We slipped through the dimly lit streets in quiet contemplation, each of us processing what we just learned and trying to determine our next move. I have to admit, I may have misjudged Lord Albrecht. I was almost sure he was somehow involved, but the news of the extermination of the Herzog household was clearly a shock to the man. My subsequent revelation that the family was also now most likely a shambling part of a growing legion of undead did little to improve his mood. Lord Rothjager was another matter however. His reaction, or lack of one, seemed to indicate he was either under the influence of some drug or a spell. Either way he was, at least for now, not an immediate threat…maybe in the morning. Until then, I was free to ponder what kinds of undead we were likely to soon meet…I hope it’s something awesome. “Hey guys! Do you think any of the bodies from Shantytown walked off on their own?” The looks thrown at me froze me in my tracks, ranging between surprise, annoyance and disgust. Whoa…not the reaction I was expecting…maybe I shouldn’t have sounded so eager. I’m not exactly sure if it was because of what I said, how I said it or that I was the first to say it. In any case, it was quickly decided that Shantytown was our next destination.
We found ourselves once again at the “Flying Pig” where we found our old friend…Ummm…I’m gonna call him “Bob” since he was to drunk to remember, let alone tell us his name last time. Anyway “Bob” was even more inebriated this time. At the request of the barkeep we agreed, for some reason I don’t quite understand, to escort “Bob” home. Honestly, I don’t think the barman even cared if he made it or not as long as he didn’t have to deal with him anymore. Part way down the street, as “Bob” took a short break to empty his insides, Adam sensed something and raced ahead up the street…It’s probably a discarded pie crust. While wondering what he was chasing, I noticed Pieter and Erik peering suspiciously down one of the alleys. Pulling my cloak up, I stalked quietly into the alley to see what had caught their attention. I nearly jumped out of my skin when Dolwen, who had decided to follow, kicked a can behind me. To be fair, I don’t think he encounters much trash in the wilderness, so I‘ll forgive him this time. Freezing in the shadows, I attempted to listen to something other than my pounding heart. I was able to pick up a quiet conversation from ahead. It was little more than some whispered, although familiar chittering. Cautioning the others, I crept further ahead until I came to the two skaven struggling with a large item wrapped in rags. They were talking quickly about something I didn‘t understand…I unfortunately don’t speak rat…and suddenly dropped their prize before fleeing down the alley. I fired a quick shot from my sling which was followed by the twang of several bows around me. The fleeing skaven perished, sliding to a crumpled heap in the shadows. Dragging them back to our comrades and “Bob” we dumped them unceremoniously at his feet. “Bob” obviously had never seen skaven before and passed out from fright…at least I think it was fright. The stench from his breath and clothing did offer another possibility. Dolwen bent down to try and revive him while the rest of us examined the package. It was of little surprise to discover it to be an overripe corpse. This clearly indicated that the skaven were somehow involved with the necromancer. “Bob” continued moaning and muttering incoherently. I was barely able to make out some of his semi conscious ramblings, only catching “Noo…Get away…No…Ah!…Giant Mice! Nooooo!…unnn….leggo…That’s my cheese…” Eventually getting him back to his feet, we escorted him home and quickly returned to the scene only to find both the corpse and skaven missing. A brief search revealed additional rat prints leaving little doubt about what happened. Opting not to pursue them down into the sewers…(yet)…we instead followed their tracks back to their source, to investigate where the body had been taken from. Our inspection revealed that the blood of the victim had been collected for some nefarious reason, although there was nothing to indicate whether it was collected by the skaven…which I doubt…or by someone else. We were unable to learn anything else so we returned to the palace for the evening before Adam collapsed from exhaustion forcing us to…shudder… carry him.
After breakfast, we made our way to the watch at the request of the Countess Emanuelle. The morning mist was just starting to burn off as we arrived. Pulling my hood up further, I elected to remain outside while the others spoke to the watch captain. Sinking deep into my cowl, I pondered how I should deal with Lord Rothjager. It was only a matter of time before he made a move. I’m confident we’re more than capable of dealing with him when he does, but why leave it to chance. If possible, I’d like to try and keep the others out of it this time, but our current tasks are preventing me from doing so. A half hour later, the others emerged and we proceeded to the University for one last stop before returning to Shantytown.
Agnet was once again very happy to see us…well…Pieter anyway. We inquired whether she’d been able to find anything in her research. She learned very little regarding Venek, only a mention of the name from the Border Princes. Unfortunately, she’d only learned a little more about the “Blood of the Binder” Apparently it was a large demonic dragon like beast that was defeated but not destroyed about three to four centuries ago. The demon dragon was then bound under a mountain never to be heard from again…unfortunately. I was a little disappointed. A rampaging demon dragon sounded awesome…maybe even bigger than the dragon ogre. We thanked her for her continued assistance and turned our discussions back to Shantytown. Agnet told us of an old woman named “Grannie Ester”, a long time resident and gossip monger. We were encouraged to bring a gift to smooth introductions. Pieter seemed extremely anxious for us to be on our way. He either shared my desire to see something amazing or just wanted to get away from Agnets smouldering and appraising glances…probably the latter.
