Onwards To The Middle Mountains

The absence of the blog posts has been down to a busy schedule. The games have been continuing fairly regularly, with 3 games a month. I can’t exactly pile all the content/details that have gone on to date into a single post, but I will provide a summary of all the major points that have happened.

Feelings On The Black Heart Campaign So Far

Since I am effectively creating my own ending to Enemy Within, which came about as a result of major player consequences, and the rather disappointing book versions of how things end, I have outlined a narrative that includes one more chapter after the Black Heart campaign comes to its conclusion. I say chapter cause it will be a much shorter linear epilogue to wrap up things. How things plan out in the BH campaign will affect things for the epilogue, particularly concerning the crown and the potential for ‘some’ of the players in the BH campaign to be brought over into the epilogue.

While I am not speaking for my players, the vibe that I am getting is that the open-sandbox nature of the mercenary campaign I’m running has proven to be a big hit with my group and the sort of dilemmas that they have run into as a mercenary band has created some really good moments for roleplay. They are also travelling with a large assortment of npcs which not only creates an interesting challenge to run, but allows for the PC’s to form connections/relationships with the npcs that you normally wouldn’t get in a party-run bog-standard campaign. This sort of campaign nicely contrasts the urban-intrigue campaign of Power Behind The Throne that took place previously, and while I was uncertain as to how healthy it would be for the narrative, my group opted for the more open player-led mercenary group and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how successful it’s been.

So What Has Transpired So Far?

The last post detailed the happenings at the Secundus Refuge, a secret obscure refuge dedicated to the sorcerous arts by wild ancient mages. Linked with the Shadowmound Monastery, the company were searching for Barlin Fireforge’s last resting spot for within would contain the means to finding the lost hold of Ghum’zul, where the Crown of Madness (Alaric’s Folly, Nemesis Crown, etc) lies. They secured that means and now have a way to decipher the map tablet, which in turn has been translated to an old map they found in the Shadowmound Monastery:

Interestingly enough, the map tablet also seems to indicate a means to navigate the lower passages of Ghum’zul, but for now little sense can be gained from it until they get there. Along the way are ‘shrines’ of significance to the path they must take. With Barlin’s runic tablet, they have the means to decipher the shrines which will guide them. One thing is clear, the dawi went through a lot of trouble making sure that Ghum’zul remained hidden.

After the company left the Shadowmound Hills, having gained what they were looking for, they headed west towards Hasselhund. Along the way they picked up a halfling surgeon by the name of Frilda Lightfoot outside an old Ostland fort-turned-medical sanctuary. Frilda needed to get to Hasselhund to look for some friends of hers who were part of a caravan, traveling in that direction.

When the company got to Hasselhund, their worst fears had played out; the place was a complete ruin, with barely anything standing. On the perimeter of the agricultural town, a contingent of Ostland soldiers had setup camp along with a small group of Shallyan priestesses who were showing the mercy and compassion of Shallya to the suffering of Hasselhund.

Captain Rylan treats with the commander. He is careful to be tactful and mindful of the situation. The company learns that the commander here is de-attached from the main northern force which is under the command of Marshal Valmir von Raukov, and the likely candidate to become Ostland’s next Elector-Count. According to the commander, Nordland’s invasion has been pushed back and ‘stalled’ and they are not likely to make a deep push anytime soon. Von Raukov headed south with little more than half of his forces to repel the orc horde that was heading up towards Ferlangen. Despite rumors to the contrary. Azhag the Slaughterer still lives after his brief conflict with Von Raukov. Raukov, using his famed dragon-bow, was able to pierce the hide of Azhag’s mounted beast, sending Azhag into a panic-stricken retreat along with his host. The orcs have split and scattered, but their latest intelligence hints that Azhag still has a sizeable contingent under his command, and has been spotted somewhere in the Middle Mountains.

That last part gives cause for concern. The Black Hearts need to go into the Middle Mountains, but if Azhag has retreated to the mountains, he’s either holding up there oblivious that the Crown is nearby, or his ‘retreat’ is something different altogether and he’s actively searching for the Crown now to win back his host.

The rumored Purple Hand assassin that is believed to be lurking amidst the Black Heart company surfaces. Eadulf, who was given the task by Ernst to investigate (and this also helps Eadulf’s player since he’s now picked up the Spy career) has a couple of suspects in mind. Hanz (one of the lead scouts), and Ethrin, the wood elf. Maude too at one point came under his suspicion, but Hanz in particular Eadulf was worried about, but he had nothing concrete to say it was him.

That was until a certain meeting at Hasselhund in one of the ruined buildings that lay on the outer edge of the town. Eadulf was meeting with Saltza. Saltza came to the conclusion that Eadulf had coughed up her secret pregnancy. She was right, and certainly not pleased when Eadulf confessed that he only told the officers because she will need to be protected. Saltza, determined that she doesn’t need to be coddled like a child, is about to storm off when Eadulf tells her that Gideon, haunts their every step, and he is after the child. Saltza is shocked to learn this, and has no idea why Gideon would want her child. When Eadulf mentioned that Kall Horst, the father of her child, once may have had dealings with this demon, Saltza did not appear surprised.

“I know the name. Kall had a few secrets he couldn’t keep from me. But that was a terror from his past. Why now? Lest it hunts his blood and those who share in it…” Saltza’s anger subsides, replaced with concern for her child. She tells Eadulf to be careful who he shares this information with, and she leaves him. As Eadulf remains alone, collecting his thoughts after that confrontation, he’s about to leave when a sudden movement from the loft shifts his gaze and causes him to turn. The ruined building has an open roof, and from above jumps down a slender figure. At first one might mistake it for Ethrin, as a bow comes up with an arrow drawn. But it is not him. Hanz.

“I knew it,” mutters Eadulf. But Hanz does not let the arrow fly.

“Had a feeling you were onto me, keeping an eye out. If I vanish or disappear, you’ll be the first one to notice, and first one to raise the alarm. I could kill you… and take my leave, but I need a distraction. You will be that distraction, Stitch. I slip away, and you need not hear from me again.” Eadulf is naturally confused, for surely this man is a Purple Hand agent, and surely Ernst is his quarry. But not all is as it is seems.

“The gods seem to act against every opportunity. The Hand have paid me well, but this… this ain’t worth it. I always had a feeling that something was wrong with this company… whatever this ‘Gideon’ is, I want no part of it. You let me slip away, while you distract from my absence, and you need not hear from me again. You have my word that I w-” Eadulf charges Hanz, swiping the bow with his hand as Hanz lets it fly, but it misses, going over Eadulf’s shoulder. They both grapple one another, but Hanz has the upper hand as he pins Eadulf up against a wall. Eadulf shouts out a cry for help as Hanz reaches for a dagger.

“You should have just let me leave!” As Hanz draws the dagger, and is about to gut Eadulf, Ifaris who arrives at Eadulf’s call for aid immediately casts Drop. The dagger drops, and Hanz is pushed back.

Overpowered, and now joined by Rylan and Sergeant Otto, Hanz is on his knees, his hands binded and at the mercy of his former compatriots. Ernst is nearby, mounted and watching this unfold, at the same time, watching for anyone who may stray too close and get nosy.

Hanz explains that he is no Purple Hand, but a hired killer. He tells an interesting tale. Two men left Altdorf on the trail of Ernst. Hanz and Hartwig. Hartwig was a ‘Black Heart’ who was murdered during the dead of night at the Schoffen estate. He’s the man that had pushed Ernst off the stairs down below, cracking his head and nearly killing him, before making an escape. He was captured later and put in a cage, to await a decision, before someone murdered him. No one has ever found his killer. Until now.

Hanz is gloating, with nothing to lose, his tongue is quite loose. He says that they first infiltrated the company at the Ostland 42nd camp. Hartwig put the cursed parchment into Ernst’s saddlebags, and they left. The parchment was given to them by a ‘Grey Wizard’ but the identity of the man was not revealed, other than that he was part of the Purple Hand and the man who hired them.

Once it was clear the attempt to kill Ernst with the parchment failed, they infiltrated the Black Hearts, stealing a couple of broaches from two dead Black Hearts who died during the undead fight at the camp. They slipped themselves in, hoping no one will notice. Oskar’s mutiny helped their cause further by allowing them to gain trust by remaining on the side that Ernst was on.

But who killed Hartwig? Hanz confesses that Hartwig proved to be a liability at that point, and he might exchange his freedom and life by giving up him. So… he persuaded Ethrin to kill him. Hanz had overheard how Maude, Ethrin, Lark and Liz were discreetly discussing about robbing the Black Hearts of their supplies. Hanz had used this as leverage and approached Ethrin, essentially forcing him to take this mans life in exchange for Hanz’s silence. The deal was done.

Rylan sends out Otto to search for and seize Ethrin. But Ethrin is already gone, having retreated into the forest, leaving his companion, Maude, behind. Maude is instead taken. Hanz, having offered all that is useful to them, is killed by Rylan. But before this is carried out, he has some words for Eadulf who had called him a merciless killer.

“You think of me as a killer? You are right. A cold hearted bastard is what I am. I admit it. Let me tell you something, Stitch. You are surrounded by them. Men of black hearts. I have eaten with them, laughed with them and fought alongside you lot. I know killers when I see them. These lot will change you. You are in the company of killers, Stitch. When you realize that, you’ll be one too. They will drag you down with them.”

Rylan stabs the man, killing him quickly. Hanz’s words will linger on Eadulf’s conscious for sometime.

Maude, in place of Ethrin, is treated harshly. Accused of conspiring against the company, Rylan smacks her across the face with the hilt of his pistol, knocking her out cold. If Eadulf had not caught her in time, she would have smacked her head off a nearby brick as she fell. There is a call for calm.

Later on, Kroll gives himself the task to hiding the body of Hanz. During this task, he’s caught red handed by the most unlikely of faces he’d have expected to meet. Godric Issendor, his old college rival.

