carla then quickly makes her escape and searches the nearby streets, eventually stumbling across a small factory where a worker finally points her in the right direction.

Arriving on Linz Street Carla knocks on a couple of doors until she finally locates No.8 which is answered by a small boy. The mage asks the boy to fetch Elke and a short time later a very rough looking fishwife comes to the open door and manages to utter the correct passphrase – Carla tells the woman that she has a parcel for her and that she requires payment for it; the woman disappears back into the house to apparently retrieve the payment. Minutes pass as Carla waits on at the open doorway when suddenly a mean-looking young man comes running down the hall and attacks her, wildly swinging his fists at her. The young mage reels back and attempts to speak to the man but he keeps swinging so she finally draws her sword and threatens to strike him – the man believes her threat and quickly runs off. Puzzled at what has just occurred, Carla goes back to the doorway and calls out to the woman and the boy but nothing stirs inside the house. After the minutes pass by the mage ventures into the house and begins to wonder from room to room in the ramshackle and dingy abode. Moving upstairs she encounters a couple of closed doors and draws her sword and goes through the nearest one; within she finds the boy sat on the bed and the woman stood next to it, looking pensive and guilty. Intent on earning her coin and completing the job, Carla demands payment from the woman, who quickly realises that her plan for robbery has gone awry, miraculously produces the money from under the mattress. Carla promptly leaves and heads for Der Dunkel Schlupfwinkel.

Making her way across Der Drachen to the working class tavern, Carla enters and quickly discerns her target via a quick chat with the surprised barman (he doesn’t understand why such a charming and decent seeming woman would want to associate with a low life like Becker). The mage walks over to the seedy-looking man who is busy talking with a younger man in a corner snug. Carla uses the pass phrase on the older man, Bill, which has the desired effect of making the older man dismiss his companion. A quick exchange of the package is made under the table and Carla sadly fails to realise that she has been short-changed by 5gp. With her delivery mission completed Carla returns to the Green Dragon and makes payment to Karl before paying for a room for the night which is fast approaching.

Over in Reiksdorf the other half of the group spend their day largely manning the barricades watching out for any signs of the chaos threat. Discussing their situation it suddenly occurs to Cadrigar that the group has forgotten to do something important – they have failed to contact the Thieves Guild contact, Nyle Lunt, as Cornelius had instructed them to do. Thinking about the storming of Der Silber Kessel and its subsequent theft, the elf pedlar wonders if the mysterious Lunt has had anything to do with it. To settle matters, Cadrigar sets off for the jetty and begins to question people there whether they know Nyle Lunt and he fails miserably – largely due to him having developed an understanding of human townfolk but having almost no experience of human villagers and their strange ways. Having learnt nothing after questioning a couple of people the elf returns to the rear defences, defeated.

At least half the group no longer want to remain in the besieged village, the Fledermaus siblings and Heinrich are beginning to lose their nerve. Durgar, the dwarf ex-pitfighter is adamant that they should all stay and help defend the village against the foul forces of Chaos and help to save the lives of the villagers. The herdsman desperately scours the small village looking for tools to build a raft despite lacking any woodcrafting or boatbuilding skills. Night comes and the hours pass uneventfully as all members of the group scan the nearby woodlands waiting for the imminent attack. At ten o’clock a thunder storm rends the sky and is shortly followed by lightening – to Durgar, Cadrigar and Ulric’s enhanced night vision they observe a swirl of wondrous colours, pinks, purples and greens, colliding in the far distant horizon – out in the depths of the woodlands something unholy cries and screeches into the night. The group forgoes its routine of watches and rest as they expect an attack at any moment. As dawn subsequently greets their weary and tired eyes they all realise that the attack has not come and they have survived another 24 hours in the village.

At 10 o’clock at night a very tired group of villagers, many of them women and children, arrive at the outer walls of Reiksdorf. Jeffric leads them all along the length of the wall to the southern gate and knocks on the closed doorway; he is concerned that the injured man in his party is now very close to death following the arduous trek. A surprised guard opens a hatch and asks the woodsman what he wants; Jeffric tells the guard that he is from a village to the south that has been attacked by Orcs and that they are need of aid. Following his orders the young guard runs off to inform the guard commander who in turn informs the Palace guard. It is over forty minutes before the hatch in the gate is opened again and Jeffric observes a cart full of guardsmen arrive. Two imposing figures accompanied by a number of guards come and walk over to the gate. The man introduces himself as Captain Aldous, head of the Palace Guard and he asks a series of questions to Jeffric who is unable to say the name of the village he is from. The woodsman, in charge of a rag-tag band of scared and tired women and children and a near dead man, appears to be in some trouble and have some questions to answer.

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Part Thirteen
Operation Certain Death Part II?

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Carla and Dolph return to Reiksdorf and the coach duly pulls up at the Temple of Verena. Inside the young cleric speaks with Sister Charlotte and relates their recent adventure in Little Hook to the priestess. Impressed with what she has been told about the Tilean wizard’s apprentice, Charlotte takes Carla upstairs to her office and makes the offer to sponsor her to be a Cleric of Verena. Carla mulls over the offer but in her heart she does not wish to be bound to any particular way of life and the restrictive rules of following a religious path – she decides to politely decline the offer and the priestess tells her to take her time and consider the offer. The priestess then gives Carla her 25gp pay for the job as well as a gift for saving Dolph’s life – “The Grace of the Just”, a magic ring. The Tilean mage leaves happy and makes her way to the Markt Platz and The Emporium where she uses some of her newly obtained monies to pay for another lesson from Grundolf. The Dwarf Alchemist teaches Carla “Wind Blast”, a spell that can knock an opponent down, and the young apprentice then buys some magical ingredients. As the day progresses she decides to make her way across town to Die Goblin Und Hammer and pays for a room for the night after making inquiries of the rest of her group’s whereabouts with Allen the barkeep.

The next day Carla makes her way back to The Emporium and asks Randall if he knows anyone who can take her across the river to Reikers Ferry. The proprietor tells Carla that it will probably be possible to bribe one of the ferrymen to break the quarantine and transport her to the beleaguered village but it will cost plenty of coin, something which she is running short of since she owes much of what she has to Fickenja for a previous loan. She convinces Randal to make enquiries around the Markt Platz to see if someone is prepared to hire her magical services in order to earn some coin.

Mathias, intent on spending the entire night sailing the villagers across to the other bank, sails the boat up to the jetty and Sven the Swimmer casts a rope across a mooring post. The boatman tells Nils and Marion that he will no longer need their services as he wants to make room for additional passengers aboard the small vessel. The two warriors of Ulric duly leap onto the jetty and try to make their way past the throng of desperate people only for the crowd to surge – a large group of men push their way past the queuing women and children and swarm aboard Der Silber Kessel, several people being knocked into the water in the process. As Nils and Marion draw their sword and desperately fight to hold back the panicked villagers several of the men who have stormed aboard the boat are following a weasily looking man’s orders to cut the mooring rope and push the vessel off – right in front of Mathias’s eyes Der Silber Kessel is commandeered from him and sailed away from Reikers Ferry.

Packed in on his dangerously overloaded vessel it quickly becomes apparent to the boatman that the weasily looking man, the same man who had sinisterly observed Jeffric and Mathias constructing a raft days before, is a member of the Thieves Guild. The thief is in fact Nyle Lunt, the guild’s representative in Reiker Ferry who Cornelius had instructed the group to liaise with – which they failed to do. As Lunt orders one of his men to take charge of the sail Mathias gives an order to Florian, the remaining warrior of Ulric, to attack. The five thieves pull their daggers and short swords and rush to attack the boatman. Florian strikes with fast and furious skill, beheading one of the thieves and seriously injuring another before being struck down himself when attacked by two of the men simultaneously. Mathias fights bravely but there are too many attackers and several savage blows from Lunt’s own sword cause him serious injury and knocks him unconscious. Leaving the boatman for dead the thieves sail to boat to Reiksdorf. One of the terrified passengers must have had a sudden attack of conscience as Mathias wakes up the next morning in the Hospital, relieved of all his belongings but thankfully still alive.

