Averland Adventures: The Blue Reach Delta

Disturbing Behaviours

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens
From: Axel Phineous Tallfoot, General-ly awesome halfling
Re: The Rookery

Sir,

How’s my favorite Roadwarden? Still awesome? It’s been awhile since I last wrote, mainly because Pieter has mastered how to do it for himself. This is Axel by the way. Hope you haven’t stumbled into anymore ambushes since we last met. I read Pieter’s last report, and although very thorough, I felt it was missing an ending. Now I hate unfinished stories so I thought I’d fill you in on the events at the Rookery since Pieter and the others are currently busy being tended by the Shalyan Priestesses, leaving me alone with my thoughts…I know, I know, what were they thinking? You no doubt want to hear more about the Priestesses, but I’ll get to that later.

As I recall, Pieter mentioned our findings in the basement of the Rookery. Needless to say, it was a virtual orgy of evidence on the activities and possible members of the different cults currently active in Nuln. Judging from the footsteps above, we were about to have company, so Pieter knowing the evidence was too important to risk losing, joined Adam and I in gathering it off of the walls. While the others prepared to welcome our unwelcome guests, Pieter grabbed notes on the Crimson Circle since I’d had more than my fill of the followers of Khorne. Adam concentrated on the Skaven and Cult of Tzeentch separately, leaving me to the wall dedicated to the Cult of Ecstasy and its Slaaneshi followers, who I must add are very disturbed individuals.

The first wave of the assault was easily pinned down and annihilated by the combined efforts of Dolwen, Erik, and Eckhardt. The second group, however, demanded to be taken more seriously, advancing accompanied by two daemonettes and a large doglike creature with a barbed tongue, flailed tail, and four breasts on its back. Not really sure what purpose they served…aesthetics maybe?…like I said before, disturbed individuals. Hefting his halberd, Herod waded in and joined the fray supported by our archers. The dogbeast tweaked something I’d just read amongst the collected evidence. I think the Slaaneshi called it…what was it…a demented doggie?..nope, that’s not it…a pound hound??…still not it. I can’t quite remember at the moment , but I’m sure it’ll come to me. Regardless of its name, it decided to acquaint itself with Erik…you remember him…the moody archer with the colourful vocabulary? Advancing on him as he switched to sword and shield, its barbed tongue snaked out in search of its new plaything. Reluctantly, I turned away from the impending awesomeness and returned to the wall and the task at hand. The sounds of combat surrounded us as we ensured the evidence was safe from destruction. Erik shouted out “Get this F@#%ing thing off of me!” He must of meant the…mammary mongrel?…nope, that’s not it either.…I wonder if he meant literally? Resisting the urge to check, I completed my task just as Dolwen warned “They’ve got reinforcements!” Turning to aide our comrades, my blood froze momentarily at the scene before me. Judging from the smell, so did Adams. Erik was almost indistinguishable as the…PLEASURE PUPPY!!…I new I’d remember…as the pleasure puppy’s barbed tongue wrapped several times around the struggling Erik, dragging him towards it, in what I assume was an attempt to rob him of his virginity. Pieter, keeping his cool, drew his pistols and fired managing to hit what little of Erik was still visible. Given the size of the target, it was a rather impressive shot…I probably shouldn’t have told you that…I won’t tell Pieter if you don’t. Fortunately, Erik’s following commentary was muffled through gritted teeth as the beast’s tongue seemed to be trying to force its way down his throat. A yellowish ray struck Eckhardt from nearby, identifying the presence of the enemy mage. Snapping out of my momentary shock, I quickly loaded and fired on the puppy who seemed determined to have his way with Erik. Herod faced the remaining daemonette, stepping over the twitching form of her sister, while Pieter found himself facing off against a rather large and well armoured cultist. Erik, unfortunately, was still unsuccessfully attempting to break free. Grabbing my sword, I charged the dogbeast to help my trapped ally. Narrowly dodging another twelve foot tongue as it flew from the enemy sorcerer seeking Eckhardt, I swung at the hounds flank. Erik used the momentary distraction to again try and struggle free, but ended up presenting himself instead, which I thought was an unfortunate choice. Erik had apparently come to the same conclusion and once again yelled “Get this F@#%ING THING OFFA ME!!!” Okay, this time he meant literally. Slashing the beasts tongue, it finally relaxed it’s grip on Erik enough to allow him to break free. Getting to his feet, Erik prepared to enact bloody vengeance on the pleasure puppy. Glancing to my comrades, Pieter was having the most difficulty with his oversized opponent and clearly needed help before the cultist gained the upper hand. Leaving Erik alone with his special friend, I moved to lend Pieter a hand. If nothing else, perhaps I can annoy his opponent enough to draw some of the attacks my way. En route, I saw Dolwen moving to help Eckhardt who was wrestling with his own twelve foot appendage which had wrapped itself around his neck and head. Bleeding from several wounds and bravely holding his ground, Pieter deflected several incoming blows as I arrived to help. Bouncing a couple of ineffective blows off of his armour, the cultist glared at me, snorting in disdain which I thought was extremely rude. While circling our opponent, I could see Herod slay the remaining Daemonette and move to help Erik who had once again found himself ensnared by the pleasure puppy.

The chaos continued with neither side gaining a decisive advantage. The large cultist before me continued to act like I wasn’t even there, to the point where he didn’t even attempt to avoid my attacks. Instead he focused his attention entirely on Pieter, a decision he would soon regret. Seizing the opportunity when it presented itself, I drove my blade through a gap between the shoulder and breast plates, slashing him just shy of being fatal. Staggered by the unanticipated severity of my strike, he finally perceived me as a threat and turned on me just as Herod felled the pleasure puppy. Erik struggled to his feet and proceeded to make sure the dogbeast was dead. Herod quickly made his way towards us, probably to avoid the spray of blood and gore which was sure to follow. Defending against the blind fury of the cultists attack, I dodged and parried giving both Pieter and Herod time to manoeuvre to his flanks. He finally managed to sneak one minor hit past my defenses just before the combined attack of Herod and Pieter finished him off. The lone surviving cultist then turned to flee, getting an arrow in the back from Dolwen as a parting gift. Erik staggered over to us awkwardly, trying to simultaneously brush the blood and drool off himself with one hand while tugging his drawers out of his crack with the other. In no condition to join the others in pursuit of the last cultist, Erik stayed with Adam and I to search the attackers and surroundings for anything we may have missed before they attacked. Adam located a secret door to the sewers, although to be fair, I think the stench helped a little. Finding nothing else of value other than the presence of chalk under the finger nails of a cultist of Khorne, we awaited the return of our companions.

The others returned a short while later dumping the body of the cultist with the others before informing us that he died…….sigh, Really?…never mind. They admitted that they didn’t actually kill him…they intended to of course, but couldn’t actually take credit for it. Erik seemed disappointed. They tracked him to an alley, a feat made easier by the trail of blood from Dolwen’s parting gift. As they approached, he mumbled something and just died. With nothing else to gain by lingering here, we gathered our gear and returned to the palace to report our findings.

The Countess ordered the Rookery locked down and as I mentioned before summoned the Shalyan Priestesses to tend to the wounded. The pending plots of the Cult of Ecstasy were disrupted and the cultists who weren’t dead, fled to keep it that way. She suggested reporting the events and evidence to the watch…no thanks, tried that once before…didn’t like it. It looks like the others are almost done so I better wrap this up. The others are actually considering going to the watch despite my reservations. I think I’ll pass, the last time I went to the watch here, I ended up known as “Axel the Slayer”….long story. Maybe Pieter will tell you about it someday. Anyway, take care of yourself, and stay away from ambushes. If something permanent were to happen to his mentor, Pieter’s likely to need to shoot something and I’d prefer it wasn’t one of us by mistake…so does Erik. Please give my regards to Wilhelm if your paths cross.

May Ranald’s luck shine on you.

Axel

View
High Society

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad

Bernholt,

I figured I’d fill you in from where the last letter left off with us beginning to wade through the introductions to the pompous asses that form the core of the nobility here in Nuln. I faintly heard the Countess introduce us to some lord, but then I clearly heard Axel say “Aww, crap”. Since this is the response most people seem to have when the meet Axel, I was immediately on guard. I looked at Axel and he seemed extremely uncomfortable being near Lord Rothjager who, oddly enough, seemed very pleased to see Axel. I just knew there had to be quite the tale to this reversal of normal events and I awaited the explanation with a great deal of dread.