Godric immediately demands for an explanation. Kroll provides one, saying the man is an assassin who made an attempt on his life, to which Godric responds, “Poppycock! Who in their right mind would waste time, coin and resources chasing after you Kroll, you wrinkly-faced old toad you!”

Some amusing rival banter is exchanged. Godric appears more helpful in the end, offering up mediation between the mercenaries that Kroll is associated with and the local commander, for it’s revealed that the commander is looking for conscripts and he’ll no doubt try his hand at recruiting the Black Hearts.

Later on that evening, Kroll and Eadulf meet a band of travelling strigany who have setup camp outside the ruined town. An old familiar face surfaces who Kroll once met on his travels. Smoff, an Ogre, who was also doing a puppet show. Yes. Puppets, attached to strings. Controlled by an Ogre. The puppet show was telling a rather crude but intriguing tale concerning a Holy Knight fighting against dark forces. This knight was depicting Ser Gado of the Shining Rivers. It seems Smoff, or rather, Ser Smoff, has taken up Ser Gado’s journey in honor of the knight.

Commission by https://www.deviantart.com/nikitakapitunov

Smoff greets Kroll, and Eadulf, but it’s not long before they reveal why they are at the strigany camp. The local commander wishes for them to move on, and they are hear to see if they can gently ‘nudge’ them along because if they do this, the commander will supply them with some arms, and local criminals who have been deemed unfit to serve the Ostland cause.

Jahdani, a energetic and friendly strigany man treats with them. He remembers Kroll from before (background stuff), and is happy to help. He is aware that the commander wishes for them to move along, and will do so come tomorrow, but first he has a request. It concerns Smoff.

He asks them what task lays before them that has them journeying in dangerous lands with odd company. They only tell him that the task is important and failure is not an option. Jahdani seems pleased at this. He says, “Then you will forgive the nature of my request. I must ask you if you would be willing to take Smoff with you. The Ogre. Some may consider him a burden, but you will find no more loyal companion than he. I ask this of you because he is wasting away with us. I do not wish to be rid of his company, but he does not belong with us… You see, when he came to us, he was on a quest of some kind. Seeking purpose. I think the last group he was with had affected him greatly. He has taken up the oath of a dead knight who was once his friend. And now that he has spent time with us, travelled with us, protected us from harm, my heart knows that this is not his place. His oath slumbers, and he is forgetting his purpose, which he only lives through his carved puppets. If… this task is as important as you say, then to him it will be a quest of utmost importance, and it may help him take upon the oath he had once sworn. The decision, is yours.”

They agree to at least discuss it with the captain of the Black Hearts, but both see the logic in having an ogre, but feeding him may take its toll on their supplies.

The next day, the Black Hearts get ready to leave. Three criminals from the Ostland camp are picked and added to the Misfits group of the Black Hearts. The company approves having an ogre, having had experience with ogres before. Jahdani meets them, and he meets with Rylan. He tells Rylan that Smoff is not like most other ogres; he can be slow to pick up on stuff and is easily influenced by those around him.

Godric and Kroll share their farewells. Maude who was earlier knocked out, awakens and is given an ultimatum. She opts to stay with the Black Hearts for now, clearly displeased at having no good options and being forced to stay, Rylan puts her to work with Iorite Silverfist, with Iorite’s blessing. The halfling Frilda Lightfoot agrees, at the behest of Eadulf, to stay with the company and lend her services. Eadulf is keen to have someone who may be able to assist with births, and has paid her in advance of her stay since she has been unable to find her missing companions.

The company moves out of Hasselhund, heading south instead of west for the Skalt Mines along the northern part of the river Eiskalt. The dwarves Mallus and Silverfist know of the mines, with Mallus being more knowledgable. It is a passage that will lead into the Middle Mountains, a shortcut, one that will potentially avoid meeting the greenskins.

(More to come in another post soon)

Morr Comes Knocking

Been awhile! I got struck down with Covid a little over two weeks ago, and it knocked me on my ass. I am on the mend, and the games have continued, because what else am I going to do in isolation?

There’s been quite a few games, so this will cover the important aspects and summarize the bits in-between.

So where did we last leave things?

The Black Hearts arrived at the Shadowmound Monastery in the Shadowmound Hills, east of Hasselhund, Ostland, seeking clues to the resting place of Barlin Fireforge, Runelord of Ghum’zul, the lost dwarven hold. There, they found an old map tablet with old runic writing that predates Iorite Silverfist’s knowledge, requiring some kind of cipher to understand it all. They find the last piece of the tablet and soon complete it, but it is evident to them that they require far more to unlock the secrets of Barlin’s tablet. They determine that Barlin Fireforge resting place is not the Shadowmound Monastery; his body was moved to the ‘Secundus Refuge’, The Second Brothers. Ifaris discovers that these so-called Second Brothers were connected to the monastery, but at the same time, isolated from it. They were gifted in arcane knowledge and sorcery. Indeed, Kroll is excited but also worried at the prospect of discovering an ancient sect of wild untamed mages who practiced the magical arts long long before any colleges of magic.

Discovering where the Secundus Refuge lay was a simple matter that involved rooting through the library of the monastery. After a promotional ceremony that saw Archibald promoted to Corporate, and Xaltach welcomed officially as a Black Heart member, the officers agree to spend just the one night before continuing south.

It was during this night that Eadulf had his disturbing dream (as recounted in previous blog) yet it was perhaps Captain Rylan Karth who had the most sleepless night of them all. For the good captain woke up during the middle of the night with a drunken Dane Ironheart strangling him.

“You killed him!” he uttered in anger, “Oskar! You killed him!” Oskar was the mutinous norscan that Rylan Karth faced off at Schaffen, after his second mutiny. Him and Dane were close friends. Rylan, desperately reaching for his pistol, managed to grab hold of it and pressed it against Dane’s temple. Yet Dane did not relent, and just as Rylan was about to pull the trigger, a knife comes to Dane’s throat, pressing deeply in and drawing blood. Dane released his grip, and stumbled backwards in a drunken mixture of shame and anger. Rylan reaches out and grabs hold of the arm of his savior, who turned out to be Saltza.

“What will we do with him?” she asks.

Rylan did not hesitate when he suggested that Dane would be executed, but Saltza tempered his first instincts. “You kill him, and you have a leaderless bunch of misfits who are the worst of the lot of us.”

“What do you expect me to do, spare him? He tried to kill me,” replied Rylan.

“I know, and he will be reminded of that every day. It is your call. Maybe he can listen to reason… he isn’t himself, clearly.”

Rylan ordered Saltza to keep watch outside, close the door and don’t let anyone in. It was late at night, and most of the Black Hearts were drunk or asleep inside the monastery. Inside the room, Rylan gets up close and personal with Dane. (The GM can’t recount word for word so this will be summarized) Rylan asks Dane why he should spare his life. Dane tells him he shouldn’t, and that he should kill him here and now. Rylan can clearly see that Dane is ashamed of his actions, that what happened may have been a momentary lapse in judgement, but the dwarf is still clearly angry at Rylan. Rylan asks Dane why, not only that, but why now.

“If you want me to explain my actions, I cannot. I don’t understand why I did what I did. Something just… came over me.” Rylan stood there for awhile, looking down at the dwarf. In the end, he spared his life, but vowed this, “From now on, when I give an order, you will follow it, without question. If I say jump, you say how high. If I even get a whiff of mutinous behavior from you, I will kill you. You understand?”

Dane understood. Rylan left him there.

The next morning came, and the Black Hearts prepared to move south towards the Secundus Refuge, where they believe Barlin’s tomb rests.

Kroll believes that the Secundus refuge is built under a conjunction of Leylines; the natural raw streams of magic that flow through the world. He is right, later on that same day of departure, they discover a series of monuments that were built under these Leylines.

These ancient sorcerers tapped into the Leylines to draw power from, a dangerous prospect for wild mages of this early period. The party investigate these monuments. Several names are inscribed upon them.

Second Brother, Fire Master Darius

Second Brother, Scroll Master Patrius

Second Brother, Shadow Master Arkaineous

Second Brother, High Master Odwin

Second Brother, (Unintelligable)

Second Brother, (Unintelligable)

Second Brother, (Unintelligible)

It is however upon the tomb of Arkaineous, that Ingo shouts out a warning to Ifaris to watch out. Ifaris looks down to see a dark outstretched hand made of black smoke reaching out towards him. Ifaris pulls back from it with alarm, as the hand dissipates into nothing. “Thank you brother,” says Kroll in response to the warning from Ingo. Kroll detects traces of ‘Dhar’ around this particular tomb, and now the party are concerned about what they may find below.

Scouts were sent out further on ahead, and have returned with news. A path that winds to the east and north leads to a hill upon which a structure of some kind can be observed. However, it is guarded by goblins, but! The goblins appear distracted, as they are fighting someone on top of the hill. When the party get closer to investigate, they hear the battle shouts of a Sigmarite warrior priest. They discuss what to do, but it is not long before they decide to take advantage of the distracted goblins. Picking a smaller group and leaving most of the Black Hearts behind, for the purpose of stealth, they advance on the goblin position.

It’s a bit touch and go for a moment as the goblins have the high ground. Rylan Karth climbs up on the edge and grabs a goblin, sending him flying down below. The rest of the group begin to climb the hill using a narrow path, all the while being peppered by poisoned arrows from the goblins. Despite this, the party converge on both sides and flank the goblins, proving victorious. There is no sign of the priest however.

The Black Hearts down below, the main group, come under attack from the rear by a goblin ambush, but they are able to hold their ground and fend them off. They regroup up on the hill and fortify the position against further attack, while the party explore the main chambers of the structure.

It turns out to be the crypts they were looking for; the Secundus Refuge. Some kind of calamity had befallen this sanctuary, with most of it now buried or destroyed. Thankfully the entrance that they use on top of the hill proves stable enough for a small group to make their way deeper into the refuge.