Back in the village the group set about preparing the defence against the next expected Chaos attack. Jeffric heads over to the jetty to speak with Oberon about securing a work party to gather pitch and tar for the defences and learns of the theft of Der Silber Kessel. Fickenja attempts to rally the much depleted and underage militia, which consists of eight teenagers, but the youngsters resist the strange woman’s attempts and she has to resort to Durgar’s heavy handed action to get the majority of them to assist in the construction of the defences. Over the next four hours the group plus some of the militiamen and four warriors of Ulric pick up the palisades, the remnants the rear fortifications, off the ground and stack them from the left wall to the right, four beams high and then coat them in tar.

The defenders then assume positions with several staying by the newly constructed barricade, ready to set it alight in the event of an attack, while the remainder are positioned either in or on top of the two rear-most cottages. They spend the night on watch taking shifts to ensure that they all at least get some sleep. Dawn comes and there has been no sign of anything stirring in the opposite forest; Fickenja heads over to the Temple of Taal and speaks with Gregor, who is alarmed at the news that the majority of the villagers have not been evacuated as planned and that the group’s vessel has been stolen. Fickenja asks the Champion of Law why he thinks the forces of Chaos didn’t attack as expected and he informs her that it is his belief that the shock and damage caused by their raid on the Chaos encampment has made Grimalpappa reconsolidate his forces – the group’s actions have bought them some time but it’s clear that their foe will be back, the only question is when.

Most of the group decide to remain manning the rear defences in case of an unexpected daylight attack. Jeffric opts to head back to the jetty and recruit more of the locals, this time to help him construct a raft. Using his wood-crafting and leadership skills he manages to construct a makeshift raft capable of carrying six men, just after midday; there then ensues a heated debated amongst the locals as to who will get a place aboard the raft – to solve the issue and prevent a fight breaking out Jeffric quickly picks five men and immediately sets off. Heinrich learns of this later, much to his annoyance, and attempts to gather some of the men to construct a second raft but the remaining men are so disillusioned that they can’t be bothered.

On the Reik Jeffric finds it a struggle to steer his rudimentary vessel and the fast flowing waters quickly drag him off course and away from his goal of Reiksdorf. The woodsman and the other man desperately paddle and attempt to right their course but it is several miles later before they manage to hit the opposite bank, right at the beginning of a large forest. Bizarrely, as the fates would have it, this is the exact spot where Mathias had deposited the evacuated villagers the day before. As the men scrabble for the muddy bank they witness a commotion of running and screaming and they see that men, women and children are fleeing in all directions as five goblins mounted on great wolves ride amongst them, slaying them with sword and spear. Jeffric urges the men with him to get ashore and help save the unfortunate refugees.

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Part Twelve
Possibly not the brightest Boatman

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The arrow strikes Dolph and he falls back with a cry. Three of the four assailants then charge towards the injured cleric of Verena and his companion, Carla. The Tilean mage concentrates, uttering the words of her newly learnt spell, and manages to generate a powerful fireball that slams into the young man carrying the scythe, killing him instantly and scorching his partner, who abruptly turns and flees. Only two combatants are left – the older man armed with a bow and a much younger man with a sword; the former fires another arrow and it strikes Carla in her right arm, breaking her concentration and ruining her next spell. The young man then closes on the mage and swings his sword at her, fortunately missing – Dolph rushes in and strikes the boy with his dagger before being brought down by another well aimed arrow to the midriff. Carla is left to fend for herself and exchanges a string of parrying blows with the young man while the older man covers the distance and joins in the hand to hand combat. All the inexperienced combatants flail with their blades for several seconds before Carla accidentally drops her blade and is then struck in her left arm trying to pick it up. She retreats and tries to cast another spell but is unable to perform it under such pressure and is then struck on the head with a glancing blow that sends her crashing to the ground. The older man moves in to deliver a killing blow but is suddenly pelted with rotten fruit and stones as a crowd of angry villagers appear, shouting abuse and threats at the man, who turns out to be Christof Taumler, the main suspect of the murder of Ambrose Bauer. The village has witnessed Christof’s act of unwarranted brutality against a priest of justice and his female companion, and this serves to cement the community’s belief that they are looking at a murderer – they warn him to be gone lest they hang him and he duly turns and flees with his son.

The villagers take the injured cleric and Carla to the tavern where a local hedge witch, Maria, administers healing drafts and mutters spells to re-invigorate the injured pair. A couple of hours later both Dolph and Carla are well enough to sit up and converse with one another. The young cleric believes that they have achieved what they came out to the village to do and that they should return to town and report the turn of events to the High Priestess; Carla is more than eager to agree to this and they both gladly jump into their coach and begin the return journey.

Across the Reik, deep in the Chaos haunted forests, several miles outside of Reikers Ferry, the Klum brothers carefully, under the cover of darkness, retrieve the unconscious and near-dead adventurers – Heinrich, Durgar and Ulric, and drag them over to a small cart concealed a short distance away. The two brothers then spend the next few hours carefully picking their route back in the darkness to the village while avoiding any enemy patrols and encampments. They transport their precious cargo straight to the Temple of Ulric where Cadrigar and Gregor staggered in several hours earlier. Inside the temple Father Lucius and Galina once more provide emergency aid in the form of magic and prayers throughout the night to help revive the group and return them to good health in time for the morning.

Back in Reiksdorf Fickenja and Mathias awake after an uneventful night in Der Dunkel Schlupfwinkel and after breakfasting decide to walk across town to Die Goblin Und Hammer tavern in the hope of locating Carla. Upon arrival they discover from the barkeep, Allen, that Carla hasn’t been around for a couple of days so the pair opt to pay a visit to the nearby Temple of Shallya in hope of locating Ulric’s parcel delivery from the tailor’s. After questioning the temple attendant they learn that Ulric’s imprecise delivery instructions have probably resulted in the parcel being intercepted outside by one of the many thieves or beggars operating in the area. The pair decide that there is nothing else to do but press on and return to the Temple of Ulric to collect any fighters that Brother Jacob has managed to recruit for them.

After checking in briefly with Jeffric at the boat on the docks, Fickenja and Mathias arrive at the Temple of Ulric and speak with Brother Jacob who informs them that he has managed to convince five worshippers to go with them to Reikers Ferry; the priest introduces the five men – Vlad, a Kislevite, Lars a Norseman, Nils, Florian and Marion, who are all locals. All the fighters are keen to travel to the besieged village and fight the enemy and Mathias briefs them up on what they will face while they walk over to the dock. As the party boards Der Silber Kessel a messenger boy comes running up to Fickenja and relays the message that Tarquinius would like to speak to the group at The Green Dragon at their soonest convenience; Fickenja is tempted to go but this will mean halting the transport over to Reikers Ferry and they quickly learn that some of the fighters are not prepared to wait around the area for a couple of hours – this forces their decision and Fickenja dispatches the boy with a message that the group is currently busy and will drop by once they have conducted their current business. They then cast off and sail across the river and forty minutes later they are pulling into the beleaguered village where the desperate crowds of villagers are still crammed onto the jetty. Mathias quickly realises the danger the crowd represents – the three have already decided that they will use their vessel to evacuate all the stranded villagers in a series of trips but the frantic people may swamp the boat in their desperation and either sink or overturn it.

