Brash Young Fools

Letter to lucia
To Lucia from Karl

Lucia Maximus, tidings to you during this festive season,

It is Karl, of the brash, somewhat foolish young men who retained your services during the time of Bogehnafen’s plague. Do not be surprised at the fact I can write. The Dwarf taught me to puncture the sentences and everything of its like. He taught me enough of the character of our alphabet to warn you.

The nights are cold, long and vicious. We three find ourselves in the employ of Maximillian Aldrech, a commander of some standing looking to reopen the North passage. Much profit can be found for noble warriors here in such times, though that is not why I write you.

Base powers are abroad. But enough of Lustria. Base powers work their black magic at home too; the men (and women) of the Reik do well to stand against such terrible foes each moon, but in seasons such as this the dawn seems especially far-off.

While negotiating a peaceful solution to a deadlocked seige (between Dwaves and Elves no less) myself, Heinrich (who sends his best) and Grok (who does not) were tasked with the retrieval of many artefacts of a noble and beautiful value to the shorter elder folk.

The trail of these stolen goods led us to a clearing in which unnatural beastly things were being done to unnatural, beastly people by unnatural beings things. Many of these things involved fluids. I will not elaborate on which ones. Heinrich will though, at length, after only the slightest provocation.

The three of us infiltrated this den, doing well not to become depraved beasts ourselves. Things happened which I shall not repeat, lest the movement of my quill on paper invoke the very beasts that caused such havok. We did well to clear the woodland of horror, assisted only by elven horses, stolen garments and some extremely distracting explosives.

But this digression forces me off-track. Among the clearing, high among tree-tops once made proud by the presence of elf-kin, banners floated. The banners were of noble families, made ignoble by the actions of their members below. The families themselves are a mystery to me, but I recognised in one of them the sash and stripes of one of Bogenhafen’s nobles.

Which one I cannot say; our time in the forest brought more pressing concerns to bear. But I write to you that you may keep your guard up and eyes keen in Bogenhafen. We wish no ill to come to the town that honoured our actions – and blessed me – so.

Good luck Lucia, and good tidings again in this most festive of festivals. A bowl of broth to you and your order,

Karl Thomas

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A missive from the woodland
To John from Karl

Dear John comma

By my own hand I write you bringing you tidings of my own as we have ridden north some time in the last several days comma and in this time and the months before I have been being taught to cast my own pen by the learned dwarf master and a new acquaintance by name of Felice stop curvy line around I do not trust her stop curvy line around the other way stop

Things are breathless in the forests comma and spattered with ichor stop huge mouths with feet tried to eat us led by orcs as we ventured north to chat with mighty dwarves heroes and haughty elven scholars stop Orcs and goblins of grotesque smell and stature stole our cart as we pursued a young elfling through the frost comma not to harm it but to help it comma and we gave chase like heroes in effort to recover our load and beasts of burden stop

I hoisted up Grok to the saddle of a horse I claimed back from filthy little gobbos and started instantly after the cart comma Heinrich not far behind us comma I shot at the gobbos as we neared stop I missed stop I concentrated then on pulling up alongside the cart and preparing Grok for an orderly boarding action stop I then tossed the dwarf at the cart stop

This did not work stop

Grok clung on for life comma feet tangled in the harness of my horse and hands clutched for purchase on the cart walls stop the gobbos laughed at him and mashed his tiny inhuman fingers stop This hurt the dwarf and he did yelp before falling onto the ground and crying a bit stop Heinrich by the time had caught up alongside and in one tremendous leap he did fling himself onto the cart and start smashing up greenskins stop My arrows splintered harmlessly upon the Orc’s black back and so I tried to hurt our horse to slow the beasts down stop some hand of the forest held me back comma some gruff and rough force comma and I kept pace only to watch master Heinrich hammer gobbo after gobbo after gobbo to the ground comma besting the orc in fraught combat by hitting him once then dropping his hammer then hiding behind his shield then doing it again and again and again and not once did the orc think to pick up the hammer what a stupid orc stop and so did Heinrich make of himself something close to a hero stop