The summit upon which the Black Hearts fought for, and the entrance to the Refuge
Going deeper into the crypts

As they explore the crypts, they see lining the walls are web cocoons housing long-deceased goblins. Hm, alarming…, More goblins emerge further on, but this time they are running. From something…

Olkmarus Bartholm

Swinging a mighty warhammer, the warrior priest emerges through an archway, smiting a goblin in his path, before coming face to face with the party.

“I am a servant of Sigmar Heldenhammer, and I am here to purge this den of its wretched evil and to find my lost brother in arms. You can aid me in this, but do not get in my way.”

As Captain Karth steps forward to ease any air of hostility and to make introductions, something looms above the priest.

A Giant Spider!

The foul 8 legged freak pounces upon the Sigmarite without warning and pierces him with its venom dripping mandibles. He falls, paralyzed by the venom, as he struggles to crawl away from the looming monstrosity. The party jump in. Xaltach comes up behind the priest and drags him to safety, and thankfully for the lizard skink, the priest is unaware and focused on the spider. Captain Karth, believe it or not, attempts to mount the spider, to which after a couple of successful rolls, does so! Otto fires off an arrow and the rest of the group attack. But the spider isn’t having it, it retreats, clambering up a wall as Rylan falls from its back, hitting the ground hard.

With the spider vanished, they see to the aid of Olkmarus. Xaltach retreats into the shadows so as to not get noticed. The priest thanks them, and explains his situation. His battle-brother, Jeorgh, an Ulrican, was snatched by that creature they just saw, and that he had been hunting it ever since. He came to this lair but discovered goblins had also been using it. They believe that the goblins have been extracting venom from the spider’s victims to coat their weapons.

Rylan tells Olkmarus that as much as they would love to help, they are here for a different reason. Olkmarus guessed as much, and makes mention of a inner chamber deep below where they may find what they are looking for, but that the spider he is hunting, lies elsewhere. Mallus however agrees to aid the Sigmarite, saying, “I cannot in good mind let you go off to face that beast alone. I will aid you in this, Sigmarite. A dawi shall refuse no aid to one as yourself when requested.” Mallus and Olkmarus (Olk is a npc btw) separate and head off to hunt the spider (this battle is calculated in the background since it involves two npcs) while the rest of the party continue down into the inner chambers.

The inner-chamber proved to be peculiar. A ritual circle of long-dried blood was in the center surrounded by metal rails. Along these rails, were four demonic statues.

Mo’rcck and The Master
Ans’l and Malal

On each statue, was an inscription.

Upon the largest of the statues, was one known as ‘Malal’; large horns and a third eye represented this statue. “…and he that went before now came last, and that which was white and black and all direction was thrown against itself. Grown mightily indignant at the words of the Gods, Malal did turn his heart against them and flee into the void… And no man looked to Malal then, save those that serve that which they hate, who smile upon their misfortune, and who bear no love save for the damned. At such times as a warrior’s heart turns to Malal, all Gods of Chaos grow fearful, and the laughter of the Outcast God fills the hearts…”

“… Ans’l, bowed and broken by the might of the third eye, forsaken by master of old, turned to the one who rebels…”

“…Mo’rcck, proud and defiant against the third eye, seeks to take his place to guard the way to his master…”

While the last of the statues, did not have anything other than a title, ‘The Master’.

The inner-chamber, they discovered, had no discernable way forwards, other than the way they came. However, there was a wall that had the rune of Gazul upon its surface. Gazul is the Lord of the Underearth, a dwarven ancestor god of death. So beyond this wall, was the burial chamber of Barlin Fireforge. But smashing down the wall as not an option; Kroll discovered a magical barrier of remarkable strength guarded the way. It was clear to proceed, they would have to solve the riddle in front of them.

It was surprisingly Eadulf, the physician, who came up with the initiative to discovering what had to be done. They realized that the statues could be moved along metal railings built into the ground. Ans’l was forsaken by the master, so he turned to Malal for protection. His statue was placed in front of Malal. Mo’rcck, remained vigilant in front of The Master, guarding the way.

When they had placed the statues in their positions, Kroll could feel a dark presence emerge. The air got cold suddenly and inside the pentagram, a dark wraith of shadow emerged.

“You have awakened me… why…”

“Who are you?” asks one of the party.

“I was Arkaineous, Lord of Shadows. Now I am bounded to this place, cursed for an eternity by my brothers.”

“Why were you cursed?”

“I betrayed my brothers for knowledge. They were weak. Jealous of my power. Only together could they imprison me, but at the cost of their pathetic lives… I am the keeper to what you seek. To be shown the way you must show you are worthy of the secrets within. You will need to offer a sacrifice, two things which Barlin once had.”

Iorite Silverfist isn’t in much of a mood to negotiate with a dark spirit, and charges forward. Their attempt sends them flying against a pillar. Things quickly spiral out of control and a fight ensues.

Dark wraiths sprout from chained chests in the corner of the chambers and attack the party. Their weapons are useless against them, but magic proves to be effective. Eadulf however discovers that the chests are the key to keeping the wraiths at bay. He snaps apart the chains and opens up to discover a pile of bones inside. “Destroy the bones!” he shouts.

One by one they destroy the chests, until Arkaineous’s servants are no more. The wraith has no choice now but to tell them how to proceed, previously it had tried to bargain for its own release from its prison.

Iorite Silverfist, possessing one of the runic amulets that Barlin made, that was found at the monastery, presses it up against the wall’s barrier. The barrier fizzles out, and the wall crumbles apart. Her blood is also required, which she presses her cut palm upon the rune. (The map tablet would also work here)

They step inside the chamber.

Barlin Fireforge’s burial chamber.

Inside, they discover Barlin’s last gift; a stone tablet upon which runes are inscribed. With this, Iorite can now begin to decipher the map tablet.

Also discovered is the last words of those who buried Barlin.

“Our brother of the Shadows, Arkaineous, has fallen, slain by our hands in his quest to reveal the secret that was entrusted upon us. He claims the Crown of Madness reached out to him, calling him. We did not believe his desperate attempt to claim madness. In his dying breath, he summoned foul creatures from another realm to exact his vengeance upon us. They serve the Great Webspinner. We have begun a ritual to entomb Arkaineous spirit, to bind him to serve as the guardian to Barlin’s tomb, to guard the way to Ghumzul against his own monsters and those who seek the Crown. Our brothers shall call upon the aid of the Third Eye to repel these foul creatures. May the Winds forgive us.”

They leave the resting place of Barlin Fireforge, Silverfist particularly mournful to leave so quickly. As they do, the wall on the northern side of the chamber gives way; Mallus and Olkmarus are battling not one, but two giant spiders and a swarm of little ones. The party join to help.

It’s a very tough fight, but they prevail, although a good few of the party pick up a hefty amount of wounds to be looked after by Stitch later.

It is here that Olkmarus discovers the presence of Xaltach, shouting, “Watch out! A beast stalks you!” but the rest of the Black Hearts protect him, and try to explain to Olkmarus as to the presence of Xaltach, that he is not to be feared. They explain again. And again. They explain once more… finally, Olkmarus lowers his warhammer and appears at ease when he discovers it was Xaltach who dragged him away from safety. They won’t become fast friends, as Olkmarus takes to ignoring Xaltach as best as he can in the moment, but at least he’s not caving his skull in. The priest seems far more approachable than the last lot of Sigmarites they ran into.

Olkmarus tells them that he discovered the remains of his battle brother, and seeks to bring him into the light, out of the dark. The party aid in this, but before they leave… something pulls on Kroll. A ever-slight pull, that draws him near the center… Arkaineous. But Ingo puts a hand on Kroll, who was already resisting such attempts, telling him, “Do not listen, Kroll. He tried to tempt me, it whispers lies and deceit. Lets leave at once.”

As they left, Ingo trailed behind… looking back towards the center.

Back outside on the surface, the party find that the company has fortified their position. Silverfist has everything they need now to decipher the tablet, but it will take time. Olkmarus begins to create a pyre for his departed Battle Brother. Amidst this, Kroll notices that Ingo is not with them…

He gathers Captain Rylan and Mallus, and makes their way back down into the crypts to search for Ingo.

There, they find Ingo in the center of the ritual circle. Kroll calls out to him. Ingo turns and approaches, but does not step beyond the ritual circle.

“I… sensed that Arkaineous’s bindings would weaken, so I have took extra measures to ensure he is imprisoned for good.”

Kroll is suspicious, and casts Witch Smeller; a spell that enhances his witch-sight. Upon casting, he looks upon Ingo and sees the wraith of Arkaineous behind Ingo, looming there with a death-like grip upon Ingo’s shoulder. Ingo begins to cast!

A magical duel unfolds. Mallus retreats at the behest of Rylan who asks him to go fetch the others.

Crackling bolts of energy between the two wizards clash. Ifaris is holding back however, trying not to harm Ingo. Rylan doesn’t care as he draws a pistol and shoots, but the bullet bounces off an Aethyric shield of magical energy that surrounds Ingo. A translucent green fog erupts in the chamber as a result of a spell from Ingo. Kroll coughs and maintains his focus, Rylan struggles as the mist contains faces upon which scream out towards him. Not just that, but the mist is corruptive in nature.

Mallus returns with Eadulf, Sergeant Otto and the Sigmarite priest, Olkmarus. Two dark wraiths appear in the center and disappear into the two smaller statues on the north and south end. The demonic statues slowly come to live, jumping off their podiums as they charge towards those attacking Ingo. Kroll races inside the ritual circle, immediately feeling his powers wane as he does. He tries to grapple Ingo, but Ingo remains firm and resolute as he steals an essence of Kroll’s life. Rylan shoots and smashes apart a statue with the aid of the Sigmarite. Otto shoots at the other one, severely damaging it while Mallus charges in. Eadulf races into the circle and wrestles with Ingo, while Kroll tries to ensnare Ingo’s mouth with a mouth-piece entrapment device, often used to stop mages from casting.

As they wrestle, Rylan who is now free from his burdens, comes striding over while loading his pistol, and points it at Ingo amidst the grapple. He fires. Ingo falls, clutching his chest. As he does, Kroll can feel the wraith of Arkaineous leave Ingo and retreat back into its prison. Ingo is free from its possession.