We made some awkward small talk and exchanged meaningless pleasantries while we waited for dinner to be served. The meal was incredibly extravagant and Adam was gazing around with an expression of sheer bliss. As everyone was taking their seats, a group of the countess’ guard approached her and began to give a report. We casually sidled over to overhear what was being said. Apparently they had found four more bodies and a burnt building. I glared at Axel but he shook his head vigorously. I guess there’s a limit to how much pyro-maniacal mayhem one halfling can cause. In any event, the countess dismissed the men after scheduling a meeting with the watch captain for the next morning.

During the feast, Axel filled us in on exactly who Lord Rothjager was as well as the myriad other rumors he had picked up about the underworld gang war, missing bodies, and increased activity in the tunnels beneath the city. It was just as the dessert carts were being rolled out that Dolwen and Ekhart both noticed that the servants were different than those that had served all the previous courses. It was a good thing that they didn’t use their inside voices, because no sooner were the words out of their mouths than chaos erupted. The servers drew weapons from underneath the carts and leapt towards the high table. Some of the guards stationed around the room pulled their own weapons and attacked some of the guards nearest to them.

As Dolwen leapt in the direction of the servers, my hands flashed down to my weapons to find…nothing! Did I mention that bringing anything other than a dagger is frowned on in Nuln high society? Likewise with armor. I’ve rarely felt as naked as I did at that particular moment. Dolwen was keeping his adversary occupied and Axel managed to wound his with an upwards stroke of his dagger. Adam was hurling plates to great effect and I jumped over to one of the fallen guards and grabbed up his weapon. It’s amazing how 36” of sharp steel in your fist can improve your outlook at times like that.

I turned back to face the fray just in time to see Dolwen’s foe hit him with some sort of spell. Spellcasters…wonderful. As I engaged the foe closest to me, I saw Axel take a glancing blow for a blade that made him yelp and then curse imaginatively at his enemy while Ekhart brought his magic to the party by blasting magical missiles at the group approaching the head table. My own concerns were more immediate however, as combat waged back and forth with both Adam and I scoring solid hits on our opponents.

Ekhart and the enemy spellcaster were engaged in an arcane duel, flinging magical darts at each other that were impacting with great force. They were both beginning to look a little worn down. Herod managed to drop my foe, so I turned in the general direction of the melee to seek another opponent. I noticed that the group heading towards the noble’s table had again begun to make progress now that Ekhart was no longer flaying them with his magic missiles. Taking a firmer grip on my appropriated weapon, I charged towards the head table and engaged the two guards trying to kill the nobility of Nuln. This turned out to be a less than optimal decision as they both turned towards me and began testing my defenses. Fortunately, Dolwen rushed to my aid before I could be spitted like coney. Just out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of light as one of Ekhart’s missiles bore into the enemy magister. The impact in the middle of his forehead snapped his neck with a sodden crunch and blew the top of his head into gruesome paste.

My opponent was obviously no common thug as we traded blows back and forth. All around me I could hear the clash of steel and cries of anger or anguish. I got hit a couple of times pretty good. Blows that would have been turned by armor marked my hide and I knew I’d have a whole new collection of scars to show Adelle – I’m sure she would have no comments for me, demure and soft-spoken as she is…

In any event, we traded a couple of more blows and then a powerful strike broke past my guard and slammed into my shoulder. I remember the floor hitting me in the face and wondering what wizardry had caused THAT to happen. It did however give me a good view of the rest of the combat.

I watched Erik trading blows with his opponent. They both seemed to be working hard, but there didn’t seem too much happening as they were both either evenly matched, or really sloppy. For the sake of friendship I have to go with the former, but knowing Erik, I couldn’t rule out the latter. More combat ensued with our group dishing out minor damage and eventually whittling them down. Ekhart kept up a constant barrage of magical darts and missiles and did more than anyone else to reduce the enemy numbers. Although in all fairness, Adam did a surprising amount of damage with cutlery and crockery.

We managed to keep one of the attackers alive and performed a thorough search of the attacker’s bodies. It seemed a little surreal to be looting and poking and prodding amidst the shattered remains of an opulent dinner, but compared to some of the other things we’d seen and done over the previous few months it was minor. Adam was most distraught when he discovered that the majority of the desserts had been spoiled by arcane energies being bandied about. He managed to find something edible though, and glared at Ekhart while mumbling into his pastry.

We had the bodies stretched out on the floor and were examining them when some of the guests approached and pointed out different people that they recognized. One of the servers was recognized as Stephan, a page at the courts of law. Another was identified as Hans, a third year student at the imperial gunnery school. Yet another was name Otto, and worked as a baker. The individual who led the attack, and incidentally hit me in the face with the floor, was named Albrecht and had worked in the palace as a helper for over a year. A couple of the bodies were marked with tattoos – there was one with a purple hand tattooed on his right pectoral muscle and another had a red ring on his scalp, right at the hair line. Ekhart noticed that there was a chalky residue in a circle in the dining room. He though it might be components of a ritual and wasn’t THAT a happy thought.

Emmanuelle thanked us and asked us to hunt down the Purple Hand and bring peace to her city with the understanding that our efforts would go a long way towards securing the support of the city of Nuln for Matthias. We retired to our rooms to lick our wounds, and prepared to begin our investigations the next day. Thanks to the helpful diners, we had no shortage of leads to follow up on – for once.

The next morning, we struck out for the bakery on Axel and Adam’s insistence. “After all”, they said, “where is there a better place to investigate first thing in the morning?” Unable to refute their logic, off we went. A thorough search of the bakery and interviews of the staff led to absolutely nothing. Otto was a quiet, hard-working kid that nobody knew particularly well. Pastries in hand, we then went to the Imperial Gunnery School. We met the Dean of the school and he expressed his shock about what happened. Apparently, Hans was a quiet, hard-working kid that nobody knew particularly well. My keen intellect was beginning to detect a pattern. We requested to see his room, which we promptly tore apart looking for evidence. We found a vague note that seemed to be the trigger for the attack on the palace and Axel found a notebook with some drawings in it. The Dean told us that they were plans for a bomb small enough to fit into suitcase, yet with significant explosive power. Another happy thought to brew on as we headed to the law courts.

There we met with the judicar that Stephan had paged for. Apparently he was very detail oriented and hard-working…go figure. A search of his workplace yielded nothing incriminating so we proceeded to his apartment. Right away we could see that Stephan had obviously been planning something – there were notes and sketches pinned to the wall. The notes had details on some of the more prominent citizens of Nuln and were annotated with “x”, “Venyk”, “Slaanesh”, or “Horned Rat”. This was just getting better and better, being as we all recognized the name Venyk and were only too well aware what Slaanesh and Horned Rat indicated. Chaos cults seemed to be thick on the ground in Nuln these days…

Moving on the palace, we went to investigate Albrecht. We were given an escort through the palace to Albrecht’s rooms. Another toss job yielded nothing, although there were several pictures of ravens on the walls. Our escort told us that there was a rookery here in Nuln that housed ravens. Thinking that this was as good of a place as any to continue our investigations, we headed into the core of the city.

When we got to the rookery, the first thing that we noted was that there was no one around. We all looked at each other and began to check weapons, tighten straps, prepare spells, and generally get ready for the worst as those things seem to happen to us with alarming regularity. We cautiously entered the rookery and began to poke around. In one of the cages we found a body. An examination of the course revealed that it was still warm and that there was a tattoo of the Purple Hand on his chest. It seemed like we were on the right track.

We continued our search by moving into the office space and giving it thorough going-over. We turned up a trap door leading downwards below the rookery. We also found a rolled up message asking about knowledge of “the blood of the binder”, whatever the hell THAT was. Something dark and nasty no doubt. We pulled up the trap door and began our descent into the blackness below.

What we discovered was a quite comfortable set of rooms, well concealed and obviously used as a safe house of some kind. In one of the larger offices we found evidence of a larger investigation similar to the one we found in Stephan’s apartment. We noticed that some of the information had been tampered with, but there was still volumes of information on Slaanesh, Khorne, and the Skaven – possible members of the cults, goals, motivations, etc. A true treasure trove of intelligence, and one that we had absolutely no idea what to do with.

It was at that moment that Ekhart noticed the same powdery residue around the perimeter of the room we were in as he had noticed at the attack on the palace. A few seconds after that, we began to hear footsteps above us. I doubted that whoever was up there was here to send a raven-gram somewhere, so we prepared for battle.

I’ll fill you in on what happened next in my next letter. I have no idea how many of these actually get to you, but it does me good to recap these events if for no other reason than to improve my grammar and penmanship!

Verena guide and protect you.