We rest now and ponder our next move stop Master dwarf is taking time to tend his wounds in the cart comma he says my manner of writing puts him asterix in mind of a new means of compressed communication asterix and has started drawing a series of tubes with birds tweeting at either end stop Master dwarf also says my spelling is asterix fine by some small blessing asterix but that I need to learn how to puncture the paper stop

he will think me mighty silly if I puncture this badly so I include a hole below made by arrow point stop

This has taken four days to write stop

Best and love to all stop

Karl

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Grok's Journal: Purple Is The Only Fruit
A problem with wizards

Rushing back to our safehouse, with Ivan hobbling in tow, we cleared out the two lower floors as quietly as we could. Then we crept up on the top floor, with Karl silently leading and weapons drawn; I helped the elderly Ivan to the roof. Where we confronted the younger ‘Ivan’. The charlatan smiled, got halfway through an explanation and waved his hands ebulliently – before exploding in a puff of black smoke. Yells from below told us of his reappearance; Karl and Heinrich gave chase, whilst I stayed on the roof to see if I could spy his movements.

… ten fat sprats for the temple of Manaan - donation.

Karl tells me that he only spotted the doppelganger by the urgency of his movement; he’d taken on the face of another and was pushing his way through the crowd of our aides. Karl, with a confidence I didn’t feel, shot a bolt through the crowd and into the fugitive’s shoulder, giving Heinrich a chance to catch up, so he could waft uselessly at the villain. I yelled at the crowd to get down, so Karl could get a clear shot. The fugitive, exposed and gravely wounded, attempted to dissipate again but, failing, turned to his heels instead. Rounding a corner, he bought enough time to lean against a wall, catch his breath and vanish utterly. Had we found our necromancer?

We returned to the safehouse perturbed. Now we had found our necromancer, it seemed imperative we mount a search to find him before he could raise more of the mighty piles of dead. We sent the brothers Rich out to find more deputies, which they did with alacricity; when they returned we assigned the Morrite brethren to search parties, to hunt out the villain, each team having a bell to ring when they found him.

… Grimoire: A Elucidation into Wizards and Other Evil Men, by Unwye of Ilian- personal use (cost 20S)

Finally, we went ourselves to find the Amethyst wizards and retrieve them to safety, now we were convinced of their innocence. Their house was empty; despite a careful search, I found little, but Karl’s witch-sight found something in Melinda’s bed; I sniffed and tasted it; bonemeal.

Then, outside, the screaming started; Karl, the fool, looked out of the window with his uncovered mad-eye and nearly went mad with fear. The street was full of ghosts, all the dead of the recent plague sweeping down from the ruins, infesting and attacking the living; the mad clanging of bells could be heard from all over the quarter. We all grabbed and lit torches and I threw one to see if the creatures took physical damage. My experiment was a success, as it passed straight through a spirit’s body; an unforseen consequence was that they turned as one, noticing us.

… a bundle of flaxen shrouds for Spittle – 7S

We fled, Heinrich almost throwing me out of a back window. They pursued, through walls, doors, the bodies of the population. We ran down alleyways, Karl firing bolts back through the horde as I stumped slowly on. Confused by the backstreets, I led us astray and we ended up at a dead-end; behind a bolted door were the Merchant and his bodyguards. My persuasion failing, Heinrich kicked the door down and we fled through the house, which filled with ghosts and then screaming men behind us.

… 500 bundles kindling (stupid over-order – who’s going to burn so much stuff?) – 50S

We arrived at the ruins to yet another gruesome sight; Melinda, naked, straddling the corpse of blustering Lucian, surrounded by magical defenses, channelling a stream of the dying and dead from the point of power beneath her; Davos ready with his purple scythe, but tormented at the turn Melinda had taken; and the dead risen at her command assaulting us. The fight was swift; Melinda froze Karl to the core then blasted him with a beam of light, but he kept fighting; Heinrich drove the confused Davos off with threats.

Then I spotted a rhythm in her protection, and told everyone to attack at the moment of greatest weakness; Karl peppered her with bolts, before Heinrich ran up, forced himself through the shield, clubbed her down, and kept clubbing long after she’d fallen in a mortifying display of ferocity. Distasteful as it is, Heinrich’s childish fear of what he does not understand does have its uses.

