Averland Adventures: The Blue Reach Delta

The bombs bursting in air...

I continued to drift in and out of consciousness throughout the remainder of the night. Miraculously, I was feeling close to my usual cheerful self by morning, thanks mainly to the heroic medical efforts of Eckhardt, and of course one of Matthias’s healing potions. Once everyone’s wounds were tended and bellies fed…Adam was starting to whimper a little…we accompanied Matthias and friends back to Averheim.

The mood in town was definitely darker than when we left. Rumours of unrest and vandalism were abundant from within the merchant district, not surprisingly, targeting mainly Matty’s businesses. The Kraemers were busy boys last night. Not wanting to miss another opportunity to meddle in one of their schemes…it is sort of our thing…we agreed to check up on some of Matty’s businesses for him.

That night, we started our patrol. First stop, the textile shop. Immediately, Pieter noticed the door was ajar. Peeking in, Dolwen announced the all clear. We looked around, but found little out of the ordinary. The one item of interest, was the note attached to the dressmakers dummy. “The ring of brotherhood eventually tightens and closes, squeezing out the unworthy.” Nothing threatening there. Locking up behind us, we proceeded to the warehouse.

This time the door was locked, giving me the perfect opportunity to “break in” my newly acquired tools. The inside of the warehouse was dark, with no sign of the night guard. A thorough search eventually found him on the loading dock, stuffed head first into a crate, immediately followed by his legs, then torso, and finally his arms. This was, in my humble opinion, the most uncomfortable position I’d ever seen. A note accompanied our contorted friend reading “A brother that is successful, shall earn his place in the inner circle.” I guess we’ll just have to make sure these brothers don’t succeed.

Our final stop on our patrol, was the clothing retail store. The door was disappointingly unlocked. Slipping in with Dolwen, Bel, and Erik, I immediately, and prudently, disappeared into the shadows. Looking around, we found the note. This time, it was written in blood on the walls…not a good sign for the night guard. “Successful brothers will find untold riches in unlikely places.” Hearing movement at the rear of the store, we silently closed in. We found a group of the Kraemer’s men. They hesitated only an instant before charging. Dolwen and I fired a couple of shots at one of the leaders before they closed on us. The back door burst open, admitting the rest of our party…perfect timing. My opponent took a swing which I easily ducked under. Judging from the sounds surrounding me, everyone else was similarly engaged. As combat continued, the bodies were piling up, as were the profanities from Erik’s corner. I struck my opponent to the side of the head, his eye’s rolling up, as he lay down for a nap. Glancing around, I could see the only other survivor to question was unfortunately laying unconscious, and defenceless on the ground with Erik standing over him taking careful aim with his bow. Even he couldn’t miss at that range, so I started to tie up my thug for further questioning.

While the others began questioning the hired goon, I started looking around the back office with Dolwen. Locating a secret door behind the desk, I opened it to find a spiral staircase descending into the dark. I headed back to the others, to let them know, and to see how the questioning was going. Apparently, our now six fingered friend was only a minor thug and didn’t have anything useful to say. Heading back to the staircase, I predict that very soon, he won’t be saying anything at all. The staircase led to the meeting room and offices for the Cult of Handrik. Locating Matthias’s office, I found another secret door with another descending staircase. The stair led to a corridor deep underground. Hearing whistling, we followed it to find an young boy sitting on a crate in front of a vault. Startled by our silent approach, he presented us with a note. It contained some “complementary” assessments of our previous encounters with the twins. It then went on to invite us to where we first met. That could be a bit of a problem as I seem to remember lighting that particular building on fire, along with the firebug halfling. His mission completed, the kid then fled off into the darkness.

Our journey to Pfunzig was uneventful, and boring, as was our trip through town to the warehouse. The warehouse has been patched up since our last visit. The door was unlocked, clearly inviting us in to the trap. Dolwen was about to suggest subtlety when Pieter strode in and announced “Did you miss us?” He was answered with silence. It doesn’t look like anybody’s home. Checking the upper level we found a note asking us to join them downstairs. We went to the elevator and built a makeshift barricade around the platform in anticipation of an ambush. Taking our positions, Adam headed for the lever, and before pulling it asked “You know this is a bad idea…” “Of course it’s a bad idea.” I replied “That’s what makes it fun.” Pulling the lever, the platform plunged to the bottom. Yep…they rigged it…why didn’t I think of that? The exhilaration of the fall briefly reminded me of my recent foray into halfling juggling. Unfortunately, it was interrupted by the sudden stop at the bottom…groan…still worth it. Reaching into my pocket, I consumed one of my draughts, feeling the soothing effects take hold. Deciding, it best to get out of the way before Adam jumped down and landed on me, I stood up and watched as two bombs sailed towards us…okay, getting less awesome. The successive detonations threw me into the remains of our makeshift barricade, splintering the crates, and possibly my ribs. Staggering to my feet, I spotted one of the twins and fired a quick shot before sprinting for cover. Climbing the crates, I looked for a target. A double detonation revealed Pieter’s location below. Scrambling to a safe firing position, I took careful aim at Valdred…or was it Valdric?..whatever, I shoot at the good looking one, my stone deflecting harmlessly off of his plate armour. Herod’s halberd, however, did not. His mighty swing sheared through his plate like paper, spraying Pieter in blood and gore. I’m glad I’m up here, where the only blood splatter is my own. Climbing down, I was just starting to search for the ugly twin when I heard Adam yell and dance a little jig on his own perch, indicating the other twin had now fallen. Relieved that this threat had now been dealt with, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What’s next?”

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If I were you Halfling...

I was ready to concede defeat. My attempts to teach my giant friend to juggle were not working out as I’d hoped. The exploded remains of the pumpkins, littered the ground around us. The first attempt was fun, at least until Gothar almost dropped me, which coincidentally, is when we switched to the pumpkins. Gothar could barely manage one pumpkin (or halfling), and it’s now obvious that two is beyond his limited abilities. There is no way I’ll convince Adam to try halfling juggling now. Sigh…If only I had more time, it would have been awesome. The clean up efforts at the mansion were almost complete. Surveying the wreckage I wondered why we didn’t just throw Theo out of his house instead of evacuating everyone else? At least then most of the mansion would have remained intact. Before continuing our journey back home, we were pulled aside by the Gold wizard and Rune master. Gunther and Hagar recommended we make haste for Averheim. We were asked to seek out Matthias Lietdorf. If the Kraemers were now bold enough to attempt an assassination, they must be ready to make their move to seize power. Equipping us with supplies, horses and ponies, we were ready to depart. I think I’ll name my pony “Tea Biscuit”.

We arrived at Heideck, a crossroads village, and the last stop before reaching Averheim. A commotion grabbed my attention to the north of town. The Von Altrams convoy was arriving to much fan fare. “Let’s go say hi.” We were eventually granted an audience after finally convincing them we were who we said we were. It took alot of convincing. We updated Ludmilla on recent events and she again agreed to provide what help she could to free the delta region. She then asked us to help find her niece, who was to have arrived in town, but never showed. We agreed to help look for the woman. Excusing myself from the ensuing discussions, I went searching for a locksmith. I found one who was willing to sell me some lockpicks, but only after I assured him that I wouldn’t use them in Heideck. Again, it took alot of convincing. Eventually catching up to the others, they had already checked the stagecoaches, inns, bars and hostels and found nothing. Convinced Maria never made it to town, we returned to our inn for a hot meal and some rest before leaving the next morning.

On the road to Averheim, we encountered a lone rider approaching us. As he rode closer we could see that he was a road warden. Pieter stiffened noticeably as he approached. Realizing it was his boss, I immediately extended my hand and introduced myself. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Axel.” I was answered with a stern and appraising look which made me feel a little self-conscious. Thats never happened before. “I swear, I never tied his boots together.” I stammered. Pieter quickly pushed me along before I could speak further. Pulling him aside, the two discussed recent events, and the improved legibility of his reports. Bernholt mentioned that the Von Altrams have a country cottage in the area. Its possible that Ludmillas niece has gone there. Before departing, he looked to Pieter and told him that he was destined for bigger and better things. Wilhelm said the exact same thing to me. Its probably a mentors pride thing. I wonder how often a teacher admits to their student “You’re a total screw up?” I’d ask Theodosius if I could. I continue to ponder this as we rode.

Approaching Averheim, we encountered a broken down wagon. An elderly farmer was being harassed by a group on horseback. Pieter mumbled “Time to pick a fight.” and rode up ordering them to “Move along” The leader complained “This wagon is in our way.” “You’re on horseback” I responded “Go around Genius.” Glaring at me, he snarled “If I were you halfling, I’d mind my own business.” Returning a smile “If you were me, you’d be better looking.” Reaching for his pistol, he checked his hand as he noticed Pieter had two of his own. “Lets go boys, we’ve wasted enough time here” and they rode off. Erik and the others seemed disappointed that they didn’t want to play, but I’m sure they’ll get over it. Helping the farmer get his wagon moving again, we continued on to the city.