View
Dark Reunions

The streets below were deserted. The late night air crisp, the chill gradually seeping into my bones. Perched motionless like a gargoyle on the adjacent building, I slowed my breathing to avoid giving away my position as the moon appeared from behind a cloud in an otherwise clear sky. Retreating deeper into the shadows, I watched the mansion of my former employer, just as I’d done the three nights previous. Judging from the people sneaking about under cover of darkness, he was still up to his evil machinations. My former master had a lot to answer for. In addition to his cult activities, he was also responsible for the murders of my halfling brethren at the hands of the psychopath Helmet. If I’d known then what he was, I could have prevented the deaths of dozens of my kinfolk. Haunted by the guilt, my thoughts once again drifted to that night six years earlier…

The rain was still falling when I left the tavern. I needed some time to plan my next actions. I obviously couldn’t continue working for my master, it was only a matter of time before he learned that I had naively tried to turn him in. Unfortunately, no one would take the word of a halfling servant over that of a noble. I continued to ponder this as I walked. The streets quickly becoming deserted as people headed for the safety of home. I adjusted the hood of my cloak and continued my sojourn. They were still there of course, keeping to the shadows. The two had been following me ever since I left the watch, and they were starting to close in. I turned down an alley to see if I could throw off pursuit. Dead end…Ranalds luck, hope it didn’t end up being mine. Quickly turning, I found the alley now blocked by my foes. Attempting a feint, I slipped by the smaller man only to be answered by a heavy blow to the ribs. Off balance and winded, I was hoisted up into a choke hold. Advancing as I struggled, the little man threatened “So you like poking your nose into others business. Maybe we should cut it off.” drawing a sinister looking blade. “I rather like my nose where it is thank-you.” I grunted, “But I have something in my pants that might make a better prize.” , “Just try not to be jealous.” He brought the blade up to my face, the moonlight reflecting along its edge, revealing a viscous substance on the lower half of the blade, the other end having already been cleaned by its previous victim. The little man traced the tip along my nose smiling evilly “Maybe we should start with your tongue.” stabbing the point into my cheek. A commotion from the end of the alley temporarily distracted my opponents. My focus, however, remained on the dagger. As he looked away, the tip dug deeper. Wincing from the pain, I decided it was time to act. As my assailant turned back to face me, my foot was already angling upwards. My boot connecting with a satisfying crunch, shattering his nose, driving bone into his skull. I watched as his arm fell, the dagger slashing me to the bone and dropping from his lifeless fingers. Surprised by this sudden assault, my now lone assailant slightly loosened his grip around my neck as his former partner collapsed. Dropping my chin, I bit into his forearm, tearing flesh. His blood flooded into my mouth, mixing with mine. Crying in pain, he released me and grabbed for his sword. Tumbling clear, I retrieved the dagger, narrowly evading his downward thrust. Rolling back to my feet while crouching low, I parried and dodged his initial onslaught while looking for an opening. I needed to end this quickly. He was bigger than me, and stronger, but I was quicker and the darkness favoured me. “You’ll pay for that halfling” he hissed, circling. Spitting out flesh and blood “Pfaagh…you’re probably right, that taste will be tough to get rid of.” forcing a bloody grin that would make Moor himself proud, I added “Do you have anything to wash it down?”. Enraged, he charged. Easily sliding around his clumsy attack, I dove forward, thrusting the dagger up into his tender regions with what remained of my strength. He stiffened with a look of shock, and fell with the dagger buried to the hilt. The poison must have been some kind of paralytic…Ranalds luck. Leaving my opponent to bleed to death, a decision I would probably regret later, I headed back to the street and hoped I could find a healer before passing out from pain and blood loss.

…A noise from the alley returned me to the present. Absently tracing a finger along the scar running across my face, I refocused on my target below. One day soon, I intended to make him pay for his crimes. Now was not the time however. My skills needed to be honed further before the inevitable confrontation. For now, I’ll let him continue to sleep soundly believing himself safe from prosecution. When I next return, however, I plan to bring his world burning down around his ears. Maybe literally. Grinning to myself at the mental image of Pieter groaning to the heavens in resignation before shaking his head and muttering to himself “Not again.”, I silently dropped down to the alley below and proceeded unseen towards my inn. I wonder how the wedding went anyway. It’d been a little over two weeks since I’d left. The others should be bored enough to pursue Red Thorns superiors by now. I should probably think about returning to the Delta. Besides, people takes things way to seriously when I’m not around. One thing I’d learned in my time away, was that I was actually starting to miss everyone’s personality quirks…well maybe not Adams.

My return to the delta went without incident. I’d managed to keep a low profile while in Nuln, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that people were watching me. Probably just my imagination. Hope I’m not getting paranoid, one obsessive halfling in the group is more than enough. Once reunited with my crew, I was told of the events of the wedding. I wish someone had informed me that they’d arranged special entertainment, I’d assumed it was going to be another typically boring wedding. A demon and a beheading!!…I can’t believe I missed all the fun. Eventually I informed them of my whereabouts for the last month, but kept the reasons to myself. Eckhardt interrupted with “Is Nuln still there?” throwing a wink and a grin I answered “It was when I left.” Talk continued, and we discussed the recent assassination of Kastor as well as the rumours that armies of chaos dwarves have been reported battling in the pass. Mattias had every reason to be concerned. Summoning us to his palace, he requested our services as escorts to Nuln for a meeting with the Countess Emanuelle. I was of mixed feelings with this request. On the one hand, it was sure to relieve the current boredom. His family does seem to attract the most interesting enemies…and demons. On the other hand, I was hesitant to return to Nuln as part of his entourage as it would surely attract some unwanted attention. I’d really prefer they didn’t know I was coming. Obviously I decided to relieve the boredom.

Our journey was for the most part uneventful. I joined Mattias and Eckhardt in the comfort of the carriage, spending the bulk of my time regaling Mattias with tales of our exploits. Eckhardt, for his part, spent most of the trip pretending to be asleep. Just outside of Streissan, a commotion outside interrupted my latest tale, and “woke” Eckhardt. Peering out the window we saw a solitary figure on horseback being pursued by two others. They were clearly annoyed with him for some reason, as they kept firing arrows at him. As they came into range, Pieter recognized Bernolt, riding hard. Seeing they were soon going to be outnumbered, the archers turned to flee. Eckhardt had other ideas however, and leaned out of the carriage and blasted one of them right out of his saddle. Unfortunately for the poor fellow, he failed to get his foot free from the stirrup, and he bounced down the road as his horse dragged him out of sight. Bernolt was greeted by his former protégé and explained why he was suddenly so popular. He had been tracking an outlaw band called the “Faceless” and they apparently noticed and tried to ambush him. I was impressed. I now see where Pieter’s occasional lapses in judgment come from. Not that I’m complaining of course. Those lapses are usually pretty awesome, but trying to take on an entire outlaw band solo? That’s a whole new level of awesome. We agreed to help him as a favour to Pieter who felt it was the least he could do, but really, it was because we were bored and were heading that direction anyway. We eventually tracked them to a clearing, but seeing they had women and children with them, decided against a frontal assault. The outlaws politely asked us to leave, and we countered with “Surrender or else.” Six of the more noble ones, including the leader, wisely gave themselves up. The rest fled into the woods, abandoning their women and children. Bernolt arrested the six, and we directed the remaining women to seek refuge in the delta region at one of the camps.

We reached the gates of Nuln just before noon of the third day. Mattias presented papers to the guards and then we sat back and waited for our escort. The Countess Emanuelle herself arrived with her personal guards. Forced to leave the safety of the carriage, I joined my comrades for the formal greetings. The increased scrutiny we were now attracting made me wish I’d planned a proper disguise. I couldn’t help noticing some of the gate guards looking my way, then whispering to each other. Expecting to be arrested at any moment, I eagerly re-entered the carriage for the final leg to the palace.

Our suite was immense, easily the largest room I’d ever stayed in. I was examining one of the tapestries when a maid entered bearing a platter of food. Turning towards her to see what was for lunch, I smiled and said “Hello.” The colour immediately drained from her face and I thought she was going to faint. Luckily she’d already put down the tray or we’d be eating off the floor…Adam might anyway. Staring at me wide-eyed she blurted out “Are you him?” Confused, I responded “Him who?” “Axel the Slayer?” I roared with laughter while Pieter choked on his lunch and Eckhardt spewed whatever he was drinking all over Herod. “Slayer?” I chuckled “My name is Axel, but I doubt anyone would consider me a slayer.” At this, the maid squeaked and ran from the suite as quick as Adam inhales a slice of Butter Pecan. Still confused, I pondered how the killing of one corrupt watchman qualifies one as a slayer. I was starting to get a really bad feeling…hope it’s not food poisoning. Pieter looked at me sternly as he wiped his lunch off of his cloak and demanded “What exactly did you do?” sheepishly I responded “I, uh, might have done something which could be considered in some circles as illegal.” Arching an eyebrow he repeated “What..Did..You..Do?” thinking it wise to not make him ask a third time I answered “I sort of, kinda, maybe killed a watchman six years ago.” Erik snorted “That’s it?” “I thought maybe you’d burned down the entire tavern district or something” Filling them in on the events of my past, we decided to find out more about the slayer rumours and see just how far they ran.