… clean linen for THEY’RE COMING…

With that the quarter fell quiet; well, moaning and screaming continued, from the dying and injured, but the spirit invasion was over. We put Davos, who we’d found unconscious and trussed up, in one of our iron cages overnight, just to use it, then handed him over to the Witch Hunter for a public trial and execution in the morning.

Two weeks later, the quarantine was lifted. We’d finished our census, kept some of the luminaries alive, and kept the population fed and healed. Now I just had to avoid dying long enough to enjoy our success.

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A missive from the Old Quarter
To John, from Karl

John, may this find you well and healthy, by the blessing of Sigmar.

I write to you, brother, in strange times. It has been a year or more since I left Talabheim, maybe half that since last I found a notary to write to you on my behalf. The changes since have opened my eyes to an Empire that seem a world away from the cities I knew before. A world away even from the scare-stories of the creatures that lurk below them.

And while I write with urgent questions for you, I realise I have much to tell of time abroad.

As you last heard, life with on the merchant routes from Talabheim had been wearing for a while. I left the caravan south of Altdorf, and found myself in the company of a young Dwarf and a somewhat simple sailor who appeared to have lost his boat.

The former, Grok, has proved to be an inquisitive soul, from whom I could learn a lot. His is the hand which you find yourself reading now. His other hand is not looking well. My other companion, Heinrich, has proved to be nothing more than an oaf with clumsy fists, but even he has his uses.

We have recently been employed in Bogenhafen by the local Mayor, a man named Ludwig, who for reasons too complicated to go into here placed our party in charge of a quarter of his town. We have not squandered this responsibility, and it may please father to learn that he was right: office suited me better than we would have expected.

But while we are likely to move on from here soon (not a one of use keen to encourage the locals to demand more of us here) something has begun to intrigue me.

We have seen troops moving nor-east from this town, and hear the rumble of war engines with them. Though I saw none of the reds and whites of Talabecland with them I wonder if you or your regiment have heard whispers of something that drives forces north?

John, what awaits me as I continue on our journey through this Empire?

If you write swiftly then you will find me in Bogenhafen, courtesy of the Verenian temple. Any longer than two weeks hence and I will be in the Frederheim hospice, where Grok will hopefully be feeling. Later than that, the Verenians in Altdorf will be the best temple to reach me through.

My love to father and to mother, my blessings to the house. May Shallya protect you, and may you keep your fingers crossed each time you enter the tunnels of Talabheim.

Yours,
Karl Thomas

This received a response when the players were at the Frederheim hospice, which interesting parties can read here.

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Grok's Journal: The Tale of Two Ivans
Trust no one.

Immediately after Lou’s death, we set out to find the Witch Hunter who’d killed him. We gathered a posse around us and went after him. Down in a square we found him burning a mutant, one of the few to escape our purge of the first night. Confronting him, he justified his actions in the name of generating fear – so that the populace might fear him more than the monsters, and hand them over. After Heinrich awkwardly handed back Rankoff’s pistols and told him of the warpstone in the Temple of Verena, we intimidated the Witch Hunter into inaction for the night.

In the night, when we were getting our first clean sleep (and I was weakening further from my rot), there was noise and screaming in the streets; the dead were walking. We rushed out and hacked them down with ease, but were perturbed; was this a symptom of the Chaos, or something worse? With the number of dead in this city, we prayed that a necromancer could not be on the loose.

… 72 of Ratcatcher Sid’s best live rats for Dolph’s owl - donation.

The following morning we went through the goods that had arrive; an eye-patch for Karl, a iron cage for prisoners, badges and cudgels for our deputies… and more turnips.

Then we set to hunting down the Amethysts; we’d heard reports that the Witch Hunter was tracking them down, so we found our way, eventually to the house where they had holed up. It was surrounded by a mob, complete with desperate idiots and improvised weaponry; no-one had been foolish enough to attack the house yet, but the Witch Hunter was threatening to burn it. With the help of Ivan, we calmed the crowd and entered.

The wizards were a strange trio. A great ebullient Bretonnian ‘Lucian’, a young maid with an icy soul ‘Melinda’, and a giant ‘Davos’ who conjured a great glowing scythe at the first sign of conflict; we became confident that they were who they said they were but we weren’t sure that they weren’t necromancers; they had the traditional Amethyst love of playing with the dead. We warned them to stay where they were, and to not rile the mob with experiments. They told us things about the winds of magic, to see if we could track the corruption causing the dead to rise.