At 2pm Mathias steers the boat up to the jetty and instructs Vlad and Lars to disembark and prevent anyone from boarding. The boatman quickly moors the vessel and then stands on the prow and addresses the desperate crowd, having to rely on the fighters to quieten the mass down to be heard. Mathias tells the assembled people that they are there to rescue them all and that there is no need to panic – several people attempt to bribe their way onboard and the boatman’s attempts to quieten and convince them to relent fail and it is left to the quick wits and ferocity of Vlad and Lars to re-establish order and keep the crowd at bay with the Norseman even sticking his sword in a man’s leg. Fortunately for the group the village elder, Oberon, appears and manages to instil order amongst the crowd and agrees a transportation strategy with them – women and children will be transported first and the first load is quickly boarded. Five women and ten children are accompanied by Sven, a strong swimmer with two lengths of rope to help with the landings. Fickenja, Vlad, Lars and Jeffric leave the boat and make their way over to the Temple of Taal while Mathias, Florian, Nils and Marion plus the fifteen women and children quickly set sail for the other side of the Reik.

Fickenja and her party are reunited with the rest of the group who have been recovering in the Temple of Taal; they all recount their recent exploits to one another and it becomes clear that those who nearly met their end fighting Grimalpappa bear some ill will towards Gregor and Cadrigar. The group debates their next steps – the main reason for the group being in the beleaguered village is their insidious mission to assassinate Gregor in order to secure the release of their boss, Dolwen, who is being held hostage by the Thieves Guild. They consider several different options open to them and are unsure which option is best but all of them doubt their ability to take down the Lawful champion and so still hope to involve Gregor in a desperate defence of the village against the horde of Chaos in the prospect of the forces of darkness doing their dirty work for them; they also plan, since the village’s population will soon be evacuated, to set the whole village on fire in order to incinerate their Chaos foes in an inferno.

Mathias knows that sailing Der Silber Kessel directly to the docks of Reiksdorf would be to risk arrest by the city guard for breaking the Palace’s quarantine of Reikers Ferry; he therefore decides that the best course of action is to transport the populace of the village five miles to the south of the town. This will mean a hard trek for the men, women and children, but Mathias quickly rationalises that at least they will all be alive. After sailing past several miles of muddy banks and grassland the boatman spots a large forest that reaches right up to the water’s edge and decides that he has found an ideal unloading point; he instructs Sven the swimmer to get ashore and tie the end of the rope to a sturdy tree. The experienced swimmer has no trouble with his task and a short time later there is a 20ft line of rope between the shore and the boat. Mathias then foolishly instructs one of the women to take a child over the rope by herself, which she attempts, only to quickly lose her grip and plunge under the waves – Sven has to jump into the river and swim over to her; miraculously the man manages to rescue both the woman and the girl and drag them to the shore. Nils, Florian and Marion berate the boatman for his stupidity and instruct him to sail the boat closer, which he manages without grounding the vessel. The fighters then clamber outside the boat and form a human chain and guide the women and children safely ashore. With the fifteen villagers now on the other side of the Reik Mathias quickly turns the boat around and sets sail for Reikers Ferry, leaving Florian behind to protect the unloaded party.

Mathias and the boat arrive back in Reikers Ferry an hour later at half four and decide to exploit the daylight and waste no time, quickly loading another group of villagers. This time they include five men in the transport to protect the party on the other bank. Moments later Der Silber Kessel is once more plying across the mighty Reik and an hour later it arrives at the same spot and finds that Florian has a small fire going – Mathias manages to expertly sail the boat close into the shore again. Using the same techniques as before the fighters safely convey the villagers from the boat to the shore where they join their brethren’s makeshift encampment. With another load successfully transported but with approximately seventy more villagers left, Mathias tells the group to make their way south and then turns the boat around yet again and sails it back to Reikers Ferry where they arrive just as the day’s light dies at half seven.

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Part Eleven
A Hero's Death

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Timo Graf clambers out from the ruins to see what all the commotion is and observes the young villager, Martin, who was recently befriended by his master, squirming and thrashing across the ground with two arrow shafts imbedded in him while his Master’s familiar, Greek prances and screams for help – more worrying is the sight of an Elf crouched over the youth, an armoured knight slowly lumbering forward with a double handed sword and the immediate threat of a screaming dwarf charging towards him.

The Chaos Champion has little time to think, all he can do is react and he steadfastly marches forward to meet the dwarf’s bezerker attack. There is a clash of weapons as Timo attempts to cleave the dwarf with his mighty axe – but the determined orange-haired dwarf’s attack is sure and Durgar manages to drive his pike into the Chaos warrior’s flank. A counter blow hits the dwarf and sends him sprawling.

Inside the ancient ruins the dread sorcerer, Grimalpappa’s careful preparation for a powerful enchantment to aid that night’s attack on the nearby village is ruined by the completely unexpected sounds of conflict from outside. Incredulous at the interruption he dispatches his two pets to attack wherever has had the temerity to launch a raid on his temple. The two Chaos spawn come flying out of the ruins with their tentacles flailing and maws chomping – the unnatural sight of them drives terror into the hearts of Heinrich and Ulric who are busy readying their bows. Cadrigar, having risen to provide aid to Durgar finds himself in combat with the multi-coloured terror and manages to defend himself with lightening reflexes against several poisonous bite attacks that would surely have proved fatal. The other horror races at Sir Gregor who manages to cleave the creature in two with a mighty swipe of his fearsome blade. Heinrich gathers himself enough to fire a fatal arrow at the prone form of Martin Wulfe before he and Ulric turn their arrows on the familiar which still prances and calls for help.

Grimalpappa himself emerges from the ruins and surveys the battle scene and notes the two men armed with bows in the distance. He uses his staff to caste a well practised summoning spell and seconds later a Blue Horror materialises right in front of Heinrich and Ulric, further filling the two men with terror. The horrifying lesser demon lunges at Ulric and the beggar drops his bow and defends himself with his sword. Heinrich takes aim at the sorcerer and fires an arrow which hits the target in the arm; Grimalpappa, observing the approach of the Lawful Champion, Gregor, and realising him to be the bigger threat, manages to conjure a fireball and strike the knight. Sir Gregor reels back and moments later another fireball strikes him, bathing him in flames; the tired Champion realises then that he has committed a grave error in strategy in undertaking this strike – he is still tired from the previous night’s combat and is under-powered. Timo, having knocked the dwarf down rains blow after blow down on his opponent and finally manages to land a severely damaging blow.

Unbeknownst to all parties, the group did not venture on their own into the forest depths; they were followed by Golo and Jonas Klum, disciples of the druid priestess, Galina. The two brothers are lay priests and pupils of druidic magic and they observe the desperate fight and quickly conclude that the forces of Chaos vastly out number and out-power the heroic group. They cast a powerful illusion spell and moments later Timo believes that he has severed the dwarf’s head with a mighty strike – Durgar for his part, falls unconscious having been struck by the glancing blow.

Fireball follows fireball and Gregor is driven further back, unable to concentrate and cast his own spell. Cadrigar desperately flails with the spawn, neither able to successively land a strike. Heinrich keeps firing arrows at the sorcerer and Ulric manages to plunge his blade into the Blue Horror’s head, killing the foul creature instantly. Grimalpappa finally turns his attention away from the Lawful Knight and concentrates on the young herdsman who is determinedly trying to kill him with his arrows. The sorcerer has already expended a lot of his power and decides to use a more powerful and deadly spell to deal with the threat – he casts the Transformation of Tzeentch and the multicoloured wave travels out towards Heinrich. The shock of the magical waves knock the herdsman out cold but thanks to the nearby Klum brothers a successful counter spell and illusion spell is cast and to all present it appears that a truly horrendous fate has befallen Heinrich as his body appears to swell and transform into a host of hideous mutations.