A little later some tailors arrived to take measurements to fit us with proper outfits for the upcoming banquet. Attempting not to attract any additional attention, I let the others question them about the rumours. Apparently “Axel the Slayer” was a psychotic and kinda awesome halfling who murdered a half dozen or so watchmen about six years ago. He then went on to murder several innocent bystanders (less awesome) who were unfortunate enough to get in his way. Rumoured captured and presumed dead, the wanted posters were all eventually removed. That’s a shame as I would’ve liked one as a souvenir. Judging from the reactions so far, the artist was very talented. “I wonder how much of a reward was offered?” I muttered. Some of the others were looking towards me with concerned expressions “I swear it was only one.” I decided it wise to limit my public exposure as “Axel” to a minimum, so I created a disguise and when finished, “Phineous” joined his friends to track down the current residence of my old master.

The old manor house was still well guarded, so we took turns watching discreetly in the hopes that we would be able to follow someone to the Lord’s new residence. During this time the rest of us tracked down rumours, and restocked our supplies, equipment, and armaments. We learned of a gang war between several gangs including one called the “Crimson ring” and another called the “Teluci gang” We also met an interesting drunk who, between swigs, sobbed about how “She killed him.” Pressing him further, he slurringly explained that he and his buddy had picked up a couple of girls and had taken them back to their place. He stepped out to use the bushes, and returned to discover one of the girls had become a daemonette with a giant claw that snipped his buddies head clean off. This clearly being the most awesome thing we’d heard today (besides me being a Slayer of course) we were led to the shack to check the validity of his drunken claims. The giant bloodstain seemed to indicate we were in the right place and that there was at least some truth to his storey. However, we were unable to find any other evidence or even a body. We questioned others around the neighbourhood, and learned that bodies had also gone missing throughout the impoverished neighbourhoods. Unable to learn anything else at this time, we agreed that more meddling was required. For now, we needed to head back to the palace to prepare for the party.

We arrived with Mattias as part of his retinue and were introduced as “The Defenders of the Delta.” we were surrounded immediately by minor nobles and sycophants attempting to curry favour by association and asking about our adventures. I can only imagine what they must have thought talking to Adam only to have him reply “Pleased to meet you. Where’s the pie?” Eventually the Countess came and escorted us around the room, introducing us to one noble after another. None, however, lived up to the puffed up stature of the late “Theodothiuth”. I was only half aware of the conversations and politely extended greetings to each of them every time Dolwen gave me a kick in the shins. I was, however, a little distracted as I was actively trying to see if my old boss was here. This task was made even more difficult as only Adam was shorter in stature than I was. It was then, while fully distracted and on tip-toes that the countess announced “Now, may I present to you, Lord Rothjager.” My blood froze as a too familiar voice answered ”It is a pleasure to finally meet the famed Defenders of the Delta.” Slowly turning to face him, I locked eyes with my former master, his knowing half smile screaming volumes. Delving deep into my verbal repertoire for a witty reply, I responded “Aww crap!”

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Destiny

I feel the blood of innocents flowing into my veins. From around the city, hatred begets violence which begets power.

I revel in it.

Blood will be spilled in Nuln. Blood will be spilled in Averland. Blood will be spilled in Blackfire Pass. Blood will be spilled in the World’s Edge Mountains. The land will be awash in it. The time of ascension grows closer. The avatar’s unshackling is imminent. My destiny will not be denied.

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The Long Awaited Epilogue Story

Its been three weeks since the Battle at Southern Sun Keep and life is slowly returning to normal in the Blue Reach Delta. Supplies slowly trickle in to help rebuild damaged areas and the few Iron Circle stragglers are rooted out and disposed of by zealous hunters.

Dressed in fine new outfits, the group leaves the Delta once more. Stopping to pick up the Widow Vogel, they make their way to Averheim for a momentous wedding, a wedding which will hopefully bring unity to Averland at a time when it is threatened by multiple marching armies.

The week before the wedding is taken up with parties and fittings, for the group is being accorded a special place of honour for their great service to Averland. Two days before the wedding, a ceremony is held in the Plenterplatz to bestow honours on each of you. A recovering Viggo Cavindel comes forward on a cane and presents you with medals and knights you all. He also offers each a place in the Knights of the Southern Sun if any desire it. A moment of silence for those lost precedes a loud cheer for the newest heroes of Averland. More than one of you feels the effects the next day of the subsequent feast in honour of the Defenders of the Delta.

While nursing the hangover, Pieter receives his letter of discharge.

The day of the wedding dawns a crisp fall morning with nary a cloud in the sky. The townsfolk call it a blessing from Sigmar or whatever god they worship.

The wedding is grand and extravagant, befitting the joining of two great noble families. The future Elector Count, Kastor Lietdorf, serves as emcee and the mood is joyoud. Countess Ludmilla also speaks of unity and years of strife is forgotten, at least for the moment.

The reception is a more laid back affair as the nobles let their hair down a little. At one point, Kastor and a woman stop and say hello on their way to a rendezvous. Another time, Matthias comes by looking for his wayward brother. People stop to meet the Defenders of the Delta and a few eligible ladies ask to dance with the single men of the group.

Its at a lull in the music that everything changes.

“Defenders of the Delta!! Show yourselves! I bring a message from Lord Vhennyk! He wants you to know that the Iron Circle is not done with the Blue Reach Delta or Averland. Before we’re through, you will all bathe in blood!”

With that, he tosses the sack he’s holding to the ground and Kastor’s head rolls out.

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Greater Things Ahead

To: Pieter Konrad, Sergeant, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Bernolt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

Pieter,

It is with great reluctance, but great pride also, that I accept your resignation from your position of an Imperial Roadwarden. In a service that is sometimes known for its lack of character, you have held yourself to an exemplary standard of duty and honour. It has been my pleasure to have you under my command and future replacements will have a very difficult time living up to your standards.

I am sure this letter will take you by surprise, since you did not in fact tender your resignation, but after correspondence with Kastor Lietdorf, I have been made aware that you have greater things ahead of you. I can not, in good conscience, expect you to keep up with the obligations of your position while being concerned with larger threats to the land.

Know that I will continue to welcome your correspondence with regards to the matters and threats that you are dealing with on behalf of Averland and the Blue Reach Delta. I will help you in any way that I am able should you need the assistance of myself or the Roadwarden service in your efforts.

It has been an honour serving with you. Take care of and give my regards to your lovely lady, Miss Vogel. May Sigmar guide you.

Sincerly,
Bernolt

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The Fall of Redthorn

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Sergeant, Imperial Roadwardens

Sir,

The infiltration of the Southern Sun Keep was successful and once we had managed to adequately alert the garrison to our presence, we spent some time to barricade a guardroom to give ourselves a small breather. We were just preparing ourselves to deal with the stairwell down that was located in the centre of the room when we heard the sound of loud clanging rising through the opening. We rushed downstairs and saw a group of guards in the middle of what appeared to have once been a kitchen and a single guard smashing at a postern gate with all his might.

The agile Dolwen leapt down the stairs drawing and firing as he went. Three shafts hummed home into the back of the gate opener in a grouping no larger than a child’s hand, pinning the unfortunate creature like a bug against the battered oak of the gate. One of the guards began to charge us and our intrepid halflings began whizzing sling stones at him. Axel’s shots scored, but Adam’s ricocheted off the floor and into the corner of the room. The twanging of a bow was heard as Erik entered the fray and I saw his shots sink home, but failed to halt the brute as he entered melee range. His swing slammed into Adam, but fortunately hit him in the head. Being as it was such a long way from anything that was important, he kept his feet and in the melee. My swing swooped in and caught him in the body, but the beast shrugged it off and kept in the fight.
The group of guards brought their own bows into play and arrows began hissing past us. Axel caught one in the leg that made him yelp as arrows buzzed by Herod as he leapt off the stairs and charged the archers. He brought his halberd down and tried his best to cut his foe in half. I honestly think he would have done it too if the beast hadn’t been wearing a large belt buckle. Pulling his halberd free in a welter of gore, he sought another target. Ekhart’s magic missile sizzled into the group of archers and removed the head of one of them in a billow of fine red mist. Adam drew his weapon and hit my opponent, but again he shrugged off the blow. Erik drew his sword as well, but his hasty strike missed entirely.