… a bolt of Dwarven greasecloth for Ysassa Redbeard – 1S20

Outside, we split the Witch Hunter from his posse and dispatched him with the Brothers Rich, to hunt down monstrosities, but with clear instructions not to burn them except at our say-so.

We returned to the safehouse, and planned our resource-management; I felt like we playing one of those Orcish games where you have to throttle four snotlings at once, eat a Squig, and pick your nose. Keeping all the snotlings throttled was going to be trouble; the Morrites were out roaming the streets, the Amethysts were holed up in their house, the Merchant and his men had transferred themselves to another nearby manor. Now we just needed to find the necromancers and…

Karl went to the roof, and looked out with his warped eye; it bled a little and twisted noisomely in the socket as he stared. Yet, he could see nothing in the winds, except death and madness. Noise from below distracted us.

… spyglass for the Boatman’s guild – 34S 50B

A myrmidian said there was a new arrival at the gate; we hurried over. An old, slow-speaking priest waited there, who introduced himself as Ivan of Morr.

We started swearing. Again.

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Grok's Journal: Kings of the Old Quarter
In which the quarter becomes a problem.

I have pinned copies of the letters I wrote to my friends and family herein. When I wrote them, I was rotten with despair; cynicism had triumphed, the quarter seemed saved from the dark gods – now our struggle was with well-meaning men, seeking to save lives, and evil men, seeking power; but men all the same.

… three barrels of wolf fat to Aldreda Wordener – 36S

I have a story I will tell you, you dear lump of skin. I cannot tell my family and friends, so I will write it here, on this flimsy parchment, in this tally book I have found. This merchant’s manor that we shelter in is the selfsame one we battled Spittle atop – where Heinrich was trampled, where I caught this rot that spreads into my arm, the rot that none of Shallya’s sweet sisters can clean or treat. The owner, I presume, is long dead, so he will not mind if I scribe some notes between the sad records of his fiscal life.

… 200 faggots of cottonwood sold to Gundolf Zuriner - 80S

If I tell this story here, perhaps I will never have to tell it elsewhere.

… a handful of groats to hungry Leticia – 10C

When the sun rose in the morning, we were surprised to find ourselves alive. Less surprising was the situation; we’d saved the old town, but were well aware that we weren’t getting out any time soon. The major, ensconced atop the walls, told us as much, entrusting us to the care of his squire, Petal a 12-year old megalomanic who preferred to be called Bloodkiller IV. However, he also entrusted the care of the old quarter to us; if we could save it, as many of the population as possible, and keep any luminaries alive, we would have a reward. Frankly, surviving seemed reward enough. Soon, we were told, priests to heal the sick and bury the dead would arrive, as well as a notorious Witch Hunter, to keep the streets clean.

… Sylvanian spider-silk garters for Mayor Ludwig - 1G

Yet, too soon, we discovered a problem. Karl, our oft mute bounty hunter, was behaving oddly. Squinting, shying away from our gaze, his skullcap pulled down close over one eye. Eventually he showed us; his eye was warped, mutated, his pupil replaced by a symbol much like Shallya’s. I was aghast; Lucilla’s iron gaze shook; even Heinrich’s tiny brain gaped and swore with the horror of it. We were harbouring a mutant! Worse, it was of his creation; he’d been drawn to Rankoff’s daemonic rock and carried it all the way here with him! He’d even stashed it in the Temple of Verena with the rest of our equipment.

I mollified the monstrous fool by writing an insipid letter to his family; while he was away finding paper, we determined there was only one solution. To stitch up the eye, make it look like he had been injured, else the Witch Hunter would burn him; we would do this by main force, if necessary.

… hobbit chef’s knife set for Sharp Jake – free, and long may it keep us free from him.

“If the eye doth offend thee, pluck it out. So spoke a wise man.” I say to Karl. He looks a bit sick. We explain our plan; he looks slightly less sick, but starts to protest. Eventually we compromise a bit; we won’t stitch up the eye, but we will… scar it, a little. Now I must watch myself for signs of corruption, as I took great pleasure in the cutting of his eyelids. Afterwards it was such a mess that the Witch Hunter would have had no trouble in believing it was ruined.