It didn’t take us long to find the residence of Matthias Leitdorf. When we mentioned we were sent by Gunther we were granted an audience immediately. “How is Gunther these days?” he asked. “Currently unemployed.” I respond. We filled him in on the events leading to the death of Theodosius, and the Kraemers involvement. He told us that the Kraemers had overstepped their bounds, probably in an attempt to seize power and advance to the inner circle of the cult. Currently, they are not part of the inner circle, but they may be trying to create a vacancy. We were reassured that although members, the cult does not approve of their actions. I decided to follow up with our other mission and asked if he knew where the Von Altram cottage was. Obviously startled by the suddenness of my question, he answered yes, wanting to know why I’d asked. We told him of the missing niece and suspected she may have gone to the cottage. He told us that he knew where it was, but was clearly hesitant to tell us. A messenger interrupted us to announce that his brother Castor had arrived in town. He dismissed the matter and nervously said we’d talk about this later. His reactions although odd, did not lead me to believe that he has done harm to the woman. More likely, given the current relationship between the two families, he’s trying to hide a romance with the niece. We went with him to meet Castor when another group led by Ludmilla Von Altram also approached. Castor and Ludmilla met each other in the middle of the town square. The crowd had gone silent, broken by the occasional low murmur. The two coldly but politely greeted each other. When the topic of her missing niece came up, Matthias nervously cleared his throat and admitted that Maria was at his cottage. “I KNEW IT!!” someone yelled excitedly….it might have been me. The two looked at me and then Matthias with a look of shock and confusion. It became apparent that the message that Ludmilla received from her niece had been a ruse. Matthias paled visibly realizing that even though he was well protected from assassins, she was not. Erik was pretty sure the “Gun toting dick wads” (his words, not mine) we encountered earlier, were on their way to the Leiber cottage. We quickly formed a rescue party with Matthias and his guards and made for the cottage to save Maria.

We approached the cottage in darkness. Stealth was prudent, so Dolwen, Erik, Adam, Belasarius and I melted into the darkness. We saw one of the bandits about to climb a tree so we convinced him with a volley that the ground was more comfortable. He wasn’t really in a position to argue. Dolwen pointed out more movement in the trees. I tried to hit one of the windows to alert the occupants of the attack, and hoped that banging one off the wall instead would be enough. The thugs quickly made for the cottage, so I sprinted for the gate to join Peiter, Herod and Eckhardt. Mostly because the wall was to tall for me to climb over. Pieter charged some opponents dropping over the wall while Matthias and his guard made for the house. Following Pieter, I charged my opponent as Pieters gun exploded alerting the others to our presence. The leader seeing me, pulled his pistol taking aim at my head. Closing my eyes, I awaited the inevitable detonation…“CLICK!” Opening one of my eyes to peak, I realized it had misfired. Ranald’s luck. We traded blows, parries, and dodges when I landed a solid hit to his arm. Glaring at me, I countered with one of my best smiles and winks, and dodged his furious counter strike. Landing another strike on his other arm, he roared in frustration. Okay, he’s definitely pissed. Launching a flurry of blows, I easily side stepped the first and managed to get my shield up to intercept the next. Combat continued with neither of us gaining an advantage. Pieter joined the attack on the leader just as two rapid swings finally broke through my defences ringing my bell, and bruising my ribs. Wincing in pain, I managed to stay on my feet. Guess my luck is starting to run out. Missing my next swing, I prepare to face his counter attack. Clearly I need a new good luck charm, mines defective. Time seemed to slow as I watched his blade arcing towards me, the edge glinting in the moonlight, revealing all the knicks and dents from its repeated use. He should really get it sharpened. I was sure my time had come, when his pistol suddenly discharged on his hip, causing him to twist his grip enough,so that I was now staring at the flat of his blade instead of the edge. A flash of light followed, then darkness.

The next thing I knew, I was being shaken awake. Hoping it was a pretty halfling lass, I was instead confronted with Eckhardt’s smiling face. Getting over my initial disappointment, I smiled weakly back. I guess we managed to win this one.

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Giant Problems...Really!

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Sergeant, Imperial Roadwardens

Sir,

After managing to return Stronomire’s Hammer and extricating ourselves from the abandoned Karak, we went back to the Cliffside Homestead to recuperate from our injuries. Dolwen in particular needed rest and Eckhart spent quite a bit of time putting him back together. We noticed that all of us had picked up tattoos, or in Dolwen’s case received a talisman, at some point on our trip and we can only assume that the Dwarven gods had rewarded us in some way for our efforts on their behalf.

We spent a few days hanging around the homestead while the aftershocks of the Karak’s fall rumbled throughout the region. One day, Erik, Belisarius, and one of the homesteaders decided to go hunting again. I remember hoping that they brought something back besides orcs this time. Erik had managed to fell a deer when Belisarius noticed a shaking of the ground that felt quite different from the aftershocks that we had been experiencing. They were short lived and had a cadence to them – impact tremors. They looked up and noticed a gigantic humanoid walking through the trees as if they were tall grass and heading in the general direction of the homestead. They tried to make as good of time as possible heading back to the homestead to warn us, but Erik was struggling with coordinating running for his life, looking behind him, and carrying a large deer. I was standing on the walls of the homestead and I saw him manage a truly epic face plant at about the same time I saw the giant.

As Erik struggled to his feet and gamely refused to relinquish his deer, I took a closer look at the oncoming giant. The first thing I noticed was that although he had a tree trunk hung from his belt, he was not carrying any weapons. The second thing was that he was well and truly feathered by crude arrows. Some of our group left the marginal safety of the walls to attempt a parley while the rest of us stayed on the ramparts. While he never did stop walking towards us, he did tell us that his name was Gothar and that he was being chased by ogres. He basically stepped over the wall of the palisade and sat down in the middle of the homestead to “hide”. This had questionable success as the top of his head could still be seen over the top the walls. I feel it necessary to point out that it’s a good thing that the gods grant all creatures the ability to breathe on their own, because if Gothar had to spend any time thinking about it he would have died as an infant.

Eckhart attempted to heal some of his wounds as we tried to converse with him in order to determine what he was running from. Concepts like numbers, distance, and time meant little to him, so it was hard to establish how long ago he had started to run and how far he had come. We did manage to determine that he was running from an ogre and noblar army and the approximate direction they were in. We also found out that there were Hobgoblin scouts mounted on wolves in the area, as these were what shot him full of arrows. The last thing he mentioned was that he had passed a fast dwarf in his flight and that it was probably that morning when he had done so. I winced when I heard that because the only “fast” dwarves I know of are the runebearers, and if one of them was coming down Blackfire Pass, he was probably carrying a message that we were duty-bound to help see to its destination. So, with a weary sigh of resignation, we prepared to go out and see if we could rescue the dwarf messenger.

Axel, on the other hand, was bouncing around and singing about going to see the ogres and how utterly awesome it was going to be to see a whole ARMY of them! I had to appreciate his enthusiasm, but his sense of what constitutes a fun trip leaves much to be desired. We headed out, back-trailing Gothar for a couple of hours. Axel paused us when he heard the sound of labored breathing up ahead. The more stealthy members of our part scouted ahead to see what was making the sounds. Axel totally ruined that when managed to drive his little toe into a sharp outcropping of rock. His sharp pitched squeal of agony reverberated through the forest, informing everything in ten leagues where we were.

Fortunately, it turned out that the heavy breather was the dwarf we were looking for. His name was Norgond and he came from the same Karak as our own Rorannina Orphanshield. Apparently, his fallen brothers, the Chaos Dwarves (doesn’t that sound just GRAND…) are coming down from the north and he was sent to warn the king of the invasion. Basically we were stuck between two armies – ogres and noblars on one side and chaos dwarves and hobgoblins on the other and we decided that it was past time to shake the dust of Black Fire Pass off of our boots and find safer locales. I had been thinking of ways to adjust Axel’s “awesome” meter a little, but the idea of being stuck between two ravaging hordes appears to have done the trick nicely. It was gratifying to see that he has at least some sense of self preservation.

We decided that it might be a good idea to use the Orb of Othello to see if we could take a peek at the chaos dwarves at least. Working with Norgond, we managed to get a viewing of the Karak and its exterior. We saw ranks of chaos dwarves and hobgoblins as well as various machines of war – all the trappings of an invasion army. With a new sense of urgency, we started to head towards Cliffside. It wasn’t long before I heard noises in the forest, quickly followed by glimpses of a type of goblinoid mounted on wolves that were as large as horses, slinking through and between the trees. I assumed that these were the hobgoblin wolf riders that Gothar had run into. I poked Axel in the shoulder and hissed, “Good Hobgoblin calling – awesome!” He grinned up at me and replied, “Yeah, I know. Great hey?” I rolled my eyes and we started to look for what passed for a defensible spot in an open forest.

We managed to find a cluster of trees that would at least prevent them from charging us and got stuck in as the scouts converged on our position. Both sides opened with missile fire to mostly little effect. I managed to make a lot noise and smoke though. Erik on the other hand hit one of the scouts with both his arrows. The first one stuck in its chest and must have served as the aiming point for the second, because THAT arrow blasted right through the creature and literally dragged its heart and lungs from its body. The arrow continued on and pinned them to a tree four feet above the ground – truly a great shot. Eckhart hit one of the scouts with a magic dart that did solid damage, but didn’t kill it. Then we were fully engaged in melee.