My foe took a swing at me that I parried off, but it left me out of position for his follow up which sliced into my side. I managed to drive him back with a couple of quick blows, but neither of them scored enough to do any real damage. Axel took a major blow from my foe that drove him to the ground in an unmoving heap – not awesome. Herod stepped up and drove the heel of his halberd into the centre of his chest, blasting the air from his lungs and causing him to land on his ass with a stunned look on his face. One of Ekhart’s missiles blasted in and tore the shield off of his arm. At this point we all hacked and chopped at this poor unfortunate until he finally fell to the ground, mortally wounded.

We spent a few moments catching our breath and binding our wounds. Axel recovered from his mishap much quicker than I would have expected given how hard he was hit. I heard him mutter something about “licking” and “ticking”, but I was honestly afraid to ask for clarification. Ekhart then led us to the dungeons in the hope that he would find his father. Indeed, we found Viggo Cavindel much the worse for the wear in a small cell near the back of the dungeon. He was filthy and gaunt, but unbowed and deliriously happy to see his son again. After a heartfelt reunion, he sent us on our way to complete our task as he was in no condition to aid us after two months of captivity. He reminded Ekhart of the secret stairwell to his apartments and we headed to the lord’s apartment to bring an end to Redthorn and his evil plots.

As silently as we could, we proceeded up the narrow staircase to the master’s suite. We had a short, whispered conversation about some tactical details and then we opened the concealed door and burst into the room. While Redthorn was no doubt surprised by the manner of our appearance, that was nothing compared to our shock in finding that besides Redthorn, there were four demons in the room. I found out later that they were a Bloodletter of Khorne, a Spined Devil, and two Tar Demons – not that it really mattered at the time, as I was convinced we were all going to die. Redthorn’s head swiveled to us as he picked up a massive three-headed flail as if it was weightless. Gazing at us contemptuously, he proceeded to tell us that we were rabbits in a wolf’s den. I remember thinking that if that was true, I’d be bolting the hell out of here. Raising his face to the sky, he chanted “Blood for the Blood God!” and charged towards us.

Ekhart cast a spell that manifested as a dazzling burst of light. It must have temporarily blinded our foes, as their movements became slower and more erratic – perfect timing! Both groups moved towards each other and combat was joined in earnest. Redthorn leapt towards us and swung his flail with a mighty blow. As he made contact with someone, (not me, thank Sigmar) we were all knocked backwards with an explosion of some kind of magical force. Erik managed to plant a couple of arrows into his hide, but it didn’t seem to be affecting him. Dolwen and Adam were both petrified with fear – a common fate amongst all of us on our adventure at various times. I remember once thinking that pursuing bandits was a hazardous occupation. That was before I began to encounter things that actually made you wet yourself…

We noticed that the blood from the wounds that Erik had inflicted was flowing through the air towards the Bloodletter – obviously some kind of vile Chaos sorcery was at work here. The Spined Devil shot some of its barbs at Herod with a few of them actually sticking to him. I could hear chanting from behind me as Ekhart was preparing another spell. It seemed to be taking an awfully long time, and I was hoping that the end result was worth it.

It was.

There was a bright flare of light and the sound of crackling, like a pitchy fire followed by a concussion of sound that felt and sounded something like thunder. Air rushed past us towards as I shook my head to clear my eyes and try to knock the ringing out of my head. When my vision cleared, I saw that the Bloodletter was gone! I don’t know how he did it and I really didn’t care, but there was a loud cheer from us as we pushed the battle forward. The Tar Demons were taken aback by the abrupt disappearance of their largest member, but soon recovered and charged towards Ekhart to ensure that the same thing did not happen to them. The tar demons spewed some kind of vile at him that made him hop around a little, but didn’t appear to do any lasting harm.
At this point Redthorn transferred his attention to me, much to my dismay. His flail screamed through the air as he did his level best to end my humble existence. His eagerness caused his first swing to miss entirely and I managed to take the second stroke on my shield and duck under the third – damn was he fast! There was a flurry of blows from the demons upon my companions, but I wasn’t really paying too much attention as I was focusing on staying alive.

I took a couple of tentative swings at Redthorn to get a feel for his ability and just about got my head bashed in for my trouble. I swear I could count the spikes on the flail head as it hummed by the tip of my nose. Did I mention he was really fast? He contemptuously parried off my next swing and I realized I didn’t need to spend any more time feeling him out – I was going to get my ass handed to me.

I could hear Ekhart beginning to chant in the background and saw one of the tar devils begin to make arcane gestures in reply. I could only assume he was beginning some kind of sorcerous duel with the vile beast, but again I was too engaged in keeping breathing to pay much mind to things I really didn’t understand anyways. I heard a roar of triumph as Herod literally split the spined devil in two with a mighty overhand blow of his halberd. I took another swing at Redthorn and another lightning fast riposte just about stove me in like a rotten barrel. He obviously decided he was done playing with me and proceeded to use me like a nail into a plank. I have never encountered such power and I literally felt like a child against a giant as his blow swung up under my guard and smashed me into a wall. I had no choice but to disengage and the brave Herod stepped up and took my place and managed to land the first really solid blow on Redthorn. I took a quick look around as I quaffed a healing draught to see how the rest of my friends were faring.

Dolwen was engaged with one of the tar devils. Things looked to be going his way until it managed to land some of its spew onto his leg. Hi quickly scraped it away before it ate through his armor and caused him some damage. I looked back at Herod just in time to see Redthorn land a stupendous blow that caused blood to spray out of his mouth and ears. Amazingly, he remained standing AND engaged toe-to-toe with Redthorn. Our archers rained shafts at the tar devil engaged with Dolwen with Adam hitting it twice and causing it to turn away. Erik took advantage of its position by putting an arrow right through both ears and dropping it in a heap. I pulled both my pistols and blasted away at Redthorn. Once the cloud cleared, it didn’t appear that I’d had any effect. I’d like to think that it was because he was impervious to my shots, but it’s more likely because I was shaking so bad that I couldn’t have hit the broad side of a barn with a bucket of wheat. I pulled another brace of pistols braced of pistols just as Ekhart’s spell finished and the remaining tar devil was banished into whatever demonic place it came from, leaving Redthorn alone to face our fury. I have to tell you, he didn’t look particularly worried…
Freed to engage, we all began hammering away at Redthorn with everything we had – arrows, sling stones, bullets, magic darts. I think I even saw Axel throwing candlesticks and a leftover chicken leg, but that could have been my imagination as I was still pretty punchy. Regardless of what went his way, very little of it did a damn thing beyond spalling his armor and sending snarling ricochets around the room. The next few moments were an appalling exercise in futility. The dark gods were looking out for their champion as he managed to dodge, block, parry, or shrug off just about everything we threw at him.

Herod and I were in hand-to-hand combat and the rest of our group was firing missiles as fast as they could sling or loose. Shockingly, there were no friendly fire incidents, which was bloody amazing given the sheer volume of fire homing in on our little dance. Redthorn’s luck ran out as a sling stone impacted on the center of his chest with a meaty thud, the force actually staggering him backwards. Herod and I pressed forward, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. I saw an elven fletched arrow sprout from Redthorn’s left shoulder, a solid hit by Dolwen. Again, the mace came roaring in at me and I managed to avoid the first two blows, but the third hammered home and staggered me badly. Both Herod and I landed solid hits, but it was like hacking at a granite boulder and I was seriously beginning to doubt the that there would be a positive end to this battle – at least from our point of view.

Adam, Dolwen, and Ekhart all landed solid hits which was a good thing as Herod and I were having absolutely no luck getting anything through to this red-clad behemoth. I remember seeing Herod take a swing at Redthorn and then a lighting fast reply with the flail that knocked him on his ass. I don’t remember what happened next, but apparently it was my turn to get beat on as the next thing I remember was being upside down in a corner with grit in my eye and blood in my mouth. Staggering to my feet with a groan, I looked up just in time to see one of Dolwen’s arrows fly up Redthorn’s right nostril, punching through his helmet and leaving the barbed shaft standing a hand’s width beyond the back of his skull. Redthorn’s eye’s crossed and he slowly toppled forward like a felled oak and crashed into the floor with a thunderous boom.

Panting for breath, we all looked at each other in disbelief. Axel looked at me with a grin and said, “OK, that was the most awesome not-awesome thing I’ve ever seen!” I just shook my head (gently, I might add because everything in my body hurt) and started to reload my pistols. Avoiding Redthorn’s body, we began to search the room for information about where he had come from and what his ultimate agenda might have been. The only thing of interest was a letter from a Lord Vehnyk tasking Redthorn to begin searching for a specific gemstone in the Border Princes, but that was a problem for another time.