I recruited a henchdwarf; a stunted, twisted man of simplicity and honesty, called Lou. He was also almost down to my height, so I believed I could trust him. With Lou’s assistance we recruited a family of local thugs, the Brothers Rich. Heinrich watched their boyish swagger and the fear they commanded with undisguised admiration; if low-lives such as these and carny-tricks like juggling and tumbling are the height of his aspirations, the man needs to learn more of the world, yet he snorts like a shire horse whenever I offer to teach him anything. Such company I am keeping.

At this point, Lou ran up to report that there was a riot at the main gate; the idiot Shallyans had arrived, to heal the injured and sick, bringing with them food. We rushed down and managed to rescue the battered priests, with Heinrich blustering the populace into submission. The food and medical supplies were already missing though, so we posted some of the Myrmidians at the gate and hastened back to the townhouse, where we set the Shallyans to healing. Quickly, they healed Heinrich’s more vile pox; sadly, nothing could be done for my spreading rot, save to bandage the area more tightly. “Maybe Shallya doesn’t want it to heal”, said one idiot priestess. Grudge, noted.

… ten kegs pissing beer for The Black Festag - 40S

A rapid search of the area didn’t result in the recovery of the supplies, but Heinrich cowed the crowd into returning one bundle. While we were out, Lou reported the arrival of another group of priests; the Morrites, a human death cult. Two local priests and a leader called Ivan, dispatched especially from Altdorf to consecrate the bodies. He was an odd man, alternately frivolous and serious, with a shock of white amidst the black of his hair. I didn’t trust him from the start, happily; not that helps us in the evaluating the damage he did. We caught up with him soon, and persuaded him to return to our house for safety, and deal with the corpses of the cultists on the roof.

Whilst this was happening, Lou arrived to tell us that a group of wizards had arrived. Garbed in purple, these Amethyst brethren were already arousing the fear of the populace. We couldn’t spare the manpower to find them, so we contented ourselves with establishing our haven for the night.

… ten kegs river water for The Black Festag – 5S (must remember to stick to spirits).

Returning to our quarters, we found that a new group had arrived; a well-equipped merchant with a large group of trained guards had come into town. We found him going between the houses of the wealthy, blackmailing the inhabitants into giving up their valued possessions in return for food and water. We feared there was nothing we could do to stop him, or to requisition his food; Yet, one second, Karl’s eye seemed to twinkle at the merchant’s wagon and the next it exploded. I stood aghast, but Heinrich sprang into action, grabbing the blasted sacks of food, and yelling to get the guards back to the safehouse.

It was while we were otherwise engaged that the Witch Hunter arrived. Oddly, Lou didn’t come to tell us; we found out why, when we went to the main gate; the Witch Hunter had seen his
deformities as a sign of Chaos, and impaled him on several spikes. The first honest human I’d met in this blasted quarter had died painfully and messily, under our protection. I looked Karl in his unbandaged eye and thought sad thoughts.

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Into the Old Quarter
The cost was too high.

To Runesmith Vrugl Orehunter, Karak Kadrin.

Father Smith,

I’m sorry if my writing is somewhat harder to read than usual. My finger. My hand is. Something is growing in me, in my lungs and limbs, some ancient, horrible disease. One of my fingers is literally rotting. I write to you, because you were good to my household and I wish to tell my grudges, if this is the end. I could not write this to my mother.

My first grudge is against the craven people of Bogenhafen and specifically the temple of Shallya therein. Those fools sent us on a pointless quest to save the town, on which we found that the living saint was an alcoholic, hidden away while plague raged by an avaricious priest so he could have a bigger temple. Greedy, monstrous, idiot.

When we returned to the town, we found it joyous at the return of the blind saint, who was to heal the old quarter at sundown. We knew it all to be a sham, spotted the priest’s agent in the robes of a Shallayan priestess, and could not leave a lie untold. We recruited the leader of the Myrmidians to our cause, a silent, noble lady, and headed for the mayor to tell our story. Sadly, the boatman, Heinrich, got somewhat physical with the mayor’s guards, and we were confined to a cell for most of the day; it gave Heinrich the time to learn juggling, at least. When our friend Dolf, the priest of Verena, got us out, we went straight to the temple and confronted Rufus.