A wolf and rider charged at me and I made the decision to attack the wolf as I know from first-hand experience that falling from a dead mount can do all kinds of nasty things to the rider. My first swing clipped its foreleg and my return stroke cleaved into the back of its neck and drove it to the ground. The hobgoblin scout was catapulted off of the wolf and was driven head first into a tree with a resounding crunch and then it slid bonelessly to the ground. A truly epic kill and one I’m going to boast about for years if I live that long.

I watched Herod take a mighty swing with his halberd and literally blast a scout off of the back of his wolf. I saw its arm go pin wheeling away, spraying gore in all directions and glanced back just in time to see his return stroke hammer in between the wolf’s shoulder blades – knocking it to the ground but failing to kill it. The wolves ravaged amongst us, doing significant damage to our group but we continued whittling away at their numbers, killing a few more. Eckhart took a heavy hit, but remained on his feet while Axel landed a heavy blow that staggered his opponent. I watched in horror as the wolf fighting Herod darted its head in past his guard and grabbed him around the middle in its mighty jaws. The wolf picked him up from his feet and shook him like a terrier shaking a rat, throwing him down to the ground with a resounding thud. I thought he was a goner for sure, but I could still see him moving and gasping for air so I moved in to protect him while regained his feet. My first attack merely grazed the wolf, but my second attack took the top of its head off and deposited it in a heap at my feet.

Combat whirled around in a blur and we all took what opportunities we could to reduce the enemy’s numbers whenever possible. We could sense that their morale was starting to get fragile as they started to begin to withdraw. Alas, it was too late as I slew the remaining scout and Belisarius killed a pair of wolves, left then right, just like he was in the practice salle.

After the combat, we recovered out breath and bandage what we could before continuing on to Cliffside. Upon arrival, we told everyone what we had discovered and helped however we could to prepare the settlement for evacuation. Surprisingly, we managed to convince Gothar to come with us. It seems that he had fought for the Empire in his younger days and was willing to do so again to avenge himself on the forces that had driven him from his home. I hope he will be as powerful of an ally as he seems. We left as soon as we could and made camp at the crossroads where we had fought the brigands. On our way to the city, we warned everyone we met of the oncoming armies, advising them to seek the shelter of the city walls.

When we arrived at Grenzstadt, there was a tense moment when the guard saw Gothar but Axel and Adam threw themselves over his feet to “protect” him, crying piteously, “Don’t shoot him”. We made our way to the inn and had a small discussion with the Loremaster. He suggested that we get cleaned up and meet him, the king, and that idiot Theodosius for dinner in a couple of hours so that everyone could hear the tales of our adventure. We followed his advice and also took the opportunity to restock some of our supplies.

We went to dinner and had to endure more of what passed for wit from Theodosius while we waited for our chance to debrief the king. We noticed that amongst Theo’s regular bevy of serving wenches that there were a couple of men. Not putting anything past where his tastes may or may not lie, I didn’t give it a second thought. The Loremaster noticed Axel’s new tattoo and came across the room with an intent expression and inquired as to where he had gotten it. That led to our telling of the return of Stronomire’s Hammer and all that had befallen us since we had left. We were told that we had done a great service for the Dwarven people and the gods had truly blessed us. He explained that our tattoos were runes given by the gods as blessings to those individuals who had rendered singular service on their behalf. He told us what they did for each us and I must say that it’s hard to describe what it feels like to have been touched by the gods.

Norgond had been waiting impatiently for his chance to pass on his message to the king. The story poured out of him and Eckhart again used to Orb of Othello to show everyone what was happening. We took the opportunity to pass on what we had discovered about the other army in the pass and we all settled down to discuss what was going to be done about it. It was at this point that Herod noticed that Theo was really out of it, more so than normal, so he nudged Eckhart and pointed it out. Eckhart took one look at Theodosius and all of the blood drained out of his face. He turned to us and said, “Firewine – someone’s fed Theodosius firewine”. We all stood up, sending tables and chairs crashing in every direction. I bellowed at the top of lungs for everyone to get out. We brooked no objections as we hurriedly cleared the room, promising to explain later. We managed to get out of the house just in time to watch the expanding energy orb devour half of Theo’s house and all of Theo. On the way out, Axel had noticed that the male servants were nowhere to be found, so we called the watch captain and had him lock down the city and begin a door to door search.

The watch managed to corner the culprits, but they took their own lives rather than be captured. In the meantime, the king informed us that his forces would be available to help us clear the Delta. He would start in the north and work his way south while on his march to engage the chaos dwarves. Since we knew that the Kraemer twins were the only ones that had firewine in their possession, we figured it was time to go deal with them once and for all. We were also going collect what allies we could from the south and begin our campaign to liberate the Blue Reach Delta.

Again, I’ll file further reports as I can. I’m still not totally hopeful I’m going to survive all this but I collect my princely wage for doing something and it may as well be this.

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Party Crashers

The storm clouds dissipated with last of the spectral riders. The runes enchanting our weapons were already beginning to fade. With only a few hours till morning, we decided to get what little rest was still available to us before sunrise, at least it would be a little drier. The following morning after breakfast, we wove our way up the mountain path to the entrance of the dwarven ruins. Eckhardt cautioned us about watching for traps as we walked. Obviously, I’ll have to give him Pieter’s captaincy. The entrance resembled a massive dwarven head, its mouth opened wide as if to bellow or sing…or belch, probably belch. While admiring the craftsmanship of the carving, I heard the sound of snoring. I was fairly confident it wasn’t coming from the stone head, which would have been awesome, so Dolwen and Erik crept up to investigate the source of the noise. A pair of bored goblin sentries were snoozing on stone benches. Making sure they never woke up, Dolwen tossed the corpses down the mountain in case someone came looking for them. He could have saved himself the effort, I’m pretty sure the arterial spray covered walls would reveal their fate, even without the bodies. My keen hearing detected more noise from within the ruins, it sounds like a party…maybe we can join it. We entered the first room cautiously, finding several doors and no goblins. Searching the doors one by one, we found a pair of snotlings playing hide and seek behind the first. They probably should have hid from Pieter. The next door released a gaseous cloud, engulfing Pieter, Dolwen and Erik. It had little effect on Dolwen, however, the other two looked like they’d been drinking for hours. A lone snotling was also in the room sharing the effects. It probably should have stopped giggling long enough to hide from Dolwen. Through the third door, I detected laboured breathing. Opening it carefully, we discovered tied to a post, a sickly looking creature resembling a ball with teeth. While Pieter and Erik giggled and expressed their undying affection for each other, the others put the poor beast out of its misery, and I tried to figure out how you’d tie up a ball? The last two doors revealed a weapons room with a secret door leading to a murder hole over the entrance. This could be a good place to hide if needed. Continuing to the next room, we found some desecrated statues of dwarven deities, and many sarcophagi. Considering he had only recently learned to read, it was a bit of a surprise when Pieter discovered he could also read Khazalid, and located the resting place of Stronomire. Placing the hammer in the vacant depression, he appeared to have reached a state of complete serenity. It also seemed to have the additional benefit of sobering him up, which unfortunately, did not extend to Erik, who was threatening to relieve himself on one of the statues. We moved Erik quickly to the next room before he could anger the spirits of the fallen. Pieter hung back a moment and mumbled a quick prayer, before once again picking up the glowing hammer. I guess I get to keep his sword a while longer. I could hear chanting in the distance as we entered the next room. Here, we found and quickly freed two prisoners. Retreating back to the weapons room, we told them to hide behind the secret door until we returned…if we returned. The next room revealed a couple of guards who were quickly dispatched, and a roaring fire being tended by two snotlings who were even more quickly dispatched. We also found a large pile of dwarven skeletons in the corner, probably marking the location of Drummond’s last stand. Throwing open the last door, we prepared to crash the party.