We met little resistance as we worked our way towards the main gate and opened them to allow our allies into the keep. The rest was details – clearing the castle, dealing with the prisoners, and doing our best to repair the damage done to our homes and farms. For now, we are just recovering our strength and reprovisioning for our next journey. We’re all of the opinion that this Lord Vehnyk needs to be found and prevented from doing whatever it is he’s trying to do. We’ll be leaving in a few days and I’ll try to keep you up to date on what happens so you can keep the appropriate authorities in the Empire apprised of the situation. My gut is telling me that this could be the beginning of something really bad what with the armies of Chaos Dwarves and Beastmen still in play and an unknown force manipulating these forces for its own nefarious purposes.

Farewell and may Sigmar guide you and keep you safe.

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The battle for Schraumlieben - Part 2

My lungs were on fire as my little legs pumped to keep up with my comrades. Dolwen and Adam quickly leading the way while the rest of us tried our best not to fall behind. Considering our destination was not a pie factory, its impressive just how fast that chubby little halfling can move. The tavern hiding the refugee’s lay ahead, its doors hanging from their broken hinges. Hoping we weren’t to late, we entered the darkened common room. The smashed remains of kegs, tables, and chairs littered the bar room. The secret door to the hidey hole unfortunately lay open, exposing the location of the refugee’s. Running behind the bar, I quickly grabbed two bottles of strong dwarven spirits. Pieter shook his head, frowning in disapproval. “Relax…I’ve got a plan.” Fashioning a torch out of a broken table leg and an old shirt I’d acquired…Dolwen will never miss it…I descended into the darkness to face my past. Navigating through the warren of passages we located our quarry as we passed a choke point in the tunnels. Helmut was discarding the corpse of his latest victim when he saw us, my companions freezing in fear at the sight of the tar devils and soldiers accompanying him. This left just Pieter, Erik, and the two halflings to hold the passage until the others regained their nerve. Helmut glaring in blind fury, pointed at me and yelled “HALFLING!!!” before charging. I only had time for one quick shot at a devil before switching to sword and shield. Helmut’s overhand blow smashed through my defenses, crushing my arm, numbing it below the shoulder. Dropping into a defensive stance while fumbling for a healing potion, I realized that I was the only person in front not wearing plate armour. Hoping to even the odds, I dropped back to get behind my own set of plate, unfortunately for Erik, he happened to be the one wearing it. My keen hearing heard Eckhardt mutter “Coward” which stung a little, but I guess it’s easy to misjudge someone when you can’t tell the difference between reckless and stupid, and standing in a confined space facing a massive, heavily armoured psychopath, who’s biggest desire is to literally rip my limbs off, seemed pretty damned stupid. Pieter, taking full advantage of ours foes preoccupation with killing me, landed a powerful strike to his exposed shoulder, which would have decapitated any normal man but only managed to delay Helmet’s blood thirsty assault. Turning his attack to my friends, Erik managed to defend most of the onslaught before being wounded with another mighty bash of his hammer. “Whatever happened to that dagger?” I asked with a smile. “If you don’t want it, can I have it as a souvenir?” Enraged, he lunged towards me exposing himself once again to attack. Herod seized the opportunity and ripped into the hip joint effectively dropping my foe, the scar from our previous encounter made visible through his torn armour. My allies then turned their attentions to defeating the tar devils. Helmut, however, was not quite dead yet, his healing ability threatening to get him back into the fight. Cursing my name as he struggled, he swore he’d return to get his revenge as he crawled towards me. Seeing my friends had the devils and remaining soldiers well in hand, I calmly pulled out the bottles I’d acquired upstairs and emptied their contents over my struggling foe, determined to do a more permanent job this time. Thinking of all the small folk he’d murdered to date, “Regenerate this.” I snarled, raised my torch and ignited the spirits, engulfing him in blue flames. His screams of rage, changed to ones of pain before eventually being drowned out by those of his dying troops.

Back on the surface, word of Helmut’s demise had spread, demoralizing his troops. The enemy forces faltered and without their imposing leader, routed, their army retreating in the direction of the Sun Keep and their leader Red Thorn. This battle was won, now the townsfolk could turn their attention to rebuilding. Watching the funeral pyres, I was reminded of Helmut’s dying screams. Satisfied that this time, he wasn’t coming back, I turned and returned to my comrades who were busy planning our assault on the keep. Whistling a tune I’d heard some of our troops singing, I realized I’ve finally had enough of burning things…for now anyway.

We reached the keep by nightfall several days later, our small group managing to avoid detection, thanks mainly to the scouting efforts of Erik and Dolwen. The allied army was currently plodding along about a day behind us. We sat down to our evening meal to finalize our plans to infiltrate the keep. I gave the stew another stir before sitting down with my comrades. Dolwen was busy pulling items out of his pack while the rest of us once again huddled around the crude map Eckhardt had drawn. As we discussed the best way to approach the rear wall, Eckhardt remembered a little used secret door nearby once used to escape the keep. Dolwen took a break from whatever he was doing to see where this door was located. We decided the best chance of sneaking in undetected was to use the arrival of the allied army as a distraction. While the enemy was busy watching the army out front, we could then sneak in at the rear. As the stealthiest among us, Dolwen, Erik and I volunteered to scale the wall, locate the door, and open it for the others. Once inside we’d assess the best way of releasing the prisoners. Plan now in hand, Dolwen returned to rifling through his pack, the contents scattering the ground around him “Has anyone seen my black shirt?” (Huh, I guess he did miss it…oh well, he looks better in green anyway.)

At the base of the wall, Erik and I watched as the green clad elf scaled the wall. We had assessed the climb, and decided that Dolwen had the best chance of making it to the top quickly. He would then lower a rope for us to follow. His shadowy form froze at the top as two guards peered over the top into the darkness. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally pulled himself over the wall. Several agonizingly uneventful minutes later, Erik and I started to realize that there would be no rope coming. I was starting to get a little anxious. Hope he doesn’t get caught? Eventually, the outline of the secret door creaked open. I quickly moved to get the others (and my armour) while Erik and Dolwen secured the passageway. Once we were all huddled in the store room at the base of the tower, I helped Herod, Erik, Pieter and Eckhardt look like merc guards before they headed out to reconnoitre. They returned later to tell us they had located the prison on the other side of a drawbridge, but we were going to have to bluff our way past the guards. Sigh…Looks like halfling prisoners…again. Stashing my lock picks in my ponytail, just in case this didn’t work, I prepared to make Adam and myself look more like prisoners.

We crossed the outer grounds without incident and approached the bridge. The first of the two guards yelled out “It takes five of you to escort two halflings?” Pieter retorted “Piss off, we’re under orders. These two were there when Helmut was killed.” Struggling a little, I responded “Actually, I can’t take all the credit. I only lit him on fire.” Herod gave me a smack “Shut your pie hole halfling.” Glaring back at him, I spit on his boots. Eckhardt used the distraction to move towards one of the guards. The other guard was looking suspiciously at Dolwen “Who are you?” as his companion fell asleep at Eckhardt’s feet. Startled, he turned towards Eckhardt who quickly slapped him rendering him unconscious as well. So far, so good. Eckhardt had just finished slicing their throats when a demon rounded the corner into the courtyard at the other side of the bridge accompanied by more guards. Quickly crossing the bridge, Dolwen and I froze in our tracks as the demon approached. Erik moved for the bridge controls, while Pieter made a move towards the demon. The beast glared at Pieter and ordered “Stay with your prisoners!” The demon looked to see the two guards laying at the other end of the bridge, their lifesblood spilling onto the ground. “What did you do my men?” (Okay, he’s stupid. Maybe we can bluff our way through this.) Eckhardt answered “I killed them, just like I’m going to do to you.” (Okay, bluffing’s out) “INTRUDERS!!!” it bellowed, before drawing its sinister looking blade and charging Pieter. Herod and Dolwen moved quickly to two of the doors leading to the tower. Herod was about to lock his when the handle turned from the other side. Throwing his shoulder into it, and quickly barring the door, he warned “We’ve got company.” I was only vaguely aware of these events as well as the raising of the drawbridge, unfortunately, I couldn’t react as I was unable to tear my eye’s off the demon currently fighting Pieter. Truth be told, I was unable to do anything at all due to the awesome and frightening presence of the demon…mostly frightening as evident from the uncomfortable dampness currently present in my small clothes. A moment later, another door burst open admitting more guards, and another demon. Great, now there’s two…still can’t move…getting less awesome. One of the guards took advantage of my preoccupation with the bloodletters and sliced a glancing blow across my forearm. Fortunately, this was enough to shake off the paralyzing effects from the demons. I once again dropped into a defensive stance, fumbling to draw my weapons to protect myself. I circled my opponent, trading blows and misses. By the time I finally dropped my opponent, the demon’s were both dead and the remaining guards were quickly following them. Making sure we were temporarily secure before accepting the healing efforts from Dolwen and Eckhardt, we gathered the weapons from our fallen foes, and prepared to free some prisoners.