Eadulf desperately tries to save Ingo, and in the process, Ingo laments, “I was a fool… I bargained for knowledge…” he grabs Kroll’s arm, “Kroll… save the child! It is after the child, it must live…” Ingo falls unconscious as Eadulf successfully removed the fragmented bullet.

His chances of surviving are not great.

Perplexed at what he meant, Eadulf provides the answer as to what this child might reference. “Saltza… she’s pregnant, with Kall Horst’s child. I only recently found out about it myself.”

They agree to discuss this later, but not now. They help lift Ingo out, and head to the surface once more.

They leave Ingo inside Rylan’s tent to recover, placing him in a bedroll covering with furs. A guard is placed outside with strict orders to not let anyone in.

They discuss what to do about the revelation down below. They agree that Saltza will need to be cared for, but Eadulf advises against coddling her. Xaltach is assigned to keep an eye on her. Kroll lends his knowledge to this, what it might mean. If this dark presence, Gideon, struck a bargain of some kind with Horst, then Horst’s child would be a target for its ire and schemes. They agree it must be protected.

They agree to bed down for the night on the hill. As the sun settles, and night takes over, a unsettling dream unfolds amidst the party. All those who were down in the crypts below, share in this dream.

Morning comes… One by one they awake in a heap of sweat, their dreams filled with dark portents. It is an ill-morning, for when they regroup to discuss what they experienced in their dreams, they discover Ingo had died during the night.

Eadulf inspects Ingo’s body. Something doesn’t appear right however, as red ligature marks around Ingo’s neck becomes apparent. Was he… strangled? The guard posted claims to have seen no one come in, and only went away briefly for a quick squat and dump nearby, but he never left his eyes on the tent.

Rylan was the only one inside the tent, and he was asleep, having noticed no one. Still, Eadulf remarks it is possible Ingo died of his wounds and the marks around his neck happened during their struggle together.

Just then, the sound of ripping flesh as Ingo’s stomach rips open, and a … detached head bearing Ingo’s likeness sprouts up and makes an attempt to escape.

Mutation that I rolled for Ingo during his possession

Panic ensues inside the tent! Karth draws his pistol but freezes up at the sight of this thing, Otto shoots at it, one lands true but it continues moving. His dogs try to catch it, but it is too quick. Kroll’s magical silver arrows of death pierce the creature’s hide and kills it at last before it could escape.

They are in shock. Now not only is Ingo dead, but they have to conceal this from the rest of the company.

They wrap the mutant head in cloth and set about quickly arranging for Ingo’s pyre so that his body may be burned swiftly.

An hour later, everything is set. The whole company is gathered, none the wiser for what happened in Rylan’s tent.

Gathered around the pyre of their departed friend and fellow Black Heart, they watch as Rylan lights the pyre. A few decide to say some words. Rylan utters a brief prayer. Kroll remarks fondly upon the memory of his ‘Sorcerous Brother’, Xaltach throws in a leaf from his home of Lustria into the pyre.

As Kroll looks upon the pyre, his witch sight reveals something that the others do not see.

The trace of Ingo’s wind, Shyish. There is a shade, an element of Dhar… but the wind of Shyish drowns it out. It swirls around his body… and for a brief moment, he thinks, no, he does… see Ingo’s face, looking upon him, before fading forever…

Another 4 Session Report Coming Up Soon…

Been awhile since I posted an update. We’ve been gaming away every Sunday, every week. And another Warhammer session this Sunday, which will be the 4th game I believe since the last blog update. So I shall provide a large update after that.

Some teaser snippets:

Goblins, oh my!

Did someone say Giant Spider?

Barlin’s tomb is discovered…

An obscure dark god makes an appearance…

A sigmarite priest introduces himself… (npc)

That’s it, just a quick update!

Shadowmound Monastery

Link to previous game post.

I’ve been putting this off for a bit because it encompasses 4 sessions worth of Warhammer. And my memory has struggled after the consumption of Guinness, so this may be a sketchy recollection. Most of the sessions was roleplay between the party+npcs, but there was some revelations and travelling going on, so we’ll get to all of that.

Continuing on from Strench of Righteousness, the Black Hearts move camp, and over a period of 3 days, some hunting is arranged on each day. A coney, two squirrels, a lynx, a young starving grey wolf and a nest of bird eggs were found thanks to Otto and Xaltarch’s hunting. Otto’s hounds did pick up the scent of a boar, but his dogs were not able to home in on it, so that had to be let go.

On the early afternoon of the 3rd day, on the move again to the south, Ifaris’s magical senses pick up traces of the Aether; winds of magic. But is far to the south, so they have some ways to go yet, but if Ifaris’s theory holds true about the leylines possibly leading to where the Runelord might be buried, there’s some hope. (Ifaris believes that the Runelords were buried near a leyline, a theory based on what he read in the memoirs of the Fort Randyll’s necromancer’s assistant, Lothar.

GM Exposition: For the benefit of blog readers, a little recap as to their current goal: Having decided to help Mallus Gundersson on his quest to find Alaric the Mad’s Master Rune of Ages, The Nemesis Crown, (and very much aware of the stakes on hand if they don’t aid, and being promised riches untold as further incentive), the Black Hearts make the long journey towards the Middle Mountains to find the lost dwarfen hold of Karaz Ghum’zul, where the crown is believed to be, but their route is not direct. Mallus spoke of two Runelords of great renown who hailed from Ghum’zul. One of them is said to be buried in the Shadowmound Hills, but all expeditions have failed to turn up such evidence. Mallus believes that these Runelords will have in their possession a means to find the lost hold, speaking of wayshrines that show the way, but to no one has been able to decipher them. The party hope that finding the long dead Runelord will shed insight on this matter. Exposition Finished.

The forward scouts then spot, through the haze of a heavy snow drift, a settlement of some kind. They see tall sturdy looking walls. Xaltarch is sent to scout it out. It’s nestled on top of a large hill, overlooking the plains below and appears to be in a relatively good defensive position.

Shadowmound Monastery

Main Interior Chamber


Xaltarch scales the walls and discovers the settlement appears to be abandoned. What they first thought might be a town, is now believed to be a monastery. Otto and two scouts head on in to check it out further, as the rest of the company moves up.

They discover the remains of a body in the stables, long deceased, and nothing but bones and scraps of thin flesh hanging off them in a state of decomposition. The enduring winter chill seems to have preserved the body to some degree. A wagon with barrels of ‘sloshing liquid’ is found, can’t be determined what it is, but the dwarfs and everyone else, but specifically the dwarfs! They want a taste. Dane and Mallus share a rare moment of cooperative momentum to seize the opportunity, until they become into direct competition with one another over the wagon’s contents. Keeping the peace is a difficult affair. Ifaris cast’s GLORIOUS PASSAGE and makes a very good speech about how they will all get their sip of the day, if they remain orderly.

Inside, the monastery opens up into a large chamber with a bowl-like glass dome that has been smashed in places, and snow drifts down into the interior. Xaltarch picks up a trace smell of old sour wine and begins following it on the second level, while Ifaris recognizes a couple of statues nestled into an alcove at the far back. He converses with Otto in discussing them.

Wendred & Clio

Elsewhere they also discover two more statues, representing minor gods.

Shallya the Purifier and Scripsisti

Wendred is a Wissenland god, something that Ifaris is familiar with having been raised in Wissenland. He is the god of Duty & Service, and a common saying is ‘To carry the weight of Wendred’. Clio is a daughter of Verena, and a classical goddess of History. Shallya the Purifier is an older more obscure aspect of Shallya, whose sect take efforts to hide and comfort mutants and those afflicted with maladies that would otherwise often see them killed on sight for or shunned by society. Scripsisti, another daughter of Verena with a strong base in Tilea. She is the Goddess of Learning & Writing. The name Scripsisti has origins within the Empire and probably comes from a mistranslation of the old tongue. In Tilea, she is called Dotrina’giatura.

Meanwhile, Xaltarch who was following a trail on the upper level, has found some company.

Maude, and Ethrin, two companions of the Talabec Longshank that was guiding the party, Liz Schar. Xaltarch is surprised to see them here, and perhaps even more so that they have greeted his presence with aggression. They appear to be on edge, but after assuring them that they are not in any danger, and he’s happy to reintroduce them to Rylan, they head out to meet the Captain.

After both parties explain their presence, it appears that Larkin, one of their companions had been killed by hill goblins, and that Ethrin took an arrow in the shoulder as they fled for this place of sanctuary. Maude makes a point to say that the goblins didn’t follow them in, as if they were ‘frightened’ of the place or something. Rylan makes it clear that they are free to share the comforts of the monastery. Eadulf assists with Ethrin’s injury, finding out that the goblins use poison arrows so he has to prepare a special poultice for the wound.

Iorite is suspicious that the goblins didn’t follow them in, and wants to be sure that a trap is not waiting for them.

Iorite Silverfist, along with Mallus and Dane, investigate the crypts below the monastery, suspecting that they might find some sneaky goblins waiting. There, they find burial chamber housing the departed. All bones and dust. No recent signs of death. Certainly no goblins.

The crypts beneath the monastery

Also discovered was the writing on the wall, written in classical reikspiel. It’s hard to comprehend, at first. It seems Barlin Fireforge, a great runesmith and believed to be one of the lost runesmiths of Karaz Ghum’zul, came to this Monastery in need of aid, as he was severely wounded. The tale continues, that before he succumbed to his wounds, he used what remained of his strength to create ward runes, that protected the monastery from those who sought to enter. Does this hint that Fireforge may have been pursued by foes into the monastery? Or was the monastery under a threat from something at the time? It does not say for certain.

Writing on the wall

Silverfist also found runic amulets among four of the deceased monks. Instilled in them were rune magic, but their exact purpose is unknown. What Silverfist can determine is they were built for a specific task in mind and that they were all connected somehow. Silverfist is at least able to decipher the meaning of the runes, but is still puzzled as to what to do with them. The Eternal one however is cracked in half, and the top piece of it is missing.