A number of beastmen, having been woken from their slumbers by the sounds of fighting emerge from behind the temple and rush in to join the fray. Ulric witnessing the seemingly awful demise of his compatriot fires another arrow which finds its mark, hitting the sorcerer in the same arm as before which serves to generate the unexpected and long forgotten emotion of fear into the minion of Chaos’s foul heart; at that point, wounded and having expended much of his powers, he fears for his life and screams at Timo to deal with the threat while calling several of the approaching beastmen to come over and shield him from the arrows of his foes. Sir Gregor finally manages to utter his battle prayers and his mighty blade once more springs into flaming power, but he too is experiencing the unfamiliar sensation of knowing that he is gravely wounded and very close to death – he calls for retreat and Cadrigar joins him in a tactical retreat. The spawn is still flailing and attempting to gnaw at the elf who is incapable of striking with a blade; Sir Gregor finally steps in and makes short work of the foul creature.

Ulric, having witnessed the terrible death of Heinrich, the arrival of beastmen reinforcements and the flight of Gregor and Cadrigar finally loses heart himself and turns and flees. Timo races towards the beggar and swings his mighty axe at him, cutting into his leg, bringing the young man down. Golo and Jonas again come to the rescue and cast a spell to render Ulric unconscious and put the image of his death in the Chaos Champion’s mind. Gregor and Cadrigar manage to escape in the confusion, retreating back into the woods and retracing their path whilst avoiding the beastman encampment they encountered earlier; several hours later they emerge from the trees outside of Reikers Ferry.

Back in Reiksdorf Finckenja and Matthias make their way across town before darkness falls and reach Der Dunkel Schlupfwinkel tavern, located in a quiet corner of Der Drachern. They find the tavern dreary and unlively – its patronage is light and no bauds play to enliven the scene. They speak with the bar maid about the mundane troubles of the town before asking about Old Krieger, the mercenary captain; the barmaid points them in the direction of a surely middle aged man sat nursing an ale at the bar. The beggar and boatman make an approach and quickly discover that the weary and sceptical mercenary will only talk to them if they buy him some more ale, which they duly do, wisely engaging him in small talk, but less wisely winding him up with some ill chosen words. Fickenja struggles to find adequate questions to pose to the man but does manage to learn that he was hired by the Palace to venture south where his band of mercenaries were cut down by an overwhelming number of Orcs. Old Krieger states that there are far more Orcs to the south than is currently believed by the townsfolk and that it’s only a matter of time before they are at the town gates; he also adds that if he had his time again to venture south he would ensure he had scouts and a powerful mage in his company. Fickenja is fixated on obtaining help for Reikers Ferry and tries her damndest to convince the veteran swordsman to join them in the morning when they return to the besieged village – Krieger isn’t interested in the slightest, simply telling the beggar that the village is already doomed and that anyone attempting to hold back the Chaos horde will surely die.

To the south in the village of Little Hook Carla and Dolph speak with Boris Fischer, the farmer responsible for creating the guard rota for the defensive wall. The old farmer is wary of the outsiders and has no wish to put himself and his family at risk by revealing what has recently occurred; but the lure of gold proves strong and Carla manages to convince him to give up the rota from a couple of nights ago and learns that Christof Taumler, the man suspected of killing Ambrose Bauer, as well as two young men, Ludwig Kammer and Ernst Lange, were all on the wall at the time of the farmer’s death. The cleric and mage visit Ludwig and try to convince the young man to tell them what occurred when Ambrose died but the man is clearly in fear of telling the truth and he tells them both that the village has its own justice and rules that a quite different from those of the town.

Disgusted at what they have heard but unable to convince Ludwig to give them something concrete Carla and Dolph head over to Ernst’s farm where they find him sharpening some tools in the back field. The young farmer is also scared of telling the strangers what he knows but Carla does manage to appeal to the man’s conscious and he tells them prior to their departure that they should check the nature of the arrow that killed Ambrose Bauer as it was clearly not an Orc’s weapon as reported. Satisfied that they now have a clear lead the pair decide to head over to the tavern to ask a few more questions of the locals but as they leave the farm they observe four men, carrying a sword sickle, scythe and bow, walking towards them. Carla and Dolph fail to see any threat and move as if to walk by; the older man with the bow, without warning lifts his weapon and fires an arrow, hitting Dolph in the body.

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Part Ten
Operation Certain Death?

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Sir Gregor, Durgar, Cadrigar, Ulric and Heinrich stay stock still, staring at the group of beastmen. Heinrich readies his bow while Ulric un-slings his crossbow, both intent at firing at the group. Cadrigar and Durgar are less sure of the wisdom of such a move, recalling their recent encounter with beastmen and their failure to slay a single one of their foes. After a brief debate they all agree to simply avoid danger and try and creep past the beastmen – cautiously, keeping down wind and careful not to step on any twigs the five men manage to slowly ease by undetected.

They continue their journey going deeper into the forest, all about them are still signs of the beastman horde’s passage. As they carefully press on one of them spots something moving up ahead and they come to a stop and creep closer, weapons at the ready. Heinrich finally catches sight of the creature and it appears to be a strangely green-hued dog with red eyes; the Sheppard is well experienced in handling animals and so he opts to approach the Chaos Hound and attempt to befriend it. The beast growls and prepares to attack and Ulric firs on it, hitting it in the foreleg while Heinrich turns and runs. Durgar rushes in and delivers a killing blow, making short work of the foul animal. The group gather around the corpse of the slain beast and are studying when another Chaos Hound comes rushing out from the undergrowth and charges at Cadrigar. The elf pedlar is exceptionally lucky as the deformed dog’s bite only causes a grazing injury and its scorpion stinger misses. Ulric and Heinrich let rip with their bows and Durgar slashes with his sword and the creature is quickly dispatched with minimal injury incurred.

Taking stock of the situation they are determined to continue and once more continue their journey; another mile later they hear a braying noise and turn in time to see a monstrous creature, half-man and half horse, clutching a broadsword, come charging at them. Durgar, Ulric and Cadrigar are all bunched up and in the direct path of the Chaos Centaur; it attempts to strike Ulric several times but repeatedly fails to land a single blow as a flurry of blows are rained down on its head and flank. With three defenders frantically slashing away with their blades the monstrous guardian of Chaos quickly succumbs to its wounds, leaving the path the Chaos encampment open to the group.

After walking another mile the five men can smell and hear the camp long before they can see it. A general hub-bub and a horrendous animal reek emanates through the woods. Cautiously the group edge forward and Heinrich scales a tree and manages only to catch sight of a narrow break in the woods ahead and what appears to be the jutting edges of some sort of ruin to the right. Cadrigar opts to climb another tree in order to get a better view, which he does – he can make out the majority of the encampment in which over a hundred beastmen currently slumber, resting before nightfall when they will march once more. Clear on their destination the group slowly and carefully creep around to the right so that they approach the rear of the ruins. As they near their target the trees thin out and they can spot a young man in peasants clothes sat on a rock, reading an old looking book, laughing and giggling intensely to himself – he is also accompanied by a small winged green monkey-like creature which prances and chitters next to him. The group quickly conclude that the young man must be Martin Wulfman, the local simpleton who has befriended the mysterious Grimalpapa. Without any hesitation Ulric and Heinrich once more ready their bows and this time no one speaks up to question the wisdom of their actions. Two arrows flash through the air and strike the man in the arm and body, taking him completely unawares. The young man collapses to the ground and begins to thrash around while the while the small monkey-like creature begins to scream shrilly. Sir Gregor, Durgar and Cadrigar run forward, the elf keen to examine their victim while the dwarf prepares to meet anyone emerging from the temple. The elf pedlar observes that the young man’s eyes are pupil-less shifting multi-colours of the spectrum and odd bony growths appear to be emerging from the sides of his face and head. As Durgar runs past he sees a shape emerge from the shadows of a open passageway in the back of the ruins and moments later the huge form of an armour-clad brightly coloured Chaos Warrior with a fearsome axe steps into view and balefully glares at the dwarf with murderous rage.