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The battle for Schraumlieben - Part 1

The smouldering embers of the funeral pyres glowed in the night as the clean up efforts continued. While Dolwen received some much needed medical attention, the Bernjaeger, accompanied by Erik and Pieter, patrolled the perimeter to ensure there were no other beastmen lurking about. I contented myself by poking the doombull with a stick, my attention occasionally diverting back to the flickering glow of the fires. My thoughts were interrupted when some rangers finally came to drag away the carcass of the minotaur. Sigh…it wasn’t nearly as intimidating now anyway. The beast was heaved onto one of the pyres, sending sparks dancing into the night. The flames engulfed the body, their warmth, strangely comforting. I continued staring into the flames, until the body was fully reduced to ash before turning to rejoin my companions. The Bernjaeger informed us that Sigmaringen would have to be razed. The land, scarred with the taint of chaos, was to far gone for us to save. It would take a monumental effort from some high level priests to be able to sanctify the area. The town would have to be rebuilt elsewhere. Riders had already been dispatched to this end. Our usefulness here was apparently over, it was time to head home.

The ranch was a bustle of activity as we rode in, the support efforts continuing even in Wilhelm’s absence. In order to divert focus from the refugee’s, he had wisely decided to remain in Schraumlieben. A commotion to the north drew our attention, as a group of approximately two dozen dwarves limped into the courtyard. Obviously wounded, Eckhardt immediately went to offer his aide. Speaking with their commanding officer, we learned they had liberated the hedge village of Drebkau before suffering heavy casualties in Hornau when they were ambushed by a large force of beastmen. They had managed to free the town, but only at the heavy cost of half of their troops. They made several attempts to send a message to the Sun Keep, but were unsuccessful, so they made their way here. Our discussions continued until a messenger rode in delivering a summons. We have been ordered to make haste for Schraumlieben. The enemy leader “Red Thorn” is on his way to discuss terms, and he “requests” our presence. I don’t think they’d accept a “No thank-you.” so I guess we are heading out again. I wonder why he asked to see us? It’s not like we have any say in the peace talks, and how does he know our names? Have we been a bigger thorn in his side than we thought? Does he just want to put a face to the reputation? Speaking of thorns, Why is he called “Red Thorn”? Was he born with it?, or is it just a nick name? Did he sit on a thorn once, turning his bottom an irritated red?, or is it a commentary on the size of his giggle stick? Is this incursion just his way of overcompensating? Too many questions. Now I want to go just so I can ask him. Using his crystal ball, Eckhardt looked to see the citizens of Schraumlieben working feverishly on their defenses. Satisfied that we wouldn’t be walking into another trap, we prepared to leave.

Our journey was uneventful. I suspect a temporary cease fire was in affect, and no outlaw in his right mind would risk being stuck between two opposing armies. A large pavilion surrounded by iron circle troops, occupied the area east of town. The mood as we rode into town was tense with a tinge of fear. We reported to Castor Lietdorf, who apprised us of the situation and immediately accompanied us and the Von Altram’s representative to meet with Red Thorn. The Iron Circle troops made no effort to hinder us as we approached the pavilion. Inside, a man wearing jet black armour with a red overcoat introduced himself as Red Thorn and invited us all to sit, motioning towards a large table surrounded by chairs. Struggling into my seat, since there were no halfling sized ones, I noticed the large hulking form of Big Red glaring at me from the corner. He resembled a vicious dog waiting to be unleashed. Growling at us, he slowly drew his sword across his palm slicing it open. The wound rapidly shrank and closed before our eyes…that’s pretty cool…disturbing, but cool. Taking a closer look at the large man, a flash of memory triggered of an encounter in a dark, rain soaked alley. Absently running a finger along the scar on my face, I looked him in the eyes. “I remember you.”…“I thought you were dead.” Looking him over ”You’ve got bigger.”…throwing a large grin ”How are the wiggly bits?” He answered with a snarl, and was kept in check with a motion from Red Thorn. Moving on to business, he laid out his terms. He has absolutely no intention of surrendering the delta but wants to try and coexist with himself as the lord and master. We are assured that all beastmen will be evicted from the region and forbidden from returning, but made no such assurances about other allies of chaos. He offered to release all of the captives at the Sun Keep, and would rebuild Sigmaringen at a new, suitably untainted, location. He then told us that these terms were non-negotiable and gave us until sundown to respond. I’m pretty sure we could give him an answer now, but Castor shook his head, leading us out and back to the relative safety of Schraumlieben. Erik and I drafted a response, but Castor rejected it for something, he said, “a little more…diplomatic.” Pieter of course joined the war council. Appraised the towns defenses, and determined that it was basically un-defendable. The two armies are relatively equal in number, however, the enemy troops are actually trained, whereas ours are mainly militia, farmers, and homeowners. Definitely not promising for our side. The rest of us excused ourselves from the ensuing battle plans for tasks better suited to our individual skills. Erik and Dolwen went out on a scouting mission, and Eckhardt busied himself preparing med’s and setting up a triage. Adam, Herod and I did what we could to boost troop morale. Now, there was nothing left to do but wait for the siege to begin.

The first wave of the attack, tested our resolve and was repelled. The defenses had held…for now. I chewed on one of Eckhardt’s herbal concoctions to relieve my wounded shoulder. One of their archers had managed to tag me with a lucky shot, blasting me off my feet. I was rotating my shoulder, making sure everything still worked, when a scout came to take us to Gramath, the village elder. After a brief overview of the battle, we were informed that the enemy was now attempting a flanking manoeuvre. They were attempting to capture the only means of escape for the towns folk. We were needed to help hold the bridge. Sprinting towards our goal, I could hear the battle was already underway. Rounding the corner, a chill ran down my spine as we were confronted by a pair of devils, tearing into the defenders. Pieter immediately charged one of the devils. Shaking off my initial hesitation, I grabbed my sword, shouldered my shield and waded into the fray, accompanied by Eckhardt. A brute confronted us, blocking our path to the devil, leaving Pieter to defend against it alone. The beastman took a swing at me, missing wide. Eckhardt retaliated, slapping the beast with an open hand. The beast’s eyes fluttered and closed, before toppling unconscious to the ground at our feet. Now free to help Pieter, we watched as the devil suddenly spat a large messy blob of flaming tar, covering our comrade in the sticky goo. Pieter immediately dropped and started rolling around on the sleeping brute in front of us. Combat paused for an instant as both friend and foe alike, stopped and stared with expressions of “What the F*#K!” Judging from all the pelvic thrusting, he either had some hot tar creeping into his naughty bits, or it was some sort of chaos manifested friskiness. Momentary distraction over, I turned my attention to the devil in front of me. I traded several blows with the monster, my sword mostly deflecting harmlessly off its thick hide, while it’s attacks gradually took their toll on me. Fortunately, Pieter, now over his temporary interlude, was now moving in to help. Turning its attention to the return of its former opponent, it launched a couple of swings at Pieter. Dodging the attacks, he counter attacked, landing a couple of solid blows which seemed to stagger the large beast. Eckhardt fired a flaming dart at the devil, which impacted, smoked, annnd…did nothing. I attacked from the flank, connected annnd…also nothing. We proceeded to gradually chip away at the monster, and it did the same to us. Pieter eventually landing a mighty slash, knocking the beast to the ground. Eckhardt quickly rushed in and finished it off with a two-handed thrust of his spear. The initial thrill of the encounter over, battle fatigue and blood loss caused my legs to give out, making me stagger. Unable to continue fighting, I consumed another of Eckhardt’s wondrous healing draughts. The wounds were still present, but I was at least able to stand on my own. The defense forces succeeded in eliminating the remaining devil, and the enemy forces fled. The bridge was saved….Medic!!!

Our wounds were mostly healed when another scout arrived with a report. The halfling refugee building was being stormed by a force led by a large man in blood red armour…Great. Lets hope fortune once again favours this halfling for the impending reunion…I wonder if he kept the dagger?

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"What's the worst that can happen?"

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Sergeant, Imperial Roadwardens

Sir,

After bringing the Kraemer twins to justice in Pfunzig and ensuring that they would trouble the empire no longer, we left for Averheim to meet with what allies we had managed to acquire, and to coordinate out efforts to free the Blue Reach Delta. We met with Matthias Lietdorf and brought him up to date with the happenings in Pfunzig and our ending of the twin’s machinations in the cult of Handrick. He informed us of dinner meeting amongst the allies that evening which gave us enough time to re-equip and re-provision ourselves.