After presenting the gift basket we picked up at a bakery en route, Grannie Ester agreed to help by introducing us to some of the local street urchins, who in turn agreed to show us to the homes of some of the missing. I suspect we probably could have got more information if someone hadn’t pilfered the pie from the basket. Adam, of course, denied everything. Probably wasn’t a good idea to let him carry it. We spent the remainder of the afternoon and early evening going from hovel to hovel looking for clues. It was while examining the remains of another ritual chalk circle, that Erik suggested we set a trap. Hunching over the floor, he proceeding to draw a map of the area in the dirt, laying out a plan where one of us would pose as a drunk. The volunteer, henceforth known as “The Bait” would have to leave his armour behind and dress as a local while pretending to get drunk. At mention of “leave his armour behind” Pieter laid his finger along side his nose. I’d made up my mind at “Bait” and followed Pieters lead. Erik continued to point at the map as I threw a wink towards Eckhardt tipping him off and allowing him to play along. Erik proceeded to explain that the “Bait” would then stagger drunk and alone to one of the shanties. Dolwen and Adam surreptitiously scratched their noses. Erik went on to point out some of the neighbouring shanties where we should divide our remaining forces. The thought was that the abductors would come for the “Bait” at which time we would spring the trap and surround them closing the net. It was a serviceable plan. Just as Herod touched his nose, Erik straightened up from his drawing, beaming proudly to himself before asking “Any volunteers?” Looking at each of us I could see comprehension slowly dawn on him, before finally blurting out “Aww crap!” Smiling at him while giving him a pat on the back, I offered “Don’t worry buddy. I’ll be your back up! It‘ll be awesome.” A horrified look briefly crossed his face before his shoulders slumped in resignation. My grin grew even wider as I overhead him repeat while turning away ”Aww crap!”.
While the evening mist started to thicken, the others split themselves between two nearby hovels, I proceeded solo to the shanty Erik would eventually stagger his way to…I hope he makes it. Right about now, he should be pretending to get liquored up…at least I hope he’s pretending. Entering the building unseen, I found a good vantage point in the shadows which allowed me to see the street clearly. Awaiting my comrade in the darkness, I quietly practised my bird calls to keep myself occupied. About an hour later, I was in desperate need for something to happen or I was gonna burst. You have no idea the tremendous amount of willpower it took on my part to remain quiet in the dark with nothing to keep me occupied but my thoughts. I have no doubt that Pieter and Eckhardt will not approve of some of my plans…probably better if I don’t tell them then. Grinning to myself, besides, who doesn’t like a good surprise. Another hour later, Erik finally, and noisily, staggered and sang his way towards the shanty. I’m not sure whether or not he was deliberately off key but Wow. Stepping through the darkened threshold he whispered “Axel?” to which I responded “Bird! Bird!“ just loud enough for him to hear. His answering scowl indicated he was not amused…I thought it was funny. Snuffing out his candle, he proceeded to put on his armour while I returned to the window. It wasn’t long before I could see them. Shadowy figures skirting from one building to the next. I warned “They’re coming” before losing sight of them. A few minutes later, I watched as Dolwen and Herod left their position, heading for another dwelling. Erik motioned to stay put so I reluctantly agreed. Out in the street, Herod positioned himself at the door and ripped it open as Dolwen fired a flurry of missiles into the darkened building. Across the way Pieter and Adam stormed out and joined the others, leaving Eckhardt alone in his hovel. Erik and I continued to hold our position and watched, only now I was also forced to watch Eckhardt’s location in case he got into trouble. I was reeeally starting to get antsy at this point…Erik probably thought I needed to pee. Eventually the commotion subsided and Eckhardt left his position…probably to tend the wounds of the others. His timing couldn’t have been better as my keen hearing suddenly picked up a scream in the distance. Informing Erik, I could now hear moaning from the mists followed by another scream. Erik insisted we hold our position so what could I do? If Erik was able to restrain himself, the least I could do was follow suit. I did say that I’d be his backup after all…..(dammit). Of course, that WAS before I knew something awesome was about to happen. The screams were louder now, and I could now see approximately a dozen shadows slowly shambling down the street towards us, confirming my earlier assessment of impending awesomeness. Looking at Erik, then the zombie horde, then back to Erik…I’m so conflicted. Enough of this sitting on the fence, the others needed to be warned. Looking to Erik, I wonder what he‘d do if I pushed him out? Grinning to myself as I snuck over behind him…Lets find out.