The goblins definately seemed surprised to see us. The leader yelling something as he pointed excitedly. Not speaking goblin, I assume it was something along the lines of “Get em!” The fight went pretty much as expected. Pieter put the hammer to its intended use, Eckhardt let out an excited “Woot, woot” when he killed the shaman, and Erik demonstrated his extensive and creative use of vocabulary when he finally felled one of the brutes. As combat continued, I felt a low rumbling emanating from the next room….“Umm guys?” Over the next few minutes, the bodies continued to pile up, and the rumbling continued to escalate. A large tremor, accompanied by a loud crashing alerted me to the large creature bursting through the floor into the next room…"Seriously, GUYS!!" As the last goblin fell, a booming voice bellowed “WHO DISTURBS MY SLUMBER?” The beast was immense, with legs the size of tree trunks, the torso of an oversized ogre, and the body of a dragon. He was easily the largest, most powerful, and terrifying creature I had ever seen…..Awesome. “Sorry for waking you, the goblins were making a terrible racket.”, “We have taken care of the problem however, and they shouldn’t disturb you anymore.” “Please feel free to go back to sleep.” A massive face appeared in the doorway glaring at me. “YOU ARE ALL INSIGNIFICANT GNATS!!” “Yes sir, totally agree.”, “Hardly worth the effort to squish us, not to mention all the screaming….” The face withdrew from the door while Dolwen dragged a goblin from across the room. Perhaps the beast is considering letting us leave, maybe he isn’t such a bad guy after all. Tossing the corpse into the next room THOOOOMM!!! it was summarily and completly flattened by a monstrous foot….Nope, definitely bad guy.….Plan B then. A slow grin appeared on my face, this was going to be fun. Seeing an opening, I sprinted across the room and hoped my companions could use this momentary distraction to their advantage. Vaulting over, and sliding under the beasts massive tail, I ran a serpentine route under the behemoth. A foot slammed down nearby, narrowly missing Adam who had apparently decided to join the fun. The exit was now in sight so we sprinted the last few yards to safety. Turning back, I watched in awe as my companions attempted to follow our lead. It was like watching beetles scatter from an overturned stone. They were doing surprisingly well. Most of them anyway, Belisarius was staggering around like a drunken toddler. If it hadn’t been for Pieter giving him a few helpful and well timed shoves, Adam would no longer be the shortest member of our group. Eckhardt and Herod were the first to arrive making their way to the shrine room with Adam. The others seemed to be taking their time, perhaps they wanted to study the beasts underbelly?, I just hoped it didn’t suddenly decide to lie down. Dolwen was dragging a wounded Erik towards us, while Pieter once again kept Bel from a very painful spinal adjustment. Erik was launched into the wall next to us by the beasts mighty tail, the wall and roof raining debris down on him as he crawled to relative safety. Another mighty swipe slammed the wall narrowly missing Pieter and Dolwen as they ran past me, leaving Belisarius alone in the room with the Dragon ogre. The continued pounding had now opened a hole large enough for the behemoth to follow us, so we were forced to retreat to the shrine room…sorry Bel. Poor guy had finally made it to the next room only to find himself once again on the wrong side of the monster. Dolwen, Eckhardt and I fired several vollies at the beast to try and give him a fighting chance. Dolwen noticed and targeted a half healed wound, causing the beast to reel in agony. The distraction was enough to clear the way for Bel. Snapping in anger as he ran by, the raging behemoth pounded the walls of the shrine, threatening to bring the roof down on us. Pieter stared at the glowing hammer for several moments before returning it to its resting place, turning to us he stated “Time to go”. “Agreed.” Retrieving the prisoners from the hidey hole, we fled the mountain as it was rocked by a massive tremor. The mountain shook with diminishing aftershocks before everything finally went quiet. Staring at the entrance, the dwarven head still spewing clouds of dust, we confirmed that the beast was no longer pursuing us. Pieter looked to me and extended his open hand. I was speechless, I can‘t recall Pieter ever making such a genuine display of friendship and admiration to me. I was about to shake his hand when he impatiently wiggled his fingers and spoke a single word…”Sword?”

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Get Karak-ing

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Sergeant, Imperial Roadwardens

Sir,

Continuing from my last report where we had been ambushed in Blackfire Pass by a force of brigands with a thespian bent, we heard noises in the surrounding forest and given the drubbing we had just received, felt that discretion was definitely the better part of valor in this case. Belisarius remembered a small outpost not far from where we were and we all thought that it would be a fine place to recuperate and recover from our battle. We spent a couple of days there with the inhabitants and they filled us in on what had been happening in the area. The one thing we found very interesting was the fact that they had heard the sound of horns coming from the general direction of where we suspected the Dwarf stronghold to be.

Meanwhile, Erik and Dolwyn went out hunting with them to help supplement their meager food supplies. Unfortunately, they brought something home with them besides food, as they came across a party of orcs led by a particularily foul looking black one. Erik, who had managed to kill a mountain goat, was struck by an inspiration – perhaps if he dropped the goat, the bad orcs would leave us alone. Alas, that plan failed miserably and they barely made it back to the stockade in time to prevent being eaten themselves. So, we found ourselves in a situation where the orcs had blockaded the only exit from the vale where the outpost was located, leaving us no option but to go through them in order to continue our mission.

After some discussion, it was decided that we would advance down the valley and try to get the orcs to engage us. Then, we would withdraw back in to missile range of the outpost to allow the residents there to bring their bows to bear. For once, the plan actually worked and we managed to goad them into attacking us and follow while we withdrew. Some of the orcs had bows and showered us with arrows as we retreated, but aside from a graze on my right arm, we were unscathed by their efforts. We initially engaged with missile fire as well – Adam made a good shot at one of the orc archers, while I hit the black orc with two well-placed pistol shots and Eckhart hit him with one of his trusty magic darts. I don’t even think he paused a step as he continued to advance along with his fellow greenskins.

The orc archers returned fire, hitting Dolwen and myself while Adam hit his orc again with another solid shot, nearly tearing his arm off. Erik managed a nice shot of his own before the melee was joined. The initial blows were well in our favor as Dolwen, Axel, Erik, and Adam all scored hits on their opponents. Harod cleaved his orc right down the middle with a mighty blow from his halberd, nearly splitting him in two. Eckhart hit the black orc with another magic dart while my forehand/backhand combination missed badly. The battle continued with both Dolwen and Adam dropping archers and Harod getting a minor blow in his next opponent. I managed to score a hit on the black orc, but the beast managed to shrug off my blow. He on the other hand, managed to smash me on the arm with massive horse cleaver he was carrying. Bellisarius took a hit as well, but stayed in the fight. Adam hit the orc that was trying to kill Eckart while Harod kept carving his way through the orcs, much to my joy. You’d think it would be easy to hit something as big and ugly as the black orc was, but no. I kept missing him badly just about every time I took a swing at him. On the other hand, I did manage to block or avoid almost everything he threw at me, including two swings that I’m sure would have driven my head out of my ass had they connected.

Combat wore on with blows being traded back and forth and with us slowly chipping away at the orcs. I kept failing miserably to kill the orc leader while managing to keep my various bits and pieces away from its murderous blows. Finally, only the black orc was left. Adam let loose a mighty sling shot – right into Belisarius’ leg, causing a significant amount of damage and a truly epic yell of rage. Eckhart hit the orc with another magic dart that actually made him pause and we took heart in the fact that this mighty foe was at last near the end of his strength. We traded a few more blows until Eckhart hit him again and knocked him down where Bellisarius stepped in and killed him. Catching our breath, we hobbled up to the outpost to rest and seek what healing we could find.

After we had recovered from our battle, we moved out towards the abandoned dwarf Karak. We travelled without incident for two days and finally set up a camp in a small clearing within sight of a large cave that we assumed was the entrance to the Karak. As night fell, we huddled around our fire and watched a truly epic thunderstorm roll into our little vale. We knew that something was amiss when within the booming of the thunder, we could hear the drum of hoofbeats and the braying of hunting horns. We hurriedly applied the temporary runes that the Loremaster had generously gave us and waited nervously for the stormriders to appear.

As the phantom riders charged towards us, both Belasarius and Herod stepped up and delivered solid blows to their opponents that either seriously wounded or outright slew them. I had to admire their bravery, but I couldn’t help but think that if they’d seen as much as the rest of us had, they wouldn’t have been quite so fast to engage ghosts. I hit mine as well and got a struck in return, while the rest of us fared quite well against the vile creatures. We were successfully reducing their numbers when all of a sudden I was struck by my foe. The chill of the undead flowed through me and I was literally frozen with terror. I was certain that I had breathed my last as I saw my ghostly opponent contemptuously raise his blade to run me through. Fortunately, Adam managed to kill my spectral foe before he could complete his strike and finish me off.

As I shook off the effects of my paralysis, I noticed that Belasarius had managed to kill his spectre and had moved on to engage another. I moved up to help Erik, who had been struck by the same paralysis that had held me. Eckhart killed his spectre with a magic dart and the remaining ghost took stock of the situation and turned to flee. The dwarven hammer in my hand began to shake and vibrate with a life of its own and I was overcome with an overwhelming need to strike the hammer against the ground. I took a deep breath, grasped the hammer firmly, and dropping to one knee, drove the haft against the unyielding earth. There was a soundless concussion of energy as a bright sphere of light blasted outwards from the contact. We couldn’t hear anything, but we could certainly feel the force of the compression as the energy flew outwards. I looked up just in time to see the fleeing ghost and his mount get struck by the energy wave and literally fly apart into shreds of ectoplasm. I’m not at all certain what chain of events caused the hammer to act the way it did, but I sure hope we can duplicate it when the time comes.

We spent the rest of the evening trying to get what sleep we could in preparation of our ascent to the Karak in the morning. I have no idea what we’re going to find or what dangers we’re going to face, but I doubt we’re going to be bored. Damn, I’m starting to sound like Axel. I really need to get back to a nice, safe occupation like patrolling the roads for brigands and beastmen.

I will file additional reports as the opportunities present themselves and if I don’t die.