Carla travels with the young cleric of Verena, Dolph, out through the south gate of Reiksdorf and their coach continues for several miles through gentle hills and woodlands until it reaches long stretches of tilled fields interrupted by the odd stone wall and small farmhouse. Dolph relates the joys and meaning of a life spent following the goddess of Justice and also reveals that he hasn’t travelled to the village of Little Hook for over two years. The coach pulls up outside a rather ramshackle tavern that sits at the heart of the farmland village; stepping out the coach Dolph exclaims his surprise at seeing a very tall rudely constructed ten foot high wooden fence running across a couple of fields in the distance – this was not here the last time he was in the village. They head inside the tavern where they meet the barkeep and make casual conversation with him; the young cleric asks about the wall and is told that the small farming village has been under intermittent greenskin attack for the last few months and seven locals have been killed in scouting raids as the creatures have emerged from the nearby forest. Dolph asks where he can find the individual he has be sent out to meet – Ambrose Bauer – he is shocked when the barman reveals that the farmer was killed two days before. Carla and the cleric head off to the nearby Bauer farmstead, which happens to be the site of the great wooden wall; Bauer’s widow reveals that her late husband was having problems with the neighbouring farmer, Christof Taumler, who is suspected of moving the shared field markers during the construction of the border wall and stealing over a hundred feet of land. The wife reveals that her husband was killed by an arrow while he was conducting his allotted slot of guarding the wall and she believes that Christof did it and passed it off as an act of the greenskins. Carla and Dolph set off to the man who is in charge of producing the guard rota, Boris Fischer, in order to question him about who was on guard when Ambrose died.

Fickenja, Matthias and Jeffric manage to steer their roughly constructed raft across the Reik and land a short distance from where the Silber Kessel is moored. Returning to the group’s vessel Matthias relieves the kid sitting his boat and manages to persuade Jeffric to stay and watch the boat while he and Fickenja make their way to the Temple of Ulric a small distance away. They enter the god of Winter, Wolves and Battle’s temple and observe the scarcely populated inner sanctum complete with fire pit, burning ceremonious flame and murals of warfare. The meet with the priest, Brother Jacob, and relay Father Lucius’ message of help and the true situation of Reikers Ferry and the Chaos attacks. The priest of Ulric is shocked at what he hears and tells the pair that there is only a small number of worshippers currently present in his temple but he will talk to them all that evening and try and convince them to lend a hand in defending the beleaguered village – he approves of the duo’s plan to secure armed help but warns them of the danger of their plan to take the Silber Kessel across the river to the village and smuggle villagers back, breaking the Palace’s quarantine. The pair leave the temple after having agreed to returning the next morning to collect any willing volunteers from the worshippers. They opt to cross town and visit Der Goblin Und Hammer and approach Grundolf, the mercenary captain, and enquire about hiring some of his men but are duly laughed at when they reveal that they have only 10gp – the cost of hiring one of the skilled dwarf fighters is 50gp per day. They leave empty handed and head of across town in the dark to Der Dunkel Schlupfwinkel to meet with the other mercenary captain they have heard about – Old Krieger.

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Part Nine
Where's the suit?

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After spending a couple of hours meditating in the Temple of Shallya Carla manages to regenerate he magical powers and returns to the Markt Platz and The Emporium. Grundolf is inside as arranged and over the next three hours teaches her the spell “Fire Ball”, which she perfects. The Dwarf mage finishes by telling Carla that an experienced wizard often buys and utilizes an artefact such as a crystal ball, a wand or a staff to magnify and focus their magical powers – such things are readily obtainable in the store but cost a good amount of coin. Carla thanks her tutor and promises to return once she has gold to pay the fees; she then leaves. It’s growing late and she has absolutely no money left with which to buy food and lodgings so she opts to return to the Temple of Verena. Once inside the white-marbled sanctum she approaches a cleric and she is once more taken into a rear room to continue copying texts for the church; after a couple of hours she is fed and given a room free of charge within the complex. The next morning the young Tilean mage breakfasts and opts to spend the morning continuing with her transcription tasks during which she is visited by the high-priestess, Sister Charlotte, who is intrigued to know more of Carla’s background, especially her knowledge of magic. After mulling over what she has heard Sister Charlotte tells Carla that she has a simple job to accompany an initiate to a village to the south to deal with a land dispute. The priestess offers to pay a fee of 24gp for the overnight task and Carla agrees. A short time later the initiate, a young man called Dolph, pulls outside the temple in a coach and Carla jumps in.

Across the river in Reikers Ferry group desperately battle on, trying to defend themselves against the horde of savage baying attackers; as the frontline of militia begins to crumble Ulric, whose reloading his crossbow, notices that there amongst the beastmen are a number of armoured humans fighting alongside them. Matthias quickly finds himself being attacked by three assailants and falls under a flurry of blades – his life’s blood flowing freely on the field of battle. Durgar is almost surrounded by attackers and receives a powerful blow to the hand that makes him drop his sword – undeterred and fuelled by fury he continues to lash out with his one good hand and dodge the slashing blades of the beastmen. The Dwarf ex-pitfighter’s struggle is valiant and epic, but despite managing to avoid many a blow it ultimately proves futile as an attacker’s blade finally finds its mark and bites into Durgar’s flesh, bringing him down.

The second line of militia arrives and manages to retard the chaotic advance but the force and fury of the beastmen and marauders is relentless and the frantic fighting continues unabated. The members of the group using ranged weapons find themselves now drawn into hand to hand combat; Fickenja, having hit a couple of beastmen with her arrows, drops her bow and draws her sword and attempts to defend herself from two assailants but quickly falls under their powerful blows. Ulric, screaming in fury as he witnesses his sister being struck down, turns and fires his crossbow at a charging beastman and manages to strike it in the leg, but before it goes down it manages to strike him hard with its axe and he two is brought down.

As militiamen and the odd beastman fall under the flurry of steel only Heinrich is left standing, but he too is now in deadly combat with his sword. Father Lucius and the armoured knight, having slowly walked towards the melee, uttering their litanies, prayers and spells, finally arrive. The priest of Taal’s spell completes and the dark broiling clouds emit a spiralling twist of air that descends to the ground and forms into a 10ft tall Air Elemental that spins across the front line of the battle and begins to smash down on the beastmen and marauders with its powerful fists; this spectacular magical attack halts the Chaos advance in its tracks as the deformed beasts bray in terror as they witness their brethren being pulverised and sent flying by the translucent being.

Heinrich the herdsman manages to avoid several blows and delivers some powerful strikes onto his attackers but he too is critically wounded by a beastman’s blade. As he collapses to the ground and his vision begins to darken as death comes to claim him, the last thing he sees is the armoured knight charge into the middle of the Chaotic fighters with his double handed sword ablaze with magical flames; the blade swings left and right in extreme arcs and cleaves a number of beastmen into two.

There is only darkness; all members of the group have fallen in combat. Then, slowly, they all awaken to soft candlelight and the sound of a woman’s voice muttering a prayer. The members of the group possessing good night vision observe the low stone roof adorned with circles of thorn branches, the walls with strands of creeping ivy and nooks holding bird nests – they quickly realise they are inside the Temple of Taal.