Dane, who was not particularly fond in this goblin hunt turning into an exercise to rifle through some bones, takes his leave, and Mallus, having finished crushing bones under the heel of his Gromril boots, also leaves for topside. Silverfist remains below to study some more, but the others are quickly informed as to their findings.

After hearing about the crypt, Ifaris makes his way down wishinig to peruse the findings. He began reading on the opposite wall of Silverfist. It was very confusing. At times the scribblings didn’t seem to make much sense. There was also a list of the entombed. Notably, Barlin Fireforge wasn’t among that list.

However, with Silverfist’s aid, they discovered a segment in the writing that alluded to something interesting. It spoke of The Secundus or ‘Second’ Brothers at the Southern Refuge who were willing to take the recently parted Fireforge. It seems it was forbidden to bury anyone in the crypts that were not part of their monastic order.

Writing on the wall

Intriguing.

Later on, a discovery upstairs reveals a book pertaining to a third party account of the Secundus Refuge. Ifaris, who was given the book, intrigued to discover that these so-called ‘Second Brothers’ were gifted in the magical arts, ancient sorcerers over two thousand years ago from a time before the Colleges of Magic. It is likely then that this refuge may have been built under a leyline, which acts as a powerful magical conjunction.

Elsewhere, Xaltarch has a somewhat philosophical chat with Ethrin. Ethrin, who is a wood elf, is outside in the courtyard, practicing shooting after Eadulf tended to his shoulder injury. His aim is a little off for a few of the shots, but still impressive considering the injury. The two share a discourse, but Ethrin is blunt and cold in his observations concerning the lizard, telling him, “It perplexes me that you travel with men. You are a creature of the wilds, that is where you belong. You put far too much trust in them. They will be the death of you, you know this? Had this been a forest, and I still with my kithband, and you, a beast stalking the forest floor; I would not hesitate with my aim to put you down… But fate being what it is, you are not my enemy. They, the men you travel with will betray you if it means saving themselves. Remember that.”

Ernst wishes for a quiet but urgent discussion with Ifaris and Eadulf. (Throwback time)

When they meet up in the courtyard in a quiet corner away from the hustle, Ernst reveals his reasons for the summons. What is now over a month ago, someone left a cursed parchment containing the symbol of the Purple Hand and had put it in his saddlebags at the Ostland 42nd Company camp. A stablehand, ordered to bring Ernst his horse on the morning before the attack of the undead, died suddenly and very quickly. Ernst explains that he never had the time to investigate, because that very same morning, the undead had advanced upon the camp, sent forth by the Necromancer.

Ernst had assumed, that after he had left with the company with the bulk of the Black Heart forces, that whoever it was, either fled from the advance of the undead or was slain during the course of their travels.

However, he notes himself that he has a suspicious mind. He’s not given it much thought with other more pressing things weighing him down, but now that the days pass on and they have found what appears to be refuge, it’s been preying on his mind more and more. If, IF, there is an assassin, he explains, and that assassin still lives, then he is perhaps masquerading as a Black Heart. He thinks its safe to rule out Oskar’s lot, because when he was hold up with Oskar, the would-be assassin would have had plenty of opportunity. Even when Ernst was in a state of delirium, he’d have been vulnerable, but the assassin likely would not have counted on his survival.

So he asks Ifaris and Eadulf of two things. Eadulf, since he regrouped with the company after the attempt on his life, Ernst trusts him. He asks Eadulf to gently investigate any would-be imposters. He’s a physician and close to the men, so the perfect candidate. He brings ifaris in because of his prior involvement in hunting the Purple Hand (backstory stuff), and also he shows Ifaris the purple hand parchment that was in his saddlebags on that fateful morning. Ifaris is alarmed to detect traces of Ulgu – Shadow/Illusion magic on the parchment. Particularly alarming because Ifaris is already aware that the Hand had agents in the Grey College.

Elsewhere; Sergeant Otto orders for Brannigar to sort out the kegs of beer after it has been determined by Eadulf, that they are not poisonous (they hope).

Rylan Karth starts making plans for a promotion ceremony later on, and is overseeing efforts to secure the monastery.

The party has a ‘AHA!’ moment concerning the amulets and after further study of the writing on the walls. With the party in toe, they race from statue to statue, rune amulet in hand. They believe that the amulets pertain to the four gods. That the writing makes mention of ‘Watchers’ and that this is them. They start looking for a possible groove or spot to put the amulets on the statues, and indeed, they find one.

Rune Puzzle – Wisdom = Clio / Faithfulness = Wendred / purity = shallya / eternal = scripsisti

They determine that wisdom can be gained from learning from the past, and match that up to Clio.

Wendred is associated with duty and service, and they believe faithfulness would be correct for him.

Purity for Shallya the Purifier, easy.

And eternal for scripsisti, for the written word is indeed eternal.

They were successful in all their endeavors, although the eternal amulet could not be used. Iorite reckoned that she could replicate the rune for this purpose, and shouldn’t take more than a day if she starts work now.

When they do insert the amulets, a secret compartment is revealed in each of the statues.

Some kind of… map tablet? After sticking what pieces they have together, it most certainly is a map, but it appears to be incomprehensible to their eyes. They hope that with the final piece, it may shed some insight. It is quite possible though that even with the final piece, they will need something. Possibly from Barlin Fireforge’s tomb.

Mallus who is outside in the courtyard with Iorite, have a terse chat. Iorite is in a small work shed that has been taken over by her for their crafting. She is currently working on remaking the broken amulet anew when she briefly stops to speak with Mallus, asking him to come into the shed. (I likely can’t do this scene justice from failing to recount it in full, it was a good rp moment)

Iorite believes that Mallus is in low-spirits of late, and wishes to give him resolve in his duties. Her method for this may seem unorthodox, but there is method in madness. She removes her helmet, and when she does, Mallus sees a heavily scarred disfigured face of a dwarf. A misshapen rune has been carved into her face. “You damned fool!” Mallus shouts out in anger. Mallus knows that Iorite attempted something that is not only possible but extremely foolish. His respect for her has gone in that moment. In an attempt to sooth his rage and explain, Iorite tells him that she has seen his spirit of late, and that it is lacking purpose. That the Umgi (men) need to see him remain strong, for his weakness will be picked apart by them like vultures and this quest of theirs will falter. To give him strength, and to remind him where to gain that strength from, Iorite reveals her ‘mistake’ and that he should know if someone like her could travel these lands, someone who is marked for life with their mistake, someone who seeks to undo Alaric’s Folly not unlike her own folly, and walk amongst these Umgi then he too can gain strength from knowing that.

She activates her rune of ancestral courage and Mallus suddenly hears dozens of voices of dwarven ancestors shouting words of encouragement and to remind him of his duty, while Iorite hears them too, but they are less kind to her. Mallus appears taken by what he is hearing, but his stern gaze remains fixated on Iorite.

Ioriite takes a knee after the voices fade away, telling Mallus that her service to the High King’s Hammerer will be without fault.

Mallus, donning his own helmet, reaches down and forces Iorite to stand.

In a booming harsh tone, he says, “Get to work!” and takes his leave. Succinct and to the point. Iorite gets back to working on the rune amulet, knowing that she got through to him, although keenly aware that Mallus will now forever see her in a different light.

A little promotion ceremony gets underway.

Rylan Karth has called the whole company to the main chamber of the monastery. He reminds them that they have been through hardship and stared death right in its face, but have come out as survivors. And to continue surviving, they will need stern leadership where they are going.

He calls forth Archibald, one of the Black Hearts.

Archibald was a Black Heart who was with Oskar at Schaffen when the mutiny unfolded. He quickly helped Rylan Karth, although one might say this was encouraged by the fact he was staring down Rylan’s pistol at the time. Although originally thinking he was going to be disciplined for, he ended up getting a promotion. He is now Corporal Archibald!

Another ceremony being performed was the introduction of Xaltach into the Black Hearts proper. Despite facing a few subdued jeers and insults from the men as he was called forth, the lizardman skink approaches Rylan and is given the broach of the Black Heart symbol. “Loyalty till Death!” shouts Rylan, to which the Black Hearts return the chant. A very grim saying, but there you have it.

Archibald utters his first command; ordering the men to drink! One which they are happy to obey.

Rylan gets the command together for a little ‘officer meeting’ which includes the advisors as well; Ernst & Ifaris. There, along with Otto and Brannigar, they discuss their next move.

Their discovery in the monastery of Barlin Fireforge’s potential whereabouts is significant, as well as the map tablet despite not being able to unlock its secrets just yet. As for moving out; Iorite’s work should be finished tomorrow to be used on the final statue, but at the moment they are playing it by ear. Ifaris advocates haste to this new ‘refuge’ where Barlin is believed to be buried. The Secundus Refuge. They don’t know what they will find their, but it is important not to delay. The night of the two moons may be upon them soon. Brannigar advises caution, stating that the monastery here is a sound defensible point and should the night of the two moons arise, it would be a good place to weather the storm. Ifaris is not happy at the suggestion and advises any delay will only hinder them.

The next part depicts some RP that transpired via text rp on discord (downtime roleplay essentially) and was wonderfully narrated by Kurt. I of course voice Ingo normally ever since he got turned into an npc (when Ricky had to leave), so here Kurt does both Ifaris and Ingo to save time.

The quality isn’t great but it is fine as it is. The higher quality one is over 2gb big and not worth compressing.

And so that wraps up the 4 sessions! (Another one this Sunday comiing)

So in conclusion:

The party found clues that are leading them to the missing Runelord of Ghum’zul. The Shadowmound Monastery is serving nicely as a place of respite. Although the mention of goblins has got them on alert. Ingo’s revelation down below to Ifaris is significant and alarming. A dark presence indeed.

Some other RP that transpired.