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Mithon to Blackfire Path

The Last Rest Inn was a much friendlier establishment than the last bar we were in. I actually received my meal this time, and Pieter never once had to draw his pistols, …okay once, but that was just to make sure they were still loaded. We continued to plan our mission to Blackfire Pass over a round of Bugman’s, while Adam licked the remains of his meat pie from his fingers. Obviously, I was going to need more lamp oil, having exhausted most of my supply igniting zombies. Pieter gave me a strange look when I mentioned this. I think he suspects that pyromania is some sort of racial trait of Halflings, probably because of my tendency to burn the bad guys belongings, and of course the occasional pyromaniacal Halfling. I was also gonna have to locate some lock picking tools. My recent attempts to learn the art has reached a temporary impasse. For now, I’ll just have to make do with Pieter’s Dwarven made door motivator. Our discussions were interrupted by an invitation from King Alrik. We have all been invited to accompany him to a dinner at Lord Theodosius’s mansion this evening. Now we can see for ourselves whether he’s capable of plotting against Alrik, or as the Captain put it, “A complete waste of skin.”

We were escorted into the mansion where we found the Dwarven king and his retinue talking amongst themselves. As we made our way over to them, I made note of the others in attendance. A stern-faced Bernjaeger was brooding in the corner, several extremely healthy serving girls were busily making sure that everyone’s glass remained full, and there was a drooling imbecile wearing a jesters costume…he must be our host. Making my way over to him, I was about to introduce myself when two well dressed men entered the room. Introducing himself as “Theodothiuth”, he welcomed us all to his home. We all made small talk, and spoke of some of our adventures, interrupted occasionally by the high pitched giggling of our host. Easily the most impressive thing about Theodosius was his inflated sense of self worth. His propensity for lisping was clearly not an unfortunate speech impediment, but rather something he’s deliberately developed for appearances. I suspect he believes it makes him sound noble. Just another example of his towering intellect. Some leaders (like Alrik) make men glad wherever they go, others, whenever they go. Our earlier suspicions seem to be unfounded. I doubt this idiot could spell assassination, let alone plan one. He couldn’t even pronounce the word, it would probably come out as “athathanathon”. Probably the bigger threat would be for one of the other guests to decide to do the world a favour and promote one of his successors. His companion in the gold trimmed robes was another matter. His advisor Gunther was clearly not an idiot. Based on his ability to put up with Theo without pummelling him, he must also have exceptional willpower. My guess is he’s a spell caster. Erik later informed us that he was also wearing a medallion for the cult of Handrick. This individual could be a legitimate threat, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to manipulate his master. Another bout of high pitched squeals convinced me to pursue the more intellectually stimulating conversation of the jester. Chatting while he juggled, he gave me a few pointers which I will be sure to put to good use in the future. Eventually we had all had enough of our hosts “hothpitality” and prepared to leave. Eckhardt was briefly pulled aside by the loremaster, and asked to meet him tomorrow morning. On route back to the inn, we ran into two familiar faces. Belisarius and Harod, having finished escorting the survivors from the tower, were now hoping to join us. I suspect they feel we can help them get the revenge they desire for the razing of Sigmaringen. I didn’t care, anybody capable of helping Pieter on the front line will be a welcome addition. Truthfully, I’m more effective as a moving target, than as a combatant. Accepting their offer, we retired to our inn.

The following morning, after breakfast of course, we went to see the loremaster. He once again told us of the first and last wielders of the hammer, but could not provide any insight as to which crypt the hammer should be returned to. We learned of the storm riders, a group of spectral warriors who are the cursed spirits of the human riders who betrayed and killed Stronomire, the first wielder of the hammer. He also warned that we may encounter the tortured spirits of the dwarves from the fallen city of Karag Dronar. Since normal weapons cannot defend against these spirits, the loremaster gave us some runes to enchant our weapons for a short while. With our two new companions, it was decided that Pieter and Eckhardt would donate their runes to the newcomers as they were already equipped to handle the restless dead. Thanking him for his generosity, we left to complete our preparations.

On the second day of our journey into the Blackfire, while getting to know our new comrades, we were interrupted by some crying in the distance. We decided to check it out, mainly to break up the monotony, and because it’s what we do. An overturned wagon lay at the side of the trail with a sobbing man crouched in the dirt beside it. Blubbering something about his poor unfortunate father being killed, I thought it odd that there was no sign of dear old dad’s corpse…(trap?) Eckhardt recognized the dialogue from a play he’d seen and called him on it…(yep..trap.) We were quickly surrounded by seven outlaws, and one scary looking dwarf. Their leader offered “This doesn’t have to end badly.” Looking at that others, I sighed “Yes it does.” and joined my comrades as we fired a volley at the leader. Quickly changing weapons, I prepared to meet the bandit charging me. After trading several ineffective blows with my opponent, my blade amazingly found its way into his unprotected eye socket. As his skull slid off my blade, I noticed Pieter being hard pressed by the leader. I fired a shot which rang off his helmet, Pieter took advantage of the momentary distraction, and severed his arm at the elbow. The leader looked to the ruins of his arm pumping his lifes blood on the ground and collapsed with a stunned look on his face. Pieter went to Adam’s aid, while I went to help Belisarius who was in full defensive mode with his opponent. I managed to connect with his opponents head causing him to focus his attention on both of us. This freed Belisarius to launch an attack of his own landing a slice across the outlaws forehead. Blood ran freely into his eyes, blinding him, so he was unable to defend against the overhand slash I launched at his unprotected shoulder. His arm was half severed, blood gushing from the wound as his corpse crumpled to the ground. Ranald’s luck is definitely favouring this Halfling, let’s hope it continues. Turning to the dwarf, I saw Harod doing his best to defend against the onslaught, the elf laying unconscious or dead at his feet. Rushing to his aid and bouncing a strike off the dwarfs armour, he bellowed “I’ll take on every last one of you!!!”, “You’re in luck.” I replied “You’re gonna have to!” At this point, the dwarf crushed Harod with a mighty blow, knocking him off of his feet and out of the fight…crap. Glancing around quickly, I noticed Adam, Dolwen, and now Harod down and out. Erik and Eckhardt were maintaining a barrage of arrows and spells from the perimeter, and Pieter and Bel were valiantly holding on. To make things worse, I was now facing this dwarven berserker alone…Double crap. The dwarf’s superior armour and martial skill versus my superior speed and agility. We squared off, and I hoped I could hold on long enough for my friends to finish off the rest of the outlaws. I’m actually starting to worry a little…Okay maybe more than a little, I may have peed myself just a bit when Harod fell. We traded several ineffective attacks, when the crack of a pistol detonated nearby to no effect. Cursing, as he joined the fray, Pieter swung and was parried by the dwarf. An arrow whistled by my ear, and I yelled “Aim higher!”, then I remembered I was fighting a dwarf, “Never mind!” I evaded a vicious swing from the dwarf and slipped on the blood soaked ground just as he quickly reversed his swing missing me by a hair. Regaining my footing, I countered with a blow which deflected harmlessly off his armour. Pieter found an opening and managed to draw blood. Eckhardt’s following spell blasted his hand, forcing him to drop his axe. Shrugging off his shield, he retrieved his axe with his left and refused to surrender. Fine with us, after he’d dropped two of my friends, we were not about to offer quarter. Launching an awkward swing with his offhand, the dwarf penetrated Pieter’s defences. Wounded be undaunted, Pieter battled on. Dodging another of my swings, the dwarf was unable to defend himself against Pieter’s mighty strike with the hammer. I clearly heard his spine snap as he fell helplessly to the ground. Pieter breathing heavily, walked over and calmly put the paralyzed dwarf out of his misery. Looking around I was relieved to see my fallen friends were all still breathing. Looks like Eckhardt has his work cut out for him. We moved away from the carnage and set up camp for the night, hoping that tomorrow would be slightly less exciting.

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Sometimes, dead is better...

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Sergeant, Imperial Roadwardens

Sir,

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for my promotion to the rank of sergeant. The extra coin will certainly be useful and I can use the extra rank to good effect in our ongoing trials and tribulations. I’m not totally certain that all of my reports are reaching you, but I’m going to proceed as if they were.

After fighting our way to the top of the necromancer’s tower for the second time, we finally managed to face the fiend himself. As expected, he had surrounded himself with vile undead minions – several wights and a zombie ogre of all things. I don’t pretend to know a single thing about the undead, but our intrepid fieldwarden explained the differences to me between bites of the pies he always seems to have secreted around his person. While there is a lot of person to cache pies around, I keep thinking he has to run out eventually.

When we got to the top of the steps, we saw the necromancer standing on a raised dais with his undead followers at the base. There were runes glowing on the floor with an eerie green light and an overall aura of dread, and the smell of decay. For some reason both Dolan and Erik pulled up short, grew very pale and began to shake. I assumed that they had been stricken by some kind of evil spell. The fiend spotted us and drew himself up as if to speak to us – Axel called it “Evil Monologue #1”, whatever that means. Not being particularly interested in what he had to say, Adam and I opened fire. The glowing runes must have affected my aim as my shot went wide. Adam got in a solid hit though, and I saw the necromancer stagger under the force of the sling stone’s impact, although he remained on his feet.