.With her healing prayer complete, the druid priestess, Galina, withdraws and the group sit up from their stone plinth to find Father Lucius and the armoured knight, sans helmet, gazing upon them. The priest of Taal thanks them for their valiant defence of the village, which bought him the time necessary to cast the powerful Elemental spell. Ulric, something of a ungracious snotnose and perhaps traumatised at seeing his sister being struck down by beastmen, responds to the priest with some insulting words, which in turn results in the stern knight pointing out the beggar’s cowardly flight during the battle. There is a harsh exchange of words between Ulric and the knight, who identifies himself as Sir Gregor, the group’s target for assassination. Father Lucius steps in and calms both parties down. Cadrigar and Ulric ask a series of questions about the nature of the Chaotic attacks and their cause – Lucius tells them that the trouble started a month ago when a village simpleton, Martin Wulfman, who often went wandering out into the neighbouring woods, discovered a book out amongst the trees and made the acquaintance of a mysterious man called Grimalpappa, whom Lucius suspects is a Chaos sorcerer. After spreading the news of his new sinister acquaintance and his outlandish teachings amongst the village Martin was driven out; since then a steady stream of beastmen and other unholy creatures have poured out of the forest and attacked the fortifications.

The group thank him for healing them and ask what else they can do to help the village and he tells them once more that the best assistance then can provide is to return to Reiksdorf and acquire the help of the Temple of Ulric. Sir Gregor counters the priest’s words by saying that they should strike the beastmen’s camp during the day before they muster for the next night attack; Lucius shows consternation and weariness at this suggestion, reiterating his previous misgivings that all manpower is needed to defend the village against the rising tide of Chaos and that these forces are too powerful to be defeated by a handful of men – he also states that it would be a suicide mission, something that does little to deter Sir Gregor who seems to desire a death fighting in the name of his god. Durgar is also very keen to take up Sir Gregor’s plan, telling Lucius that a small force will be able to sneak in and out of the enemy camp and assassinate the Chaos commander – half of the group agrees with his plan. Fickenja and the other half of the group think the proposition is too risky and opt instead to build a raft and return to Reiksdorf and carry out Lucius’ plan to secure the help of the Temple of Ulric.

Fickenja, Jeffric and Matthias leave the temple and meet up with the artisan detailed by Lucius. They quickly set about creating a vessel capable of transporting the three of them across the Reik. After a couple of hours an unpleasant looking man wanders over and begins to watch them; when Jeffric approaches him and engages him in conversation the man asks a series of questions concerning who the group is, where they have come from and what they are up to. Jeffric answers the questions by saying that they are representatives of Sister Anneta and the Temple of Shallya; he then asks the man’s name and the man abruptly turns and walks away from them without comment. Fickenja, suspecting that the man intends to steal their boat, decides to follow him, and observes him entering a nearby cottage. She peaks through a window and sees that the man is talking to another dodgy looking man sat at a table – the other man spots Fickenja at the window and moments later she is confronted by the first man who threatens her with violence if she doesn’t leave – which she does, very quickly. The female beggar reports back to the others and they decide that she should go and find some additional help in the village to ensure their raft isn’t stolen. She ends up at the jetty and stumbles into the village elder, Oberon, who has put his previous misgivings about the group aside having witnessed them heroically fighting the beastmen. Fickenja tells the old man her fears and he immediately obtains the assistance of two strapping and trust-worthy local men to go with the beggar and help transport the raft out along the outside of the fortifications so that the more desperate villagers don’t accost them as they set sail.

After re-arming themselves with the weapons and armour of the fallen, Durgar, Cadrigar, Ulric and Heinrich join Sir Gregor and walk out from the village plunge into the forest. The forest ground has been churned up into a messy bog from more than a hundred beastmen passing through and the group pick their way through the tangle of broken branches and trampled trails to determine the general direction from which the attacking force has originated from. While they progress steadily through the dark forest, Sir Gregor refusing to slacken his pace or lose time by being cautious, Cadrigar decides to use the opportunity to ask the zealous knight some questions about his background. Sir Gregor tells the Elf pedlar that he lives to fight the forces of evil and corruption and will not rest until he has destroyed the taint from the world. When asked about his fearsome weapon, the flaming sword, was a gift from his patron, the Lawful god, Solkan. Both Cadrigar and Ulric have heard the rumours concerning this elusive and extreme god, and know that it is worshipped primarily by Witch-hunters, who themselves are often associated with extreme acts of religious fervour and persecution. After the small band have walked several miles into the forest Ulric spots a flash of bright colour somewhere up ahead and calls them all to a halt; as they all peer into the distance they spot a small encampment of beastmen and they wonder if they have found the enemy camp but the more experience Champion of Law, Sir Gregor, recognises that it is merely an outpost. They quickly formulate a plan to stealthily attack the small camp.

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Part Eight
A Nice Swim and Helping the Community

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Finally finished with another bought of spending good coin in the Markt Platz the majority of the group make their way over to the docks while Carla remains behind to spend some time recuperating her magical powers by meditating in the temple of Shallya after which she will attend another lesson with Grundolf. When the group arrive at the docks they come to their boat, Der Silber Kessel, which is still moored at the jetty and guarded by Matthias. The boatman, finally catching sight of the group asks them what the current situation is concerning Dolwen’s abduction. They tell the river sailor that they are still working on securing the Elf’s release and are being compelled to complete a deadly task for the Thieves Guild. Matthias is disturbed at what he is hearing and is no longer prepared to sit by and wait the situation out – he informs the others that he is joining them on their journey to Reikers Ferry. He arranges for one of the Harbour Master’s boys to watch his vessel for 6gp a day.

The group make their way down the length of the dock, finally arriving at the ferry port in the south and observing the assembled boats are all moored at the jetty and devoid of any activity. They amble over to the closed ticket shack and make their way around to the back where they discover the back room filled with idle ferrymen lounging and chatting amongst each other. Fickenja knocks on the door and asks the room if Henchner is there – the ferrymen are suspicious and someone shouts out “who’s asking?” to which an unsubtle Fickenja responds “Cornelius Pell”; this leads to them being told to go to hell. Confused the group drift a short distance away and try to work out what to do next; while they are talking a red-faced and angry looking ferryman makes his way over to them and begins cursing them. The man is Henchner and he is angry because the group has just publically broadcasted his connection to the Thieves Guild in front of his employer who has just lambasted him. Henchner wants to know what they want with him and they tell him that they need to travel to Reikers Ferry. Henchner is unwilling to travel to the quarantined village as the consequences if caught mean being put in a dungeon; Ulric and Cadrigar press him, telling him that they are on a task for Cornelius, finally wearing him down – he reluctantly agrees to take them for a fee of 20gp, which depletes much of the group’s thinning finances.