Roleplay Snippets:

  • Saltza told Eadulf she had decided she will keep the baby, much to Eadulf’s relief. Eadulf subsequently went to bed, feeling fatigued and tired and looking forward to a decent sleep.
  • Saltza and Rylan had a chat, instigated by Saltza. It transpired after the promotion ceremony. These two never saw eye-to-eye, and Saltza made her dislike of Rylan fairly well known. But after their discussion, pertaining around the old company captain, Kall Horst, and Rylan being chosen by him to be the 2nd In-Command, they had an understanding and greater appreciation of each other’s value to the company.
  • Otto, in performing his duties to assign men to a night watch, goes after one particular Black Heart in the line for beer/refreshments at the supply wagon. It is the same Black Heart who was on guard the night their prisoner was murdered in his cage at Schoffen. He was punished for being drunk on duty, but Otto appears to still have it out for him. Seeing him pulling the man out of the line to perform watch duty, a source of unlikely aid comes to interfere; Brannigar. The grizzled quartermaster puts a hand on the man’s shoulder and pulls him back in line, while asking for a word on the side with the sergeant. Sgt. Otto is pissed, understandably so after having his order countermanded by Brannigar. Bran tells him that he needs to lighten up, that he has been going around with a grudge, that the man in question paid for his sins already. The two have it out; Otto reprimands Brannigar for doing what he did in front of the men, and Bran apologizes for that. But Otto listens to what Bran is saying. Bran tells him that this is a mercenary company, not a professional one, and you can’t run the company like this too rigid. If you push, they will push back. He needs to know when to show a gentler touch. Otto acknowledges it and the two men come to an understanding.

And finally…

The Dream. Eadulf has a particularly disturbing nightmare. This went down a treat at the virtual table.

Foreboding indeed. Eadulf is awakened from his dark nightmare, sweating profusely. The dream’s details are distorted and disconnected, so for Eadulf he has difficulty recalling it. One thing is for certain; he was delivering a baby. Saltza’s baby, and something was terribly wrong… He wastes no time as he goes to work. Tired, lacking sleep, he starts preparing what he can that will ease Saltza’s pains. Although she is not due anytime yet, he hopes to make it as comfortable as he can. That dream really shook him.

Till next time.

The Palisade

This post looks back on Ernst Steurmann’s involvement with the Palisades, sharing insight into the gap between where he is now and how he got there. These events take place approx. 10 months from current campaign date. (Being deliberately vague on campaign date)

Ernst Steurmann

It was highly unusual, but these were strange times for the Palisade known as Ernst Steurmann. A meeting with the Cullis? It’s got to be a trap. No one gets to meet with the Cullis. He wasn’t making it a secret that he wanted out. He had been forced to lay low ever since a score of Palisades were turning up dead. Ernst had set his eyes on Estalia. It was warm, out of the way and it be a good place to lose himself. He was hoping to reach Marienburg, but the roads were not safe, not with all the fighting between the Sigmarites and Ulricans on the border, and he didn’t fancy taking a long detour to the south. He had set his mind on paying the fees to release his old barge, the berebeli so he could take the river route, but even that prospect was becoming less likely with each passing day.

And now… the Cullis wants to see him. He got to pick the place and time. Nothing about this was routine. He wasn’t sure if it was madness or desperation that saw him agree to the meeting. The Cullis was, after all, the unseen face behind the Palisades; The Office of the Cullis as it was known. Ernst’s rank within the structure was that of a Bastion, and he received orders from the Moat. However, the Moat was dead, and was the highest ranked Palisade to have died amidst their shadow war with the Purple Hand. Until now, Ernst was cut-off from the Cullis; he fully expected this to be interesting, regardless of the outcome.

He chose the spot he would always choose when it came to meeting with informants and the like; The Cat and Fiddle.

He picked his usual table, and prepared it in the usual manner; a hand crossbow pistol put into the brace under the table. He slipped half a shilling to the barkeep, which was a message for him to expect trouble. The Kislevian owner didn’t roll his eyes like he used to in the past when every time he had been slipped such an amount, he knew by just looking at Ernst that trouble might find him this time. Dimitrov prepared the blunderpuss. Ernst could practically smell the gunpowder already.

There was only two stools at the table, and Ernst would choose the one that had the crossbow braced under the table. He ordered a pint of dark ale to match his mood and set upon the table a single brass penny, which was in the center of the table. His contact was to sit down, and flip the penny up to begin the meeting. If there was trouble, or any reason to they felt the need to call it off, they were to take the penny and pocket. Most agents used phrases and code words. Ernst like the penny method. No words needed to be said, it was simple, and he only used this method with his most discreet and often unsavory informants. The kind that always put him on edge.

The hour was growing late as he waited. Ernst still had the same pint of ale he ordered, savoring it occasionally but keen to keep his senses sharp. He never met the Cullis before. Very few have, and those that did were above his paygrade. Anyone could potentially show up masquerading as the Cullis. They were to use a phrase, but even Ernst didn’t trust that.

Then finally, someone sat down opposite him. Of all the things he expected, he didn’t plan on it being a woman. She was mature in her age, grey strands of hair with milky pale ends and a single earring in the right earlobe. Her skin was of fair complexion, but her cheeks had more potmarks than Altdorf’s streets. Ernst noticed that she had sharp eyes however, wide and alert. Focused. She reached over and flipped the penny. Ernst leaned back a little, taking a look around the tavern to spy anyone taking an interest. There was none. He had one hand resting on his lap, and the other on the table. The crossbow was within easy reach. He waited to see if the woman would speak first.

It appeared she was doing the same. Was she just as paranoid as he? He thought to himself.

“Cullis?” he asked inquisitively.

“I flipped your stupid penny, didn’t I?” she retorted sharply. That brought a glim smile to Ernst.

“You were not what I was expecting…” as soon as he said it, he regretted the words. The look on her face said it all. If she could roll her eyes back any further she would have.

He noticed she was wearing scrappy rags; nothing that would make her a target for thieves or noticeable in a crowd. Plenty of room to hide stuff though. Such as the small coin purse she produced from somewhere. It landed on the table with a significant thud.

“Is it payday already,” he said mockingly.

“There’s enough in there to release your boat from the halflings.”

So the old bag wants me to leave, does she?

“Let me guess; a little urchin told you I was interested in Marienburg. Any other parting gifts, Cullis? Have you finally released me from my service?” Ernst said as he reached over for it, but the top of his hand was fiercely slapped away. The brass ring on her finger made the slap land with a firm thump.

“You are going east, not west,” she replied sharply. Ernst leaned in, there was defiance in his voice.

“Have I not bled enough for you lot? What more do you want from me? I have done my sworn duty to the Emperor. And guess what? He’s dead. Whole of Altdorf saw him fall from Deathclaw. We failed, Cullis. No… you failed. And I’m done being your lapdog.” Ernst took the coinpurse, and was about to stand up when he felt a sharp heel dig into his ankle.

“I’m not done with you yet, Ernst. Sit down.” The woman seemed to have a firm grasp of fear, and utilized it well. Something about the way she said it implied that if he were to get up and leave, he wouldn’t leave the Cat and Fiddle alive.

He sat back down on the stool. The Cullis pointed a lone finger at him. “You. You came to us. You wanted our help to keep the Templars from finding your nephew. You knew our price. What were you before? A drunken ferryman in the employ of some fat rich merchant from Marienburg, and how’d that turn out? Besides… this will be the last orders you will ever receive.” That had a sense of finality to it.

“Things are that bad then? How many cells have been compromised?” he asked purely to satisfy his curiosity while burying the anger that was rising up. He spent most of his time in isolation, hiding. He heard things were bad but couldn’t be certain to the extent.

“The Moat’s death compromised most of the Altdorf cells. No idea about Nuln, but its bad Ernst. Our informants have gone to the ground as well. They see the blood on the wall, they know.”

“How…” he said, his voice raised slightly, acknowledging the slip as he leans in, lowering his tone. “I don’t get it. How did they even get to the Moat? None of the Bastions flipped. So how in sigmar’s realm did we become so compromised?”

“Through me,” she replied, her voice weakening for the first time.

“What…?”

“I was the first. From there, it trickled down. I never saw the signs, not until it was too late. I was marked by Ulgu. Our friend from the Grey Order perhaps, I cannot say to be certain… but I was watched. Constantly, and I never even suspected something was wrong. Anyone I communicated with. They had it all at their fingertips, they just needed to wait for the moment. And that moment has passed.”

Ernst leaned back against the wall, his gaze meeting the patrons of the tavern around him. The Cullis knew that look. “Even now,” she adds, “they are watching. Aware of our meeting. I’m sure of it. Hard to escape a mark placed upon you.”

Ernst’s eyes lit up, “You damned fool. You killed me. You brought me out into the open and you have just added another soul to Morr’s Garden. I’ll be damned lucky if I get there.”

She shook her head, “Would I give a fat coinpurse to a dead man?” she quips, “No. You needed to hear these words and you needed to hear them from me. Take this. It’s a good forgery.” She slips him a sealed writ. It’s got the symbol of the Chancellor on it, signifying the Imperial Palace.

“Words that have weight. Go east. Go to Kislev if you must, go to the mountain holds of the dwarfs if you dare the journey, but go east above all things and find our beloved Emperor.”

That gave Ernst food for thought. He stared at her for a moment as if she was crazy, and then quietly muttered, “You mean….”, “Yes,” she said, answering for him. “The man you saw fall was his son. The Hand have succeeded. A coup upon Sigmar’s throne, and not a whimper. The Emperor was forced out of the capital over a year ago. You were privy to the poison blade that nearly killed him. But you thought he recovered. There was more than one attempt… and he was forced to seek allies.”

“Surely not… Volkmar would not have it,” the statement from Ernst earned him a scoff from the Cullis. “Volkmar? He’s too busy fighting the Ulrican faith to see any sense. Civil war is now engulfing the Empire. The next in line is the Emperor’s nephew, and he’s protected zealously at Castle Reiksguard. We won’t be crowning anyone without the Elector’s support, certainly not while the north burns.”