I saw his hands raise and he began to mutter something in a strange language when suddenly we were engulfed by these black tendrils of energy that sprang from his fingertips and wrapped around us like coiling vipers. It had the benefit of stopping the shaking of Dolan and Erik as they both became very still, but the rest of us managed to avoid the effects of the spell and fight on. The wights and the ogres moved up to engage us while the necromancer began preparations for another spell. One of the wights managed to strike a telling blow on Ekhart and the zombie ogre struck me with a glancing blow. Dolan managed to shed the effect of whatever malicious power had held him back and announced his presence by striking the ogre. Axel managed to evade the melee and get a shot in at the necromancer, but he was protected by some sort of invisible barrier and managed to shrug off most of the effects. Adam got another powerful shot in at the necromancer which we could all see made him truly hurt – poetry I tell you, pure poetry. While Erik remained held by the spell, my return strike at the ogre accomplished little.

The melee went back and forth until Adam tagged the necromancer AGAIN with a beautiful shot. I think that it was at this point that he realized his life was in danger, so he took cover behind his summoning table. It was not quick enough to save him as a magic dart flew from Eckhart’s hand and bored in between his shoulder blades. It was at this point that he pointed his finger at the helpless Erik and cast his next spell. To my horror, I watched the very life force drain from Erik and flow towards the necromancer, binding up his wounds and restoring his vitality. Combat continued in this was for a while with Adam and Eckhart pummeling him with missiles, mundane and magical while he kept drawing life from Erik to heal the damage. Poor Erik could take no more and finally collapsed on the floor. Now it was my turn to experience the fiend’s attention. As Dolan and I battled the ogre and the rest of my stalwart companions battled the wights and the zombies which had joined the battle, I felt my strength and energy sucked away to feed the monster on the altar. I don’t know what would have happened to me, but the mighty Adam finally placed a sling stone into the left eye socket of the necromancer, dropping him in a heap on his own summoning table.

The wights and zombies collapsed, no longer animated by the will of the necromancer. The ogre lasted a little longer before finally falling to our combined might, but not before landing a crushing blow on me that very nearly ended my rather promising roadwarden career. A thorough search of the necromancer’s lair yielded a few items of note.

First, we found a scrying item that used to be located in Southern Sun Keep and was used to keep an eye on the Sylvanian border. The fact that it was here leads us to believe the Iron Circle has no interest in keeping the evil powers that rule Sylvania out of Averland – a dire turn of events. Eckhart called it the Orb of Othello and used it to take a peek and what was happening at his home and to get a good look at our adversary, Redthorn. We also found the necromancer’s journal which detailed his search for a malicious power which he felt had drawn him to the Blue Reach Delta. He was using the orb to search for whatever it was and had only recently begun to make progress. I fear that we will be facing whatever he was looking for eventually and anything that could scare the necromancer has me, quite frankly, pissing my pants. The necromancer was also wearing an elvish cloak that Dolan recognized as coming from one the members of his warband – an interesting coincidence or something more? The death of the necromancer caused more questions than it answered, but I’m glad that we removed this blight on the face of the empire.

We decided it was time to move on to Blackfire Pass in our quest to return the brave dwarf’s hammer to its rightful owner. Before moving onwards though, we stopped by to see the hermit and spend a couple of days recovering from our ordeal. We informed him that the tower had been cleared, and he and Eckhart spent some time scouring the neighboring woods for herbs that Eckhart could use to make his ever helpful healing draughts. After saying our farewells, we moved out.

En route to Blackfire Pass, we met up with a Bernjaeger patrol headed by none other than Erik’s friend, Anton Deadeye. This was fortuitous, as it allowed us to pass on the information we had collected thus far to another branch of the Imperial military. We spent the evening camped with the patrol telling our tale. In the morning, Anton gave us letters of introduction to the captain of the guard and the noble lord who has stewardship over the town of Grenzstadt, at the base of Blackfire Pass. I had met the captain before, but only in passing as I made my way through the area on one of my regular patrols. After saying our farewells (again), we moved onward.

The journey progressed without incident and at last we approached the gates of the small city. The first thing I noticed was that it was considerably cleaner than the last time my patrols brought me through here. After presenting ourselves to the gate guards, we were given general directions to the city guard headquarters and the captain’s office. We made haste to the captain’s office and introduced ourselves and our purpose in the area. Again, we passed on our information regarding the situation in the Blue Reach Delta. He was unaware of exactly how bad it was, but assured us that the information would be passed along to the appropriate authorities. He also assured us that he would be able to supply us with additional troops when the time came to take the Delta back. He then proceeded to fill us in on the goings-on in the town.

He told us the nobleman that is ostensibly his superior was a libertine of truly epic proportions and that he had a very low opinion of both his intelligence and leadership ability. I think his exact words were, “He’s a total waste of skin and I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire”. At the mention of the word “fire”, Axel perked right up and started rubbing his hands. I don’t know if he was reminiscing or planning ahead, but I’m going to be keeping my on him anyways.

The other item of note was the reason for the spring cleaning. Apparently, the dwarf king of one the local Karak’s was coming to town for an unprecedented visit. We all looked at each other as nasty, suspicious thoughts began swirling in our heads. It didn’t take us long to reach the conclusion that if someone were to assassinate the king and make it look like humans did it, the dwarves at the very least, would withdraw their support for the guarding of Blackfire Pass. That would certainly tie up the troops that the captain would otherwise be willing to give us when we began to take back the Delta. We figured that since the king was on his way, it would be worth our while to try to intercept him and tell him of our suspicions and incidentally give him the hammer at the same time.

So, we headed out again. We didn’t bother to meet with the noble as we all trusted the captain’s opinion of him and really didn’t have the time to waste. The climb through Blackfire pass was uneventful – mostly. Some greenskins did come down and take a look at us, but thought better of it when they saw how we were armed and obviously prepared for trouble. We met up with the dwarves the next day at Sigmar’s shrine, the site of the Battle of Blackfire Pass. The king was kneeling at the shrine and paying his respects to the valor of the many men and dwarves that lost their lives in that desolate place. When he was finished, we were introduced to him by his personal guards. I must say I was impressed – there was no doubt that here was a king, regal and secure in his power. It was easy for us to bow and give him our respect.

He listened without speaking as we relayed our fears to him and the reasons for them. He didn’t even seem taken aback when we admitted that we didn’t have a shred of evidence to support our fears. He thanked us for our trouble and assured us that he was confident that his bodyguards could handle anything that was likely to happen now that they had been warned. He also invited us to travel with him on the way back to Grenzstadt. When we tried to present him with the hammer, he respectfully referred us to his Loremaster to determine who had owned the hammer and who we needed to give it to.

The Loremaster was a nice enough fellow. He told us that he couldn’t tell us much about the hammer right there and requested that we hold onto it until he got to Grenzstadt, so that he could do some research on its origins and maybe point us in the right direction. We joined up with the dwarven royal party and travelled back to Grenzstadt.

When we got to the town, it was decorated with banners and bunting as the Baron was trying to put on a good show for the king. We all thought it was rather tasteless, but the king seemed to take it all in stride. The Loremaster came up to us and directed us to an Inn he knew and requested that we wait for him there. He would be along the next day with information on the hammer. Not particularly enjoying the celebration anyways, we took his advice and headed to the inn.

We spent that evening and part of the next day just relaxing – enjoying good food, good drink, and good company. The Loremaster arrived towards nightfall, accompanied by his guards and apprentices. He proceeded to tell us that the hammer was in fact quite famous, and he was grateful for our attempt to return it to its rightful owners. The problem was that there was some confusion as to who the rightful owner was, but fortunately they were both dead. Unfortunately, they were both interred in a lost Karak, and he wanted us to replace the hammer in the tombs of one of these fallen heroes. One of his apprentices was bothered by this as he felt that the dwarves should keep the hammer for their own use, but he was overruled by the Loremaster. The Loremaster added that the dwarven people would be extremely grateful for our assistance in this matter. It’s been my observation that the gratitude of the dwarves is something you can take to the bank – literally. Naturally, we agreed to undertake this task, even though we have no idea where we are going or what we are going to do when we get there.

I’ll file my next report as soon as the opportunity presents itself and if I survive.

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Skeletons, and Zombies, and Wights, Oh my!