He was unrepentant and threw us out, so we went to St Helena herself and told her the truth, as near as we could. Finally, having been thrown out twice, we barged back in and confronted the priestess behind all the machinations – the hiring of Sharp Jake and the Myrmidians, and the kidnap itself. She nearly admitted all – but Rufus threw us out again. She bears my second grudge.

We went to Mayor Ludwig, and convinced him of our suspicions; he provided us with guards to aid us. Our next step was to provide him with a witness; we contacted a slattern, Suzanne, who owed us under the laws of Ranald (that loathsome god of thieves) and used her threats of blackmail to lure the Priestess out from the temple. As the guards captured her and dragged her away, she told us that we had created a crisis of faith in St Helena and she was refusing to enter the old quarter, except alone. Madness given the hunger of the people in there – and given the chanting we heard.

My third grudge is against him, Pastor Rufus of Shallya and Bogenhafen. The fool who stalled us and wasted our lives and the people’s lives, who couldn’t live consistently within the naive strictures of his faith. We had to go to him, humbled, and ask his leave to aid St Helena in any way on her mission to the old quarter. He sent us over the wall, alone, with a certain grim pleasure.

The boatman Heinrich did it, roaring at the guard Saul, until we were snuck in. I look across at my idiot friend, as he gasps and gurgles. He was so strong then, but now he lies there, beaten down by the minions of the fly lord, and I fear he is rife with infection. During the night one of the Myrmidions died suddenly, eaten from the inside by worms; I wonder what will happen to us.

Once inside, the horror of the place was… bodies, everywhere, buildings burnt, men killing, eating, other men. There was no sign of Goodly Spittle, the honest surgeon who had been tending to the poor when we left two days before. No-one would attack us, three heavily-armed fools, but the things… Across a wall, a boy(?) was nailed, three buboes dangling from his chest, his skin flayed like parchment, his face gone; Karl put him out of his misery. We passed through the ruins quickly and just reached the gates in time for Helena’s entrance. The sainted fool entered, scattering roses, and a horde of the starving rushed her, before being blown apart by the guards’ blunderbusses.

We silently followed her, guarding her against her people, picking off the hungry poor who attempted to approach her. As she picked, her way across the burnt ruins and bodies, she sang a high, disturbing song. Eventually, we came to the old town square and the central well; a poor place to make a stand, with no natural defences, and two entrances, but here she lay down and prayed.

We waited. And waited. Night fell and we lit torches, scattering them. Hope sprang in our hearts – perhaps, perhaps, we might live through the night unassaulted? No. A gurgle alerted us to a dozen shambling citizens, all marked with that same sigil of the three buboes, assaulting us. They were not warriors and we defeated them easily. Soon, however another group assaulted us, backed up by a flapping, shambling mutant monstrosity which took many of Karl’s quarrels before I hacked it down. They had struck a grievous blow to the still-praying St Helena and Heinrich was also bloodied.

Dawn was still far off when the final attack came, two days after we last slept. St Helena’s prayers were louder than ever, as a horde of tangled monstrosities and starving plague-ridden fools charged us. From a rooftop nearby, a familiar face called to us; it was Spittle, but not Spittle. His mouth was sewn up but his belly had ruptured into a larger mouth, and buboes crawled across his skin; it was obvious he no longer served human gods. He bears my fourth, strongest Grudge, chasing him from this world to the next. He cried out and the sky filled with flies; Karl sank an arrow into his forehead and he merely laughed “I feel no pain”. Soon, Heinrich was surrounded by three of the large monstrosities and torn and rent. I lopped the legs off one of the tentacled things, but more cultists stepped forward, and all seemed lost.

Praise be, at this point Lucilla and her armoured Myrmidians arrived; for their timely appearance, I bear them no grudges. They surrounded the saint and bought us time to deal with the ringleader; Spittle. We chased him up to the rooftop and, whilst I attempted to remonstrate with him, Karl pinned him to the wall with an arrow. I ran up and… he vomitted putrescence. I fell down, as the stream of wriggling disease came towards us but my finger was caught and rotted before my eyes. Heinrich caught it full in the gut; I dread to think what incubates inside him now.