Ernst was trying to read into her mind, he was still uncertain of his role in all of this. “What can I do? You want me to head east, and what? Just hope I bump into an Emperor who everyone thinks is dead?”

“You know who Kurt Helborg is?” she asks.

“Wasn’t he the Reiksguard captain recently made the Reiksmarshal?”

“Yes… and do you know where he is?” she enquires. Ernst shakes his head. “Heading east. For our beloved Emperor. When you have enemies within the state trying to steal the throne from under you, you marshal your forces. I believe Franz is doing just that. But more than just that, he may be after something. He may have carefully chosen his destination. I had assumed it was a desperate retreat from the capital, but that may not be the case. You already know what the Crown is, don’t you Ernst? Alaric’s Crown.”

Ernst took a swig from the dark ale, sensing it would be his last for awhile. “I do. We intercepted messages from the Hand mentioning the artifact. We deemed it nonsense and fanciful… You, you can’t be serious…”

“I am the Cullis, Ernst. I am serious. From what I hear, your nephew is also in that direction. Or will be soon enough. Kall Horst is getting a nice windfall from Talabec. They’ve made it well known that they are on the lookout for mercenaries to pillage and raid into Ostland, and Horst is leading such a company. Do with that intelligence as you see fit. We are done here, Ernst. Get your barge and get out of Altdorf while you still can. You will need a mount. You can have mine, it’s in the stables across the street. Pale mare. She’s old but docile. She’ll accept you.”

Ernst unhooked the hand crossbow from beneath the table, sensing he would need it. He took a look at the Cullis who slid his drink over towards herself. “And you?” he asked, although he felt he knew the answer.

She reached into a pocket and took out a small vial that he had thought to be empty, until he realized it had a milky type substance at the bottom. She poured it into the tankard. “You are my last contact, Ernst. I suspect you will need to run as you leave here. As for me, well… I intend to sit here for a little while.”

“I could just go to Marienburg, charter a boat… you would never know.”

“You could,” she says quietly as she begins to drink the ale, “but they’d know. Is that somewhere you’d like to die? I always feel that when you meet Morr, you meet him with purpose. You can either go towards your dooming, or flee in terror. I know which one I’d rather.”

Ernst shook his head, and made his way over to the bar. He got the attention of Dimitrov, who came over to him. “Everything ok my friend?” Dimitrov asked.

“No,” Ernst replied darkly, “everything has gone to shit, as usual. Keep the old hag there safe will you. I suspect… she will pass out in a moment. Can’t handle her ale. For your troubles.” Ernst slipped him five shillings, before adding, “Oh and… I’ll need to use the kitchen entrance.”

The Doomsayers

The foretelling of one’s dooming is a rite of passage for many children in the Old World. This long-held rite is practiced throughout the Empire and even in parts beyond, although with greater variance.

When a child approaches the age of ten, it is time for them to receive the Rite of Dooming. The dooming foretells the manner upon which they will leave the Old World, often in cryptic means and usually done by a priest of Morr. When the latter is not available, it is not uncommon for the rite to be performed by another priest or even the child’s own parents. The dooming’s themselves are not implied to be accurate prophecies of one’s own death, but is deeply tied into the belief that it will ease the soul’s passing into the Garden of Morr, Morr’s realm.

Commonly practiced in the Empire, including the southern provinces such as Tilea and Estalia, the Rite of Dooming is often performed differently depending upon where one hails from. In Reikland for example, the practice is done without any flair or pomp as priests of Morr provide the service requested upon them quietly and efficiently, as well as travelling priests who perform the rite upon children they encounter, urchins and the like. In Nordland, ‘Doomtag’ is a festival held on the night before a new year, where children are gathered by their parents and the rite is performed by a priest of Morr while feasting on bloodpie or whatever may be handy at the moment. The age of children is less relevant during Doomtag.

In Ostermark, the rite takes a darker turn and is performed in a much more terrifying manner. Here, the Morr clergy performs the dooming in a complex affair on the Day of Mystery; Geheimnistag, and they do so under the gaze of twin moons. A sacrifice of horse flesh or some kind of livestock, along with ritualistic dancing involving blood drenched priests of Morr who foretell the dooming for as many children as possible that may be present. The rite is looked down upon by the more reticent Church of Morr clergy and while not forbidden, the rite performed in this manner is highly discouraged as it often results in trauma for the children, although some might argue its less to do with that and more to do with dancing under the gaze of Morrslieb while drenched in blood.

Regardless of how it is being performed, the idea behind the dooming is the same; to ease the passing of the soul into Morr’s grasp. Offerings are usually made although not always necessary, but are encouraged as these offerings are meant as a tribute to Morr in exchange for allowing the child’s soul to be at ease.

Origins (There’s no lore concerning this that I could find, so this is my own insert using bits of established lore)

The origins of the dooming ritual is hard to pinpoint. It is likely that the origin comes from a time when Morr’s old but long forgotten name was once well known, for ‘Morr’ is his name in classic reikspiel.

Some believe the ritual has origins with the Thuringian tribe of men, who inhabited what is now known as the Drakwald, who offered up their souls to Morr for protection, before going into battle. However, this is unlikely. The Thuringian tribes were not numerous unlike the other tribes of men, and like all tribes back then, even during Sigmar’s reign, they were insular and protective of their traditional beliefs.

There is merit to believe that the origins of the Rite of Dooming hails from one of Sigmar’s most troubled period, something that is etched in the faintest of oral history and barely told in scratchings. It is a saga told in multiple parts that are not always readily obvious in their relation to one another, although the bulk of it comes from the tale of Reikdorf’s (what is now Altdorf) near fall to an ancient and powerful enemy. This enemy was said to be of Nehekharan descent and a powerful sorcerer. This sorcerer would be none other than Nagash, The Undying King, the Father of Vampires. Simply referenced as some powerful sorcerer of Nehekharan descent in the old texts, it was said he came into conflict with Sigmar and had marched an army upon Reikdorf. The texts allude that he was capable of ‘ensnaring the souls’ of his enemies.

While this powerful sorcerer was defeated at the hands of Sigmar, the great fear would remain embedded in the minds of the tribes at the time. Old drawings and obscure texts draw references to bizarre almost pagan-like rituals being performed to protect one’s soul from being ensnared by wickedness, and these rituals were performed in Morr’s name.

So it is likely that the present-day doom rituals stem from an ancient fear brought upon by the rise of this Nehekharan sorcerer, who was obscurely referenced as ensnaring the souls of his victims. The doomings after all, are entrenched in the belief that performing these will protect the soul of the intended person, and should they expire, protect that soul until it reaches the Garden of Morr.

Doomings Are Fun

When creating characters, I always have my players roll on the doom table. It is a fun part of creation and oddly enough, has led to some coincidental death prophecies coming true. Here’s a few of the current and past doomings.

Current:

  • Eadulf – Thy body may rot, but thy soul shall forever haunt the land.
  • Ingo – Beware of the Pointed Hat (very apt).
  • Ifaris Kroll – Morr comes screaming to thy door (again, apt concerning this character has 4 fate points).
  • Iorite Silverfist – Beware the purse, the sack, the velvet bag.
  • Rylan Karth – A passion that is forbidden to you shall be your undoing.
  • Otto – Entrails by thy grave.

Past:

  • Ser Gado – forgot the wording, but something to do with being face down in the snow. Came true, considering Gado died to the north of Nordland, in the snow.
  • Anya (spooky) – Thou shalt see deep into the eyes of evil three times in thy life, and the third time will be thy last.
  • Cragg (Crash) the Ogre – Thy doom is so terrible, mortal mind cannot comprehend. Came true, since he died of Nurgles Rot, a grim fate.
  • Bash Throggarth, Ogre – Under the bridge lies thine doom. Bash’s death came by tackling a undead beast off the top battlements and it was the fall that killed him. So in a way, not far off.
  • Wick – Thy spirit will be wrenched from thee. Very apt, considering Wick was ‘possessed’ by a volatile and unpredictable spirit, although not the actual cause of his death.
  • Jurgen Noffein – Beware of the beast in the wood, it is Morr’s messenger. Jurgen is still alive.
  • Liz Schar – As dark clouds gather, thy end looms. Very apt, considering Ifaris Kroll’s arrival via magic was foretold by a heavy overcast sky and thunder, and Liz expiring shortly afterwards.
  • Sindri Khornebane – Your doom shall be told in tale and sung in song. Sindri is still alive.
  • Ulrico Eisenhower – I forget, but something about screaming till death. Apt considering he was tortured to death by witch hunters.

December Update

December is turning into Warhammer Month. Nothing but WFRP games this month as my Star Wars game was temporarily put on hold till New Year as it’s a smaller game, and one of the players has a work schedule that affects Sunday games. So a prolonged journey into the perilous realm this month. No complaints here.

I’ve also some news concerning a well known WFRP community creative. Alfred Nunez Jr., otherwise known as ‘Mad Alfred’ in the WFRP community, had suffered a serious heart attack earlier this month. Last update I saw was that he was recovering. Alfred is a 1st Edition WFRP vet, and is responsible for the Empire at War fan module for Enemy Within, Stone & Steel (an excellent dwarf supplement), and my personal favorite contribution from him is the iAltdorf detailed city map of Altdorf. He has contributed greatly to the Warhammer community. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

The Stench of Righteousness

When we last left the party, they had stumbled upon the aftermath of a battle, as detailed in the last game post. Here, they met Iorite Silverfist, a Runesmith. (Played by Darren)

Iorite Silverfist

Introductions are made, and Iorite describes what had happened of the battle that took place here. Iorite explains that he joined this group for mutual protection as they were heading north to Ferlangen, with supplies and men to reinforce the city’s defenses in evidence of a siege that may come. Iorite is told that the siege has already happened, and Ifaris saw the aftermath of it; the southern city was destroyed while the northern districts remain intact for the most part. Azhag the Slaughterer led his host upon Ferlangen, but was beaten back by the reinforcements of Marshal Valmir von Raukov, who by all accounts is likely to be the next Elector-Count simply by the virtue of being alive. But his attempt to beat back Azhag cost him dearly; many, many men died, over half of Raukov’s company was spent, and Azhag had only retreated when Raukov shot off an arrow from his famed dragonbow into the belly of the flying beast that the Slaughterer uses as a mount.