A short time later and they are under sail onboard Henchner’s medium sized boat. Ulric attempts to glean information from the surly boatman but all the man knows is that the village has been put under quarantine by the Palace due to some outbreak of disease; one thing that Ulric does learn from questioning him is that the mysterious “Dieter” referenced by Cornelius is probably Brother Dieter – a priest of Ranald. As they progress across the wide Reik they finally spot their destination on the opposite bank; a small fortified village sitting amongst the mighty forest with a dark pall of smoke rising into the air. As they near closer they can make out the jetty and a throng of people which eventually turns out to be over a hundred desperate men, women and children desperate to leave but stranded by the lack of any vessels; this sight spooks the group who fear contagion. Henchner stops the boat some twenty metres short of the crowded jetty and tells the group amidst the noise of the frantic cries for help that he will not go any further and that they need to make their way ashore. The group realise that they have only paid for a one way trip and Henchner is only prepared to hang around for a couple of hours and another 20gp due to the risk he is already running; despite all their haranguing and bribery the group is unable to convince him and after toying with the idea of murdering the ferryman for his vessel decide that it’s not worth the risk and they all jump into the river with reticence. To all their horror they discover that the water is far deeper than they had expected and they all sink under the surface. None of them can swim, not even Matthias the boatman, and they all begin to thrash frantically, trying to doggy paddle up to the surface and across to the jetty and safety; but several of them are weighed down by their weapons and armour and begin to drown. Fickenja and Heinrich manage to make it over to the jetty with little effort and Cadrigar joins them shortly after; Matthias, Jeffric, Ulric and the short and squat Durgar find it a lot harder however and begin to take in water. The three who have already made it to safety attempt to help their drowning colleagues with mixed results – Durgar and Jeffric are forced to shed nearly all their weapons and armour and in the end it is Cadrigar who saves them by calling out to the crowd on the jetty for help and several of the locals dive in and swim to the rescue. A short time later all seven are dumped on the wooden boards of the jetty, gasping for breath, devoid of armour and weaponry and considerably weakened by their near-death experience.

The jostling crowd begin to demand to know who the group is and why they didn’t land their boat – the group sense danger and manage to offer a convincing story of Henchner’s villainy and their innocence. They then blather and make some unwise comments which causes many to begin to jeer them and it is only when they mention Gregor Vendalis that the crowd suddenly becomes silent, apparently terrified at the mere mention of the name. They also observe a total lack of any illness or malady amongst the peasant rabble; realising that they have already worn out their welcome with their stupid comments and imprecise questions they decide to move away from the jetty and head into the village. They find themselves entering into the main square and see that there are a couple of families and an old man loitering around the fountain. They approach the old man and ask where they can find the village elder and to their surprise the man tells them that he is the elder and that his name is Oberon. Being the village elder the man knows much of what is going on but the group are very disorganised in their questions due to their inner tension about whether or not to carry out the Thieves Guild’s task of assassinating the vigilante called Gregor. The group identify themselves as emissaries of Sister Anneta and Brother Dieter and this does much to bolster the spirits of the old man who tells them that they can help the town by returning to Reiksdorf and contacting the Temple of Ulric to send fighters; Oberon is furious that the Palace has not sent any militia to help defend the village. The group’s first question, which strikes the old man as odd, is the where-abouts of Vendalis – Oberon tells them they can find him in across the square in the Temple of Taal. Next the group wants to know why the village is under quarantine and they ask about the nature of the illness; Oberon is surprised at the question as there is no malady afflicting the village and he quickly realises that the story of a plague is a cover story being promoted by the Palace. The old man reveals that the village is under attack from Beastmen who have emerged from the surrounding forest and have assaulted them on numerous occasions, breaking down the fortifications to the rear and it is because of this that the population is now frantically trying to flee to the safety of the town across the river. Oberon tells them that this sort of thing never used to happen due to the practice of periodic organised hunts and cullings conducted in the outlying forests which used to be very frequent but have been discontinued for a number of years by the Palace due to cost. Fortunately one of the villagers did make it across to Reiksdorf in a canoe a couple of weeks ago and managed to secure the help of Gregor Vendalis who travelled to the village to assist them in their time of need. The group asks what it can do to help and Oberon mentions that the village’s militia are currently busy repairing the rear defences – Jeffric then asks if the old man is prepared to pay for their help which spooks him – why would emissaries of Sister Anneta want payment in return for their help? The village elder quickly makes his excuses and walks away, leaving the group to themselves.

Armed with the information of the whereabouts of their intended target they head straight over to the Temple of Taal but find their way blocked by two sentries who ask about their business. The group uses its cover story and one of the sentries disappears into the temple and fetches Father Lucius. The priest of Taal comes to the door and engages the group in conversation – they tell him that they are there to help and the priest reiterates Oberon’s words telling them that the most useful thing they can do is get word to the Temple of Ulric. They ask Lucius if he can heal them but the priest tells them that he must rest and regenerate his powers for the evening to defend the village against the beastmen; he is able to provide them with tools such as another wood axe for Jeffric and hand weapons for the others from the fallen militia. The group offers to use Jeffric’s talents to help build boats for the villagers to aid their flight and Lucius agrees that this is a splendid plan, however, the most pressing business is the reconstruction of the defences. The priest asks them to head to the rear of the village and assist the militia Captain, Theo.

The group all agree to Father Lucius’ suggestion and head off away from the square passing a number of cottages until they arrive at the back of the village where they view a scene of devastation. Timbers from the defences lay scattered across the ground and a large funeral pyre built from the bodies of slain beastmen and militia burn. They make their way over to a group of six militiamen frantically trying to re-use the broken timbers to form a barricade across the gaping hole in the rear fence. The group makes its way over to the captain and introduce themselves – Theo tells the group that darkness is only a few of hours away and that they should assist in the re-building the defences. They all keenly set to the task and spend the next two hours hard at work in their already weakened conditions lugging timbers, apart from Ulric and Durgar who opt to build a somewhat pointless trap.

Dusk begins to descend and their work is disturbed by the sound of horns coming from somewhere in the wood line across the small field of heath land; moments later a loud roar sounds and beastmen begin to pour out of the forest and come charging towards the village. Theo calls to arms and five more militiamen come running from the village while the group readies itself to face the onslaught. As the braying deformed attackers come screaming and howling towards the group they can see with horror the nature of their foe – both Ulric and Matthias are paralysed with fear. Heinrich and Fickenja prepare their bows while the rest draw their swords. The swarm of beastmen reach the makeshift defences and engage the militia men’s front line while others climb over and make their way towards the group. Durgar, bereft of his armour and flail, swings his sword at the monstrous attackers landing a couple of effective strikes which would have killed a human assailant – but the creatures of Chaos possess a superior constitution. Jeffric hits an attacker with his axe but is soon defending himself against multiple attackers and receives a couple of savage blows that take him down to the ground, barely clinging to life. Cadrigar also battles the foul creatures but succumbs to a flurry of blows that would have cleaved him in two had it not been for the attacker’s dull blade which merely breaks a number of the elf’s ribs and knocks him unconscious. The creatures continue to swarm, getting ever closer to the group members using ranged weapons; Ulric loses his nerve and turns and flees, pulling level with the second wave of militia men charging into battle. As he abandons his comrades to their fate he observes Father Lucius walking onto the field of battle accompanied by a silver armoured knight clutching a double-handed flaming sword. The priest of Taal is uttering prayers and creating a spell – dark clouds begin to coalesce in the sky above and an aura of blue energy begins to form around the priest.

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Part Seven
Suits you sir!

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The street urchins continue to swarm the group, their little hands darting out to snatch the adventurer’s belongings. The group continues to lash out, mainly in vein. Carla repeatedly attempts to cast a spell to scare the bold young thieves away but is unable to concentrate. Jeffric makes multiple attempts to swipe the juveniles but flails feebly. Finally, Ulric manages to take control of the situation and draws his sword and puts it to the child he’s holding’s throat and screams out that he will kill his hostage unless the swarm scats – slightly cutting on his hostage has the desired result and the little thieves disappear into a side street as quickly as they appeared, content that they have made a decent enough profit from their victims. Satisfied that the threat has gone Ulric finally releases his hostage who himself departs with some choice insults and curses.