Lucky Karl seemed to shrug it off and fired another quarrel into Spittle as I hacked his head in half. Spittle’s belly bellowed again “I feel no PAIN” and swung great cleavers at me. I heard Heinrich yell, on the stairs, as a horde of cultists ran at, and over, him, coming for us. Karl in desperation yelled “Shallya!” and hurled a healing potion at Spittle; it distracted him enough for me to swing my axe one last time and chop him clean in two. The halves staggered towards each other… and collapsed.

The flies fell from the air; the chanting ceased; the cultists paused… and fled.

We sat up all night, tending our wounds and burning the bodies. My ruined finger means, I can no longer hold my axe cleanly or write with ease; what use is a student who cannot write? Heinrich did not seem likely to live through the night, but somehow survived, though I’m not sure how long either of us have.

Eventually, dawn approached. St Helena ceased her chanting and looked up to the rising sun with her blind eyes. “Thank you” she said and just… fell apart, into, oh… old, rotten flesh. I feel the curse is gone from this quarter, but I do not know if we will ever be allowed to leave it; with our sicknesses, I would not allow us to escape either. My final grudge is against this fly lord, whoever he is; if I live long enough, I will find him and kill him.

Please tell mother I love her and that the pumping engine at the base of Shaft 3 is due for refurbishment – Dagny will never remember.

May Valaya sleep all our days.
Grok

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Back to Bogenhafen
In which a conspiracy is made clear, but its unraveling is prevented.

As the days went by, the town became more fervid; there was a feeling in the air that something dreadful was going to happen and soon, but our clues were minimal. We scoured the town and the only clue we could find was from Jake’s fanatic dancer-lover, a harridan by the name of Red Judy, who implied he’d left town, something confirmed by the guards on the gate. Gambling, and at a loss, we followed, intuition telling us that this lord of murderers was involved with St Helena.

Taking a coach, we arrived at the Shallyan wayshrine on the afternoon of the third day. It was as a festival, surrounded by tents and raucous adventurers, who obviously were more interested in drinking and fighting than searching; only with my glib tongue and the blessing of Mayor Ludwig’s name did we manage to investigate the shrine. There I, to my pride, deduced from the undisturbed sands of the inner shrine’s floor that St Helena had been taken, without a struggle, by two people; a tall man and a shorter women, wearing a man’s boots. After that the trail was dead.

We were preparing to retire for the night, when some Dwarfish adventurers whose acquaintance I’d made, pointed us towards the arrogant elf again, Aine. His finely crafted tent came down around his pointy ears, but not before we’d bullied him into revealing the blessed Helena’s route.

The following morning, we started off, tracking the path through the woods. We only halted for two things; first, when ambushed by ruffians who’d murdered Aine, the arrogant fool having set out to rescue Helena alone; we swiftly dispatched them, save a sole survivor we interrogated and allowed to flee. Secondly, when we arrived at a small shrine to Taal, to find a skirmish commencing; a group of men, led by Sharp Jake, attacking a group of lightly-armed and -armoured soldiers we identified as Myrmidions. In utter silence, the Myrmidions salughtered Jake’s superior numbers; we aided a little, removing the contingent of crossbow-wielding thugs from the battle with ease, before Karl’s arrow showed Jake what sharp meant.

Then we were perplexed; the Myrmidions would not talk to us, nor allow us to pass; yet we were sure the blessed Helena was behind them, in the shrine. As we buried the dead (partially our of Heinrich’s holy decorum, partly to keep the wild animals away), the Myrmidion chief, a statuesque priestess, intervened, taking Sharp Jake’s head. We waited and waited and, as the sun fell, the Myrmidions formed a column and walked away. Heinrich quickly ran to pray, whilst we followed them through the woods, shouting to St Helena before the Myrmidions threateningly silenced us.

They came to a clearing full of horses, mounted and rode off. There was nothing we could do but follow, knowing that they would be back in Bogenhafen days before us, and all our trials had been for naught. As night fell, we were dead on our feet, running through darkening woodland… when something curious happened; a wolf (Heinrich swore it was ghostly), crossed our path, ignoring us, but leading us downhill. We followed, cautiously, expecting a pack of the beasts to pounce, and found the river and a boat that should not have floated, next to an unburied skeleton.