That night, at the von Alptraum’s, we sat down to eat and to discuss the situation. The dwarves were going to secure both Drebkau and Hornau in the northeast, while the Bernjaeger were going to work their way north from Grenzstadt and harry the beastmen in the forest as they worked their way towards Sigmaringen. Schwarmonger had sent in “The Suicide Squad” to infiltrate different areas of the Delta and provide us with some up to date reconnaissance. The nobles were planning on proceeding to Schramleben to engage the Iron Circle leadership in a parley, thereby diverting their attention from the general mayhem we were about to unleash. Our party was to cross the Blue Reach River north of Sigmaringen and clear the village of beastmen and other chaotic influences. Provided we survive, we were to rendezvous with a party of dwarves at the Neiderlitz ranch.

The next day, we headed south along the Blue Reach River to where we had sunk our boat during our previous narrow escape from Sigmaringen. On our way there, we met up with Anton Deadeye who informed us that the chaos warband had been taken over by a rather large, and to paraphrase Anton, “Fuckin’ huge!” minotaur. We also spent some time discussing how we were going to attack the village the next morning. When we got to the boat, we found it miraculously unsunk and floating placidly in a small back-eddy in the river. In it was a chest, and after much trepidation we opened it. In said chest were the heads of two halflings, both members of Schwarmonger’s squad that had been sent in to scout Schramleben. There was a note as well that said simply, “Looking forward to your next visit”. Axel got a little pale as he realized who the likely culprit was, as the halflings in the box had died messily and not at all easily.

We crossed the river and found the rest of the “Suicide Squad” impaled on stakes – so much for up to date intelligence. We buried the bodies and set up camp to get as much rest as we could before the attack the next morning. As we stirred from our bedrolls in the morning, we heard the sound of an approaching group. For a scouting party they were pretty loud as one of them was calling in crude reikspiel, “Dolwen, come out and play”. Obviously, something had given us away and it hadn’t been one of Axel’s patented hobgoblin calls.

The scouting partly consisted of a chaos deformed leader, three gors, and four ungors. Dolwen got pretty worked up at the sight of the leader, and he told us later that this was the beastman he had been tracking before he got embroiled in our schemes here in the Delta. The leader offered to fight Dolwen one on one to an honorable end. Dolwen must have remembered Axel’s advice about fighting fair, because Axel, Adam, and he opened fire as soon as the leader had finished speaking. All three shots struck true, causing the leader to reel back. Erik put an arrow into each eye of one the ungors, dropping it in a messy heap on the forest floor – epic shots. I was debating whether to shoot or not when Adam saw my indecision and shouted at me, “What’s the worst that can happen?” I replied, “I guess we’ll find out”, as I leveled my pistol and blew one of the ungors into bloody rags. So far, so good. Herod slew a gor while Adam and Axel picked off the ungors. My next shot missed a gor by a hair, but that didn’t prevent him from taking a small piece out of me. Axel, Adam, and Erik all accounted for the ungors that they were engaged with. The leader hit Dolwen with a blow that he narrowly parried and missed on his second swing. Herod charged in and hit the gor attacking me, which was a good thing as both of my swings missed terribly. Ekhart was tossing off magic darts like a machine, while Herod killed my Gor and Erik slew another. The only combat remaining was between the leader and Dolwen. We moved in to finish him off but Dolwen waved us off – some elvish honor thing I guess. Personally, my motto is to kill them by any means possible and then move on. To each their own I guess.

Combat continued back and forth and was beautiful to watch – the brute strength of the chaos spawn matched against the fluid grace of the elf. The contest was evenly matched, but we knew it was only a matter of time before someone made a mistake. The leader managed to land an upward sweeping blow with the massive axe he was using that literally lifted Dolwen off his feet. However, he recovered quickly and continued to battle on. Finally, the leader reached just a little too far and Dolwen’s lightning fast riposte took him full in the mouth and terminated with a hands width of blade sticking out from the back of his head. Dolwen spit on the corpse as it slithered off his blade. I thought the drama of the moment was totally ruined by the loud cheers and whistles of the halflings, but Dolwen didn’t seem to mind.

Ekhart bandaged what wounds we had managed to collect and we made our way through the forest to the village. From the cover of the trees, we noticed that the beastmen had manages to erect barricades around the entire village. Not really enough to keep out a determined assault, but certainly enough to make our lives difficult. We spent some time discussing what we were going to do and basically decided that we may as well engage them in the open field and be done with it. What’s the worst that can happen? Famous last words I fear.

As we broke the cover of the forest, the beastmen at the barricades raised the alarm. Through a gap in the barricade, they released some sort of tusked boar-like animal at us that immediately charged our position. A bestigor and a group of gors and ungors followed their pets out from behind the barricade. While the rest of our group prepared to meet the charge of the animals, Gustav and I began a charge of our own. I lowered my spear and thundered towards the enemy. The boars simply avoided us as we passed, totally intent on the group with the bent bows and whirling slings – stupid, stupid beasts. I could hear the squeals of pain and the thuds of impact as my friend’s missile attacks found their mark. I bore down on the bestigor and managed a solid hit on its weapon arm as we rushed past.

In the distance I could see the Bernjaeger scouts begin their assault on the other side of the village. As I turned Gustav for another go at the beastmen, I could see that all the boars were down and that my companions were beginning to target the beastmen. As I charged back and hit the bestigor another blow on the head, some the gors began to fall to the unerring missile attack of my friends. The bestigor took a swing at me, but I managed to parry it with my shield. The remainder of the gors was now engaged in melee with my companions. One of the gors scored a solid hit on Herrod, while one of the ungors hit Adam with a glancing blow. We heard a deafening bellow from the village and all eyes turned to look. Clearing the barricade was one the largest beasts I had ever seen – a towering brute of a minotaur with a fearsome spread of horns, fully armored in plate mail, and wielding a truly massive two-headed battle axe. Chaos symbols adorned his armor and weapons and I remember thinking that “fuckin’ huge” was only an accurate description if a person were given to making ridiculous understatements.

The rest of the group polished off the remaining gors and ungors while I knocked the bestigor down and Gustav tap-danced on its head. We spend a minute preparing as the fearsome foe approached. A wave a fear preceded its advance, as we looked at it and contemplated how few of us were likely to survive this encounter. Axel and Herrod were literally frozen in terror with the thought of imminent death approaching. Most of us managed to shake off our doubts and I dismounted and sent my faithful steed away, not wanting to hazard him in THIS battle. I took careful aim at the beast and hit it dead center, only to stare in disbelief as my round ricocheted away with a nasty snarl – not a good sign. Axel and Herod managed to overcome their fear and joined us on the line. A last round of missile fire, including two more pistol shots, blasted home. They may as well have been buttercups for all the good they did – definitely not a good sign. Even Axel muttered about how this was a lot less awesome than he was used to.

Axel, Adam, and Erik remained engaged with missile weapons. Ekhart was using his magic on it and Dolwen, Belisarius, Herrod, and I engaged it in weapons range. It literally ignored most of our attempts, trusting in its armor and ungodly strength to shield it from harm. Some of attacks were beginning to tell however as the odd blow managed to find the weak spots in its armor. The beast turned its attention to me as its axe blurred towards me in a silvery smear of motion. Fortunately, the first two attacks were clean misses and I managed to get my shield up for the third swing although the force of the blow nearly broke my arm.

Belisarius managed to land a solid blow that actually managed to stagger the beast. Everything else we threw at it failed to penetrate its guard or bounced off of its armor. In return for his valiant effort, Belisarius was on the receiving end of flat swing that hummed in past his guard and smashed into his ribcage, knocking him back, but not out of the fight. One of my swings managed to score a hit and then it was my turn again. I thought that I was done for as the axe droned towards me, but my rabbit’s foot picked that moment to fly off if its chain and strike the beast square in the eye, robbing the blow of much of its power and allowing me to parry it off with no damage.

During the next round of combat, the beast bellowed in surprise as Eckhart’s spell made it lose its grip on its weapon. Outstanding! As it bent over to retrieve it, I thrust my sword into the gap between the shoulder pauldron and the neck and drove it inwards as hard as I could. I must have hit something important because the beast fell in a heap, nearly tearing my sword from my grasp. We heard moans of terror from within the village as the remaining members of the warband witnessed the fall of their champion.

The rest was merely clean-up. Between us and the Bernjaeger, we managed to scour the village of the remaining beastmen. As I write this, the foul bodies are burning in makeshift pyres and we are beginning the gruesome task of searching the village for the any remains of the previous inhabitants. Our plans are to move onwards to the Neiderlitz ranch in the morning. I will file my next report as soon as the next opportunity presents itself. The liberation of the Blue Reach Delta has begun!

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