Poorer for the attack the group takes stock of their circumstances and decide that there is nothing to do but continue their journey to the Weiss Wyrm tavern. A mercifully short time later they emerge from the narrow streets into a dingy square and spot their destination – a seedy looking and very rough and ready looking inn. They enter the tavern with some trepidation, expecting a trap. Inside they find a reasonably populated inn whose scattered patrons mainly seem to be in small intimate groups engaged in quiet conversation and several members of the group understand that they are standing in a place of commerce and intrigue. Standing on the threshold, beholding the scene before them the adventurers debate their next steps and finally Fickenja decides to approach the burly looking barman and says that she is there to meet with Sister Anneta’s contact – unfortunately the barman has no idea who Sister Anneta is and is very confused by the strange woman’s words; Ulric, seeing his sister’s struggle to establish contact decides to come over and speak to the barman himself – and duly makes the same mistake by saying that they are there to meet with Sister Anneta’s contact (they are not!) and seeing the barman’s continued confusion asks him if he knows where the guild is. The barman is still struggling to understand what the very strange raggle-taggle group want and what guild they are referring to; finally Ulric, not a smooth operator nor very subtle blurts out that they are looking for the Thieves Guild (an underground and proscribed organisation!) and finally hits pay-dirt by name-checking the guild member they recently betrayed – “Garth Weer”, who so happens to be sitting at the other end of the room!

The group is shocked to see their nemesis sat, hither to completely unnoticed by them, at the far end of the tavern, next to a grand-fatherly looking old man who’s smoking a pipe. Garth is in deep conversation with the old man and does not look too happy. The adventurers’ minds race as they consider their next step – many of them once more suspect they have walked into a terrible trap; after much debate they opt to split into two with half the group staying at the bar or hanging around near the door should trouble kick off. Fickenja, Ulric, Carla and Cardigar, all possessing more mettle then their compatriots, opt to walk over to Garth Weer’s table and face trouble head-on. As they approach they give a somewhat sarcastic greetings to Weer who merely snarls and stares menacingly at them – and much to their surprise it is the old man who speaks to them and invites the four to sit down at the table with them, which they duly do with some foreboding and hesitation. The cordial old man introduces himself as Cornelius Pell and starts by saying that he has been impressed that the group should have as powerful an advocate as Dieter (presumably Sister Anneta’s Schwanz contact) and by the group’s tenacity, daring and skills; he goes on to say that a senior party within the guild, a Viktor Beakman, is now aware of them and was of the view of putting out contracts on them – Cornelius adds that he has managed to convince Viktor not to do this as well as preventing Garth from cutting their hostage, Dolwen, to pieces and sending them to the group. Cornelius freely admits that the guild has Dolwen held captive and that they are prepared to release him and forgive the group for their crimes if they carry out a pressing task for the guild. Fickenja and Ulric are fairly quick to accept the task but press for details – Cornelius tells them that there is a village on the other side of the river bank, opposite Reiksdorf, called Reikers Ferry and that this village has been put under quarantine by the Palace with all ferries to and from the village suspended until further notice. The guild have a small operation consisting of six men stationed in the village and last word received from them is that they were under attack from a vigilante called Gregor Vendalis – Cornelius wants the group to travel to the village and deal with the vigilante; he tells them that they can get across to the isolated village by giving his name to one of the ferrymen on the dockside called Henchner. If the group return with Vendalis’ head then Dolwen will be released and their trespasses forgiven.

The group leaves the tavern and the four who spoke with Cornelius brief the others about the deal offered to them. There is some debate as to whether or not to accept the deal but the two Fledermaus rogues have low morals and a strong sense of survival which leads the adventurers to drift towards carrying out the guild’s task. It’s midday and they decide that they will head over to the Markt Platz to buy yet more supplies and to enable Carla to get additional tuition at The Emporium; they set off out of the square and down the narrow streets of Der Schwanz once more, this time with weapons drawn and concealed in case of further incidents.

A short time later they turn into a street, avoiding the many hostile glances of the district’s denizens who spot interlopers (the dwarf and elf in the party being big give-aways), before encountering one unseemly individual sat on a corner, perched on a stool; the young man rings a hand bell as the group approaches but otherwise remains immobile and they continue past him and down the empty street. At the ringing of the bell the signal is sent to The Wild Roses, a group of wild young youths who control all passage through Blumen Allee – six of the eight members file out of their den and into the street armed with swords and clubs while the other two members who are stationed in the upper floor of the house opposite begin to lift an old wooden cupboard towards an open window. The adventurers file down the street in two ranks of three and find their way blocked by the street gang who demand a street tax of twenty gold pieces per person. The group is having none of it and try to blag their way past by name-checking their connection with the Thieves Guild, but the Wild Roses know everyone in the district and most of the guild and don’t believe the stranger’s unlikely story. The street gang, following their well-practised street robbery script, charge the group while the two members in the nearby house push the schrank out of the window where it comes crashing down on Cadrigar, knocking the elf pedlar clean out. Durgar, Jeffric and Ulric are at the front of the party and are quickly engaged in frantic hand to hand combat with the street gang. Jeffric continues to prove to be an almost entirely ineffective street fighter and madly swings his axe with little success but is fortunate enough not to be struck himself; Durgar manages to land a couple of blows and receives a couple in return but his armour and tough skin prevents any actual injury. Ulric, frantically swiping with his sword manages to land blows and receives a couple of wounds to his body in return. Carla once more attempts to cast another spell but fails miserably, tripping up and falling flat on her face.. Both Fickenja and Heinrich fan out and draw their bows – at the beginning of the fight they are unable to fire on the attackers due to their own group being in the way but as the fight develops opportunities present themselves. The herdsman tries to utilise his newly acquired longbow but all three of his shots go wide of their mark and whistle past a gang member’s head. Fickenja however, fares much better and manages to shoot one of the attackers dead with an arrow to the head! She then hits another in the knee, incapacitating him.

Finally the fight comes to an end with four gang members laying dead and two injured. The group strip the youths of 6gp, an axe, a sword and a shield; inexplicably the group struggle to decide what to do with their two captives and amongst the confusion tell one of the surviving gang members with an injured wrist to leave, warning him not to mess with them again. As the youth walks away the paranoid and morally shifty Ulric suddenly becomes convinced that the youth will bring further trouble on to them and quickly convinces his sister to fire an arrow at the man’s back, which she does, killing him instantly. Before the cold blooded murder was committed Cadrigar distanced himself from the group, not wanting any part in the murderous act. With the dark deed done Ulric then inexplicably refrains from killing the more injured remaining gang member, who identifies himself as Friederich Schmidt, and they leave the youth outside the gang’s den having patched up his wound. The group then resumes its journey out of the deadly neighbourhood.

By early afternoon the group arrive back at the Markt Platz poorer and worse for wear than before. It’s still their general intent to make the journey to Reikers Ferry but Cadrigar, suffering from the damage caused by the falling cupboard, and Ulric from wounds received in the fight, are in a physically poor way and need medical treatment. They opt to visit the Healing Hands Apothecary and buy another bottle of Kussen Die Drachen medicinal lincture – Ulric taking one dose and the more badly injured Cadrigar taking two. Heinrich wanders into Schroedingers and enquires about the cost of medical training while Carla makes her way over to the Blacksmiths where she meets with Grundolf, the dwarf alchemist, once more and arranges for another lesson in a couple of hours time having borrowed the necessary funds from Fickenja.

Feeling better from having taken the medicine, Ulric recalls that he has still to collect his new outfit from the tailors in Der Kopf. He does not want to expend the time making the trip himself and so arranges for a messenger to be sent with a note asking for his outfit to be delivered to Carla at the Temple of Shallya. Meanwhile the rest of the group stands around questioning whether a new outfit for the beggar is really their highest priority at this current time of dwindling funds, death threats, employers held hostage and a task to murder a stranger.

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