I remember that ghostly night, with Heinrich sitting up, his face alight with joy, as he squeezed every ounce of speed from the decrepit coracle; my memories are so dreamlike, but I thought we sailed through the land of the dead, over the faces of the men we’d killed that day, past woods that walked and watching animal eyes. As the sun rose, Heinrich pulled us into Bogenhafen.

Our route took us close to the waterfront palisade of the Old Quarter; from inside, we heard chanting, not Shallyan, that turned my stomach; there was no way that St Helena was already in there, and that chanting was unholy, guttural and wrong. As we sailed into the docks, the boat groaned a little. As we stepped out of it, Heinrich last, looking aghast to leave the waters so soon, it wavered and fell apart into leaves and twigs. I have never venerated these human gods, and never would, but I felt my companions should have offered thanks at that moment.

Talking to the dock guards, our fears were realised; the Myrmidions were returned with St Helena and Sharp Jake was being blamed for the kidnapping; with him and his men dead, the Myrmidions silent, and the simple St Helena ignorant of her situation, who could dispute this hideous lie? And would it avail us now to do so, when the blessed lady had finally arrived?

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Bogenhafen and Beyond
In which a plague occurs and the cure is missed.

Ah, I remember it as if I were yesterday. In those I used to write home to mother every day; now, well now, that’s not so easy, if mother even still lives in those Grugni-forsaken mountains. Would that we had never moved away from the rock-salt caves of Barak Varr…

I find notes from the time. This is in my hand;

“….(unreadable) is dead! Blasted apart. We’re heading for Bogenhafen now, to make our fortunes. Best gap year ever…”

I remember little of that journey, but I remember Bogenhafen; I was stunned at the size and folly of it; a town of perhaps 5000 men undefended by mountains, built into the open! Pride prevented me gaping openly, but I think my comrades must have picked up on my shock at the squalor of it all. To think men live like this, on mud and amidst their own filth, drinking from the same turgid waters they defecate into. No wonder they are so short-lived and hold their lives so cheap.

The town was in uproar; disease was spreading through the ramshackle old quarter, which had been hastily barricaded off, and the people were awaiting St Helena, the Shallyan saint, who’d cured this ‘blue plague’ before. None of our group were trained in medicine else, being the brash young fools we were, we would have doubtless dived straight into the squalor of the plague quarter alongside poor Goodle Spittle and died like the rest.

Quickly, we made our decision; we’d win fame and fortune by finding this Saint and saving the city! We made our base in a fancy inn, the Cockatrice, which suited my status, and stashed our belongings there; meanwhile, the most insalubrious of us, the boatman Heinrich, went to a lowlife establishment that he ascertained to be a den of Ranald worshippers. We found that a well turned-out young lady had been enquiring of a murderer and rogue by the name of Sharp Jake. Foolishly in hindsight, we left the address of our quarters and a good lump of money in the barkeep’s hands, saying we’d pay well for more information.

I do not recall the exact sequence of events that followed; but we made our acquaintance with the Pastor Rufus, the head of local Shallyan mission, who we immediately conceived a dislike for; the noble mayor Ludwig, who I got on famously with, and who was to prove so helpful later; an irritatingly-clever Elf named Aine, who was well ahead of us in the investigation; and Dolf the truthseeker, a blessed priest of Verena. With help of Ludwig and a guard named Saul, we calmed the Old Quarter a little by supplying them with water and food.

Despite all this, we could find no clues to the whereabouts of the Saint; she’d disappeared on the road from Frederheim to Bogenhafen and a huge crowd of adventurers was scouring the countryside for her. Heading back to our rooms, we encountered a Ranaldian wench – the barmaid from the Black Festag – ransacking our goods. Heinrich gave chase across the rooftops and caught the maid; but, brashly, we let her go in return for our silence on her ineptitude and the return of our goods.

I recall at that stage, we broke for the night, so I shall rest my aged hands too, whilst teasing you a little. The next note I have is not in my hand, but the florid Quenya of a High Elf – I presume Aine’s. It reads;

“…confusion and plague. Hordes of orcbrains unable to see beyond their noses. Do they not understand; the priestess kidnapped herself…”

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The Reward Notice
Being what attracted the mercenary players to Bogenhafen

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