The sky was gradually getting brighter. Dawn would be here within the hour, and there was still no sign of the elf, Dolwen should have been back by now. Listening to the gentle lapping of the river, I was starting to worry. Even worse, I was getting bored, and a bored Halfling is a dangerous thing. Fortunately, my ears picked up some new sounds. First I could hear the laboured rowing of a small boat, the second was the sound of its hoofed pursuers. Sounds like Dolwen really kicked over the hornets nest, I better warn the others. We prepared ourselves for battle. The beastmen were coming into view just after I spotted Dolwen. Judging from the difficulty he was having steering, our foes were going to reach us first. Pieter prepared to meet the charge, while the rest of us took aim. I don’t really know their names, but some were definitely bigger and uglier than the others. I targeted one of the big ones and put all my strength behind my shot. Pieter followed my hit with one of his own, striking my target in a rather sensitive area. The beast howled and slumped, temporarily incapacitated. If he survives this, he’ll definitely be walking funny. The shaman stepped forward, and Pieter turned to face him. The beast bore the symbol of Khorne, which according to Eckhardt means he can’t cast spells. Unfortunately for Pieter, he’s adapted to that little disadvantage with his combat prowess, landing one blow on each leg in quick succession. A large shadow looming over me prevented me from observing further, as I found myself forced to evade one of his ugly and clumsy companions (did I mention ugly?). Dodging my opponents attack while looking for an opportunity to strike back, I was struck from behind just as an arrow sprouted from Ugly`s throat silencing him forever. I’ll have to remember to buy Erik an ale later. I turned to face the cowardly attacker behind me, and retaliated with a solid hit, forcing him back a step. Big and ugly number two moved in once again to try another feeble swing. Not so easy, now that I know he’s there. His companion however, was more successful. Fortunately, he was one of the smaller, better looking beastmen, his sneak attack deflecting harmlessly off my armour. I briefly wondered how our foes could view me, a simple Halfling, as threatening enough to require a third of their number to take me down. Dolwen later suggested, it may be because Halflings are more appetizing. I’m not convinced, especially since Adam is clearly the plump and juicy one. I suspect I need better P.R. Changing tactics in order to survive the onslaught, I switch to sword and shield. I hoped my allies were faring better, we needed to end this quickly. I could hear in the distance a group of mounted riders, and I seriously doubted they were coming to help us. Dodging Ugly, and parrying Peewee (yes I know he’s still bigger than me.), I waited for an opening to strike. Ugly took an arrow to the thigh, and dropped to the ground (That’s two ales I owe Eric). The beast was howling, and clutching his leg. Though not dead, he was definitely out of the fight. Glancing to my right, I witnessed Pieter take a crushing blow which knocked him out of his saddle. His fall was broken by the struggling beastman, who finally ceased struggling. Shakily getting to his feet, Pieter took at swing at Peewee, who, realizing he was now outnumbered, turned and fled. Letting them go, we quickly piled into the boat and pushed off. Pieter tried to stay with his horse, but battle fatigue was making that difficult. As he struggled to cling to the saddle, he almost lost his sword, which I quickly snagged before it could sink to the bottom. The second group arrived, led by a giant of a man in red armour. Locking eyes with me, he raised his fists, and bellowed “HALFLINGGG!!!”. I guess we’ve met before. He does look a little familiar. I wonder why he’s so angry? Maybe it was something I said. Not wanting to aggravate him further, I smiled and waved. I also added another gesture that I’d seen Erik use once or twice, which I assumed was good natured. This unfortunately seemed to infuriate him further, I’m going to have to ask Erik what that one meant. Floating down and away from the bank, I once again wondered why so many people are pissed at us Halflings? Maybe I’ll ask Big Red, the next time we meet. However, I think I’ll let him calm down first.

At the opposite bank, while Eckhardt tended to Pieter’s wounds, Dolwen and I discussed how best to hide the boat. We decided to sink the boat with stones and tied it up and marked the location so we could retrieve it later if needed. Putting as much distance between us and the river as we could to make pursuit difficult, my keen ears heard combat to the south. Investigating, we found Swearmonger and company being overrun by undead. We quickly provided cover fire to help their retreat towards us. I nailed a zombie with my staff sling who then shambled towards me. Wow, these things are ripe, I wonder how they managed to sneak up on Swearmonger and friends? We quickly dispatched the undead making sure they are now dead-dead by burning them. Moving away from Adam’s burning pile of bodies, we patched everyone up and discussed events with Swearmonger. While bandaging him up, Eckhardt asked him “What are you doing here?”. He’d apparently heard about the little bar incident in Schraumlieben, and came to try and offer assistance. He offered to watch for the return of Baroness Von Altram and give her a message about the need for soldiers in the delta region. Unfortunately, she is not due to return for another three months. I guess we’re pretty much on our own till then. In the meantime, he will try to find out what’s happening in the Southern Sun Keep. He has heard, to the relief of Eckhardt, that the prisoners have not yet been harmed. When told about the Widow Vogel’s farm, he offered to provide escort for her and her son to a safe location until the delta region is liberated. Pieter agreed and wrote a letter of introduction. The only other piece of advice he had was to seek aid from the Rangers to the South. We made camp for the night and after making sure the funeral pyre was no longer bellowing out smoke signals, we parted ways.

Heading South I noted that lately Pieter has become a little twitchy. Not enough for me to be concerned, but I think I’ll keep an eye on him. He probably just misses Adelle. My thoughts were once again interrupted by the sounds of combat. We found a lone dwarf desperately trying to fend off a group of skeletons and ghouls with his hammer. Judging from his many wounds, unless we dispatched the undead quickly, the dwarf did not have much longer in this world. Pieter urged his nervous steed into a charge. I briefly battled with a bout of the heebie jeebies, before joining the frey. Opting to go hand-to-claw (since we were once again outnumbered), I drew my sword and shield and charged a skeleton. I had so far managed to avoid being wounded, and realized that I never stopped to think about just how creepy it is to see a skeleton shamble about. I wondered, as the skeleton finally shattering under my blade, how the hell do they move without muscles anyway? Questions for another time. I’ll have to remember to ask Adam about this later. Turning to see how my companions were doing, I went to the aid of the obviously wounded Pieter. He’s been having a really bad week. We quickly dispatch the remaining undead, and see to the obviously doomed dwarf. As I predicted, he did not have long in this world. Choking on blood, and gasping for breath, he asked us to take his hammer to Karak Azgaraz. We agreed, then he shuddered, gasped and was silent. Adam and I buried the unfortunate dwarf while the wounded were taken care of (us little guys have to stick together). I think Karak Azgaraz is to the South, so it doesn’t really take us that far out of our way. Maybe we can convince the dwarves to join the fight. While we’re at it, maybe we can find out where these undead are coming from.

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On the Road Again

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Patrolman, Imperial Roadwardens

Re: On The Road Again

Sir,

I’ve become quite certain that my chances of retiring from the Roadwardens with anything approaching all of my bits and pieces, has become vanishingly remote. Take our current situation for example – After all of our troubles in what should have been a fairly mundane escort of a local merchant, we were all looking forward to getting back to the Delta and a certain amount of normalicy. Instead, when we arrived at Schramleben, we found that our home had been invaded and forcibly taken over by a mercenary group called the “Iron Circle”. If this had been merely a “might makes right” situation, it may have been tolerable. However, we were in possession of evidence that pointed to the fact that the Iron Circle was involved in the forces of Chaos by summoning demons at the very least.

As this weren’t enough, we soon discovered that the Iron Circle were looting and pillaging at will, and that significant numbers of halflings were being detained and hung for no other reason than the fact that they “were” halflings. Now, I understand that there are people in the empire who would not find this particularly distressing. However, these were good people whom I had known for years and loyal subjects of the Emperor. They certainly deserved more than the arbitrary treatment they received.

Shortly after our arrival in town, we were accosted by a group of these mercenaries and were told to disarm. Given the state of affairs we found, my mood was less than objective where these fools were concerned. In one my less diplomatic moments, I expressed my opinion of being disarmed by drawing my pistol and pointing at the leader of the group and demanding that he leave us alone. When he refused to do so, I shot him in the head. He must have thought I was bluffing. In any event, my actions touched off a fight and we were forced to flee the Village. Wilhelm Niederlitz told us to head for his ranch and that he was sorry, but he needed to disavow us and put some distance between us and him. We understood his decision as there was nothing to be gained by his being killed with the rest of us and his stature in the community my bear fruit in the future.

We saddled up and charged out of town. The gate guards attempted to stop us, but aside from a crossbow quarrel in the arm that almost ended Axel’s life, we escaped unscathed. We had been told that the village of Sigmaringen had been razed by beastmen after they refused to submit to the Iron Circle. We thought it would be a good place to pick up a boat and lose any pursuers we may have on our way to the Niederlitz ranch. We headed south along the river to search the ruins, and also to see if we could find evidence establishing a link between the Iron Circle and the beastmen. After spending a miserable night camped in a hollow in the hills, we continued onward and reached Sigmaringen at midday. The was a pillar of smoke rising from the village common as we topped the rise overlooking the village. The keen eyed Dolwen spotted a group of beastmen still in the village and him and Erik decided to do a recon and see what we were getting ourselves into.

When they returned they told us that they found at least one boat that was probably seaworthy and at least twenty beastment encamped in the ruins of the village. We spent some time discussing tactics and it was decided that we would ride up to the guard post at the village entrance, dressed as Iron Circle members in the uniforms we had managed to acquire. Our two halfling members would pose as prisoners to add veracity to the ruse. If it worked, it would certainly prove conclusively that the Iron Circle was working with the beastmen.

Obviously they were because our arrival at the gate was greeted with no more concern than mild curiosity. One of the gor guards went into the centre of the village to summon whatever passed for leadership in the warband. Everything was going according to plan until one of the guards appeared to notice that Dolwen was an elf. Fearing our cover was about to be blown, we fell on the remaining gors and hid their bodies to prevent accidental discovery. It was a good thing we did because shortly afterwards a larger group, ungors, gors, and a bestigor, approached us. As the new group approached, one of the gors sniffed and paused and then said something to the bestigor. The group became more alert, but proceeded towards us. When the gor paused a second time, we attacked.

Arrows and sling stones flew towards the beastmen while I held my attack until I could charge the bestigor, hitting him a solid blow on the arm. The rest of the group engaged the ungors and gors, while I kept the bestigor otherwise entertained by yelling taunts and making faces in hopes of keeping him out of arms reach of my comrades. He spent his time alternating between telling me how he would prepare me for consumption, and roaring at the top of his lungs for reinforcements. When the reinforcements came into sight shortly thereafter, I figured my time was just about up as Gustav, my noble steed, began to get just a little nervous about how close they were. I made the best pistol shot of my life, and put the ball up the right nostril of the bestigor, rocking him backwards. I then charged him and Gustav knocked him down and danced on his head on the way by. Once I pulled safely ahead of the reinforcement, I reigned in and put another bullet into the bestigor, finally finishing him off.

The appearance of another wave of reinforcements plus what looked like a shaman behind the first wave definitively tipped the balance of force in their favor, so we retreated and regrouped. We made camp for the night and the next morning headed for the Niederlitz ranch. We were greeted by Wilhelm’s butler who informed us that the Iron Circle had already been there looking for us. He then led us to a hidden cellar under the barn and the battered and terrified survivors of Sigmaringen. A hedgefolk woman and one of the survivors filled us in on the details of the fall of the village. The Iron Circle were present, but made no effort to protect the villagers from the rampaging warband – a harrowing indication of their intentions and loyalties.

It was decided that we needed to seek allies outside of the Delta, as the Iron Circle were too powerful to engage with purely local forces. As we needed to cross the river, Dolwen volunteered to sneak into Sigmaringen and see about stealing us a boat with the intention of meeting up with the rest of downstream. Apparently it got a little hairy (ha!) but he managed to get the job done. I’m penning this on the banks of the river as we prepare to cross over on our way to Blackfire Pass. I’ll post this as soon as possible and if you could see your way clear to make some inquiries on our behalf and on behalf of the entire Blue Reach Delta, I’d be eternally grateful.

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Diplomatic solutions

The rainwater continued to run down my neck and into uncomfortable places as we rode. The persistent rain had lasted for days, but I didn’t care, I was heading home, or at least the closest thing to it since I left the Moot. The month following the fun and games at the warehouse had passed without incident…or arson. We watched the doctor hang for his crimes…(he didn’t twitch nearly as much as I’d expected), we received the eternal gratitude of Von Altram’s…(we‘ll see), and we were rewarded by Castor Lietdorf with the “privilege” of being his honour guard for his trip to Streissen…(there was also some gold). Truthfully, the gold was the only reason I agreed to go, I’m not really comfortable being in the spot light. I can think of several people who would love to see my head on a pole, so it’s probably not a good idea to broadcast “Here I am guys…whatcha doin?” The rain was finally starting to let up as we entered the delta region. A familiar odour filled the air, and with a shudder, I remembered the unfortunate Halfling I immolated last month. As we rounded the bend in the road, we saw black smoke rising up ahead. Pieter looking worried, glanced my way “I didn’t do it! I swear.” Pieter took off down the road with the rest of us quickly following. We arrived to find the widow Vogel’s place surrounded by a bunch of black-cloaked men with wolves, yelling, howling, waving torches, and trying to burn down the widow’s home. Pieter demanded “What’s the meaning of this?” the leader turned to us “Move along, this is Iron Circle business!” At the mention of Iron Circle, I loaded my staff, while Pieter urged his horse into a charge. Pieter’s horse jumped the wall as my stone struck the leader, exploding his arm at the elbow. Not having anything further to say, his corpse collapsed. Pieter charged into the main group, slicing into one of them with his sword and then trampling him. I moved away from the group for partial cover. I’ve found it wise not to cluster when facing foes armed with crossbows. However, I overlooked the fact that wolves prefer to attack single targets. The snapping, snarling beast leaping over the wall quickly reminded me of this. The wolf was almost as big as my pony, but with bigger teeth. The first bite, fortunately, scraped harmlessly off my new armour. I tried my best to avoid the pointy end of the wolf, but the beast was almost as fast I was. An arrow flew past my ear from the direction of my comrades “Hey!!” I yelled, “Aim higher!!” I managed a few more slices with my dagger, but the wolf kept coming. I was just starting to tire, when an arrow suddenly sprouted from the beasts chest, dropping it. “Bad dog.” Pieter and Eric managed to subdue the last survivor for interrogation, while Eckhardt tended to everyone’s wounds.

The interrogation revealed little except that the merc twitched a little more than the doctor had. The widow Vogel, however, revealed much, filling us in on the events of the last few months. The Iron Circle mercenaries (the guys with the torches) took over the delta shortly after we left for Pfunzig. Their leader “Red Thorn” with a couple of hundred men, and non-humans, attacked and captured the keep, taking Eckhardt’s father prisoner. We are going to need some allies before attempting to free him. Also during our absence, a chaos war band attempted to attack the hedge folk, and were repelled. In retaliation, the town of Sigmaringen was attacked and razed. The Iron Circle, (surprise, surprise), stood by and did nothing during these attacks. A force of undead has also been destroying southern farms. Whether the undead, and chaos war band are working with the Iron Circle, remains to be proven, however, given that it was Iron Circle members who summoned Mr. Demon in Pfunzig, I wouldn’t be surprised. We decided to head to Schraumlieben the next day to seek allies.

On route to Schraumlieben, we encountered a blockade of Iron Circle troops. Wilhelm decided to try something new to us…something called diplomacy, and calmly talked our way through the checkpoint without resorting to violence…I wonder how often we‘ll actually use this approach in the future. In town, Wilhelm led us to an old friend of his, one of the village elders. Gerard was happy to see Wilhelm, but was also extremely careful in choosing his words. Probably because of the two men in the kitchen who were, clumsily, trying to keep out of sight. Gerard mentioned how the mercenaries took over the region, and that things have been “stable” since. Looking at me and Adam, he warned that we should stay out of trouble. It was also suggested that if we were going to be staying in town, we would probably be wanting to “stable” our horses. I asked where, and he said to talk to Gremath, the owner of “Gremath’s Stables”. I haven’t yet mastered the art of subtlety, but I think he wants us to go to the stables. At the stables, Gremath was more forthcoming. There are pockets of resistance in town, but nothing organized, and nothing capable of retaking the town. No one knows why the mercs are here, since there is no money or goods currently stockpiled in the delta. They obviously have an agenda, but nobody knows what it is. Also, halflings are apparently not well liked by the current regime. It seems we have been branded rebels and thieves…go figure. Many of my kin have been rounded up and hung on trumped up charges, the rest are in hiding. “Do the mercs have a bar that they frequent?” I ask. Pieter added “Is it flammable?” throwing him a grin and a wink, I start thinking of ways to get the local small folk out of town. As we were about to leave, we were also warned against openly carrying weapons in town. This was of course ignored, and we made our way to the “Mallard Inn”.

The Inn was busy, but we managed to get a table and ordered some food and drinks. Many of the patrons were wearing the garb of the “Iron Circle” and since they outnumbered us, didn’t take long to work up the courage to hassle us about our weapons. Pieter, still prickly over the incident at the widow’s farm, started a verbal jousting match with one of the sergeants. Things were getting pretty heated when, Pieter in one of his more diplomatic moments, drew his gun on the mouthpiece warning “You are about two seconds from the biggest mistake of you life.” Fumbling in my sling bag, and looking for a good firing position, I silently counted…One…The mercs companions stood, here we go again…Two…The sergeant started to say something more, but was interrupted by the pistol errupting in his face…KABOOOMM!!! Ears ringing, I jumped up on the table and fired a couple of shots as the mercs attacked and the locals took cover. The unsure footing of the table was obviously affecting my aim, so I dove off the table, and tumbled to the corner to snap off a shot, connecting with one of the sergeants. From the corner of my eye, I noticed two more mercs crashing the party through the front door. They must have been some of the racist troops I’d heard about, the ones with the irrational dislike of Halflings. They both targeted and took a shot at me missing wide…Adam must have been hiding under a table. Ignoring them since they didn’t seem to be well trained with their bows, I concentrated my fire on the bigger threat. The sergeant finally fell to a well placed shot, and I turned to the two party crashers. My companions and I quickly dispatched the remaining mercenaries, and took a look at the damages…What a dump, the owner should really tidy things up a bit. Looks like we won’t be staying here tonight, and I havn’t even received my dinner…I wonder if I can get it to go?, “Lets get out of here before the reinforcements arrive.” Pieter paid the bartender for the damages, and we quickly made our way to the stables. “Go Seabiscuit!”

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