Iorite makes a token explanation as to their business in Ostland. Sent by their Thane to deal with a overzealous baron who refuses to be fruitful on owed mining tribute for a mining charter granted by the Thane, they got caught up in the siege at Wolfenburg, capital of Ostland. Iorite retells a grim tale of how the city was slaughtered like a lamb. How from afar they witnessed the Elector-Count of Ostland have his head removed by the Slaughterer, and his ancestral Runefang, Brain Wounder, a prospect that leaves a bitter taste for both Mallus and Iorite. Speaking of Mallus Gundersson, he’s been searching for a Runesmith, having become aware of one possibly being in the lands but possessing scant details about who they might be exactly or why they were here. Thankful however he is, for their experience will be valuable in hunting down the lost buried Runelord they now find themselves in pursuit of to shed insight on their long journey towards finding the lost hold of Ghum’zul.

The Black Hearts soon depart the battlefield, not wanting to tempt fate as Iorite had explained that his escort was ambushed by beastmen, in good numbers. Most were driven back and retreated, but only himself survived. Those who lingered on for awhile longer soon passed on from their injuries. Amidst the looting that is going on, taking up spare bedrolls, weapons and assortments, they find a supply wagon mostly intact. In it, enough supplies to feed the Black Hearts for a month if they keep to a strict diet.

They continue west for a few hours until a forward scout returns with news. A large ‘wagon train’ of heavily armed men further on making their way through the forest in a westerly direction. The scout also informs that the Tilean, Angelo, was ‘captured’.

Captain Rylan Karth, Sgt. Otto, Ifaris Kroll, Eadulf and Mallus along with Iorite proceed forward carefully, ordering the company to hang back while they see what’s up ahead. More importantly, Xaltarch is ordered to stay out of sight and lay low.

When they get to where the scout showed them, they look down from a ridge not more than 20 feet high, and see for themselves a host of men marching in file formation, but have stopped for now. It appears to be mercenaries, from what they can gather, of Ostland origin perhaps considering the significance of a red bull crest on their armor. However, amidst their lot are Sigmarian priests, and a hefty number of them too. They are spotted, as shouts arise from below. The party make no offensive gestures as a lone rider approaches them, making their way up a shallow path that leads up the ridge.

A warrior priest of Sigmar no doubt. The party notice that dangling from the side of his horse is the head of a beastman. Indeed, further beyond the priest they see a giant makeshift wheel upheld by a pivot planted onto the back of a wagon. Upon this wheel is the spread out splayed remains of a beastman, but the party recognize the carcass. It is the mutated two headed winged beast they saw chained up outside the Schoffen Estate, where they fought Oskar and his men. The beast had flown off, and perhaps they can be thankful that it is now slain.

“Praise Sigmar!” the priest shouts towards them. They nervously return the gesture, although Rylan Karth says it with more confidence. Asked to identify their intent immediately, they do so as mercenaries. Rylan hands the priest the black heart broach. He looks at it nonchalantly, while looking over at Magister Ifaris. “And who are you? What is a gold frock doing with the likes of these?” he asks inquisitively with a hint of suspicion in his voice, already aware of what Ifaris represents. His curiosity is short lived as Ifaris’s fondness for long introductions tests the priest’s patience.

“Spear me the honeyed words of the Golden Order. I care little for your reputation, wizard. Speak plainly, for I do not wish to spend my days bartering words as the hour grows late.” Ifaris claims he is lending aid to the dwarf folk, and attention turns to them.

“I see two of the underfolk with you. A gold frock, two dwarfs amongst vagabonds? The Tilean we captured claims that you all are bandits, and that he wishes for safety among my men. Why would such a man make this proclamation?”

Rylan, very carefully, explains that the Tilean was part of a group of ‘bandits’ that they routed out, and that the Tilean is not a Black Heart but one they conscripted. (I might be paraphrasing a little here as I can’t remember the exact explanation).

The priest however seems to find the explanation satisfactory.

And then he announces that he intends to conscript the mercenaries!

“In my name, Luthor Huss, High Priest of the Order of the Silver Hammer, I hereby conscript you and your men to my cause. The two dwarfs, in accordance to ancient vows, shall be permitted to leave, or join if they wish to shed the blood of mutants and heretics. The Battle Wizard shall join if he wishes for his own safety, as journeying alone is fraught with danger.”

Iorite, knowing where this is going, steps forward. Iorite makes his case that the mercenaries are in the employ of the Dawi, and that the High King himself has tasked the Dawi with a task of utmost importance, but they make no mention of what that task is. Iorite gestures to Mallus as the High King’s personal Hammerer. (Darren also does a fellowship roll here with the intention to convince the priest. They pass.)

“It is so,” Mallus simply states.

“How unfortunate, for we need abled fighters more than ever in our quest to smite our foes. I will not tempt you from your quest. So be it. You may go as you please, but the Tilean stays with us since he is not a Black Heart, as you said.” They brook no argument and Rylan says that they are welcome to him.

Eadulf steps forward, offering his services as a physician to any injured that the priest may have. Luthor asks him to step forward to see his hands, to which Eadulf complies.

“Ah yes, the hand of a butcher,” he says as he grabs his arm, “you may treat my wounded, we have many.”

Perhaps unwisely however, Eadulf adds that he would be grateful for any food that could be spared in exchange for the service. This, turns the mood sour very quickly.

“You dare offer charity which should be freely given to Sigmar’s chosen in exchange for… food! You have the hands of a butcher, but the mouth of a weasel!” Eadulf quickly makes his apologies, saying he will assist and expect nothing in return, while Rylan steps in and says that his man meant no offense, just that the men are hungry.

Luthor leaves them in a fouler mood as a result, and Eadulf is asked to choose his words carefully next time.

Eadulf is escorted down towards the wagons containing the injured by Ifaris, who is keen to keep an eye on the surgeon. Karth heads back to the company to brief the men, and the two dwarfs remain steadfast overlooking everything.

Sergeant Otto orders scouts to keep an eye out, as he doesn’t want anyone sneaking up on the men. Karth briefs the company to keep their heads down and with a little luck, they’ll be moving on soon. Ernst at this point, having learned what is happening, requests to speak with the priest. Karth assists him, propping him up on the back of his horse and rides back out.

Meanwhile, Xaltarch, who has been on the flanks and creeping low, spots one of the mercenaries from the priest’s regiment creeping low in the forest and making his way on the flank of the Black Hearts company. He kneels down, and appears to be counting men. Xaltarch keeps an eye on him.

Elsewhere, something is nagging at the back of Ifaris’s mind. As Eadulf begins to treat the injured, Ifaris believes he knows who this Luthor Hess is. While he isn’t exactly in the know concerning religious politics, he recalls the name Luthor Hess and remembers there was a lot of scandalous gossip concerning him. He is one of the more unorthodox priest’s and is very much extreme in his views. He was almost excommunicated at one point, but instead of being excommunicated, he was deemed incommunicado by the church, pushed out and forbidden to interact with the clergy as a whole. Apparently something to do with his intense belief that Sigmar will be reborn. His views were just not compatible with the clergy. Ifaris, now knowing full well the kind of man they are dealing with, a fire and brimstone zealot, he urges Eadulf to act with haste.

Ernst briefly meets with Luthor and hands him a writ, proclaiming that the words within give him broad powers from the Emperor’s office and requests that the priest lend aid by allowing Ernst to conscript from his company. Luthor simply laughs, tossing the writ back to him as he rides on, chuckling to himself and shaking his head.

Eadulf meets Gastonne as he’s helping the injured, a Bretonnian who used to serve in the Black Hearts, and was presumed dead/missing after the ambush. Appears he survived and had been captured by the mercenaries, and has since been conscripted. Gastonne is informative when Eadulf mentions they are heading to the Shadowmound Hills. He tells them that the hills are far to the south, east of Hasselhund, according to the stories he’s heard over a few nights. Some of the local mercs have quite a few ghost stories concerning the place. Gastonne however, when asked if he’s happy where he is, says that its protection, and he feels safer than he did with the Black Hearts, although he does mourn upon hearing the news of all his fallen comrades.

As Eadulf is finished tending with the wounded in one wagon, he hops out to see that a Confessor and his two adjutants are approaching. The reputation of the Sigmarian Confessors is well known. As he approaches, his two adjutants go past to another wagon.

The Confessor
Confessor’s Adjutants

The Confessor eyes up Ifaris, making note of his almost impeccable and spotless frock of gold and finery. He gazes over Eadulf who is splattered with blood, and his hands drenched in the blood of the wounded.

He draws comparisons between the two.

“What have we here?” he says as he strides over to Eadulf, putting a hand on his blood drenched shoulder. “Now, this is a faithful soul. One who is willing to drown in the blood of the faithful, who asks for nothing, wants for nothing, and without hesitation, finds himself on even ground with the rest of us.”

He makes his over to Ifaris, looking on with disdain. “You, high on your horse, unblemished with your noble finery upon a noble steed. Ever looking down on the faithful, unwilling to shed his own blood with his fellow man.”

The Confessor puts his blood stained palm upon the finery of Ifaris’s frock, leaving a firm print of a blood stained hand upon it. “There. Now you walk with faith’s blood upon you.” Ifaris is not happy, but he makes no objection.

His adjutants come back, escorting the Tilean. The Confessor joins them, but not before remarking to Eadulf, “May you keep to the path of righteousness, but do not follow this one, less you wish to stray from that path,” he says as he points towards Ifaris.

“Eadulf my lad, come. We must go with haste…”

Eadulf hops up, and as they ride back towards the main company, he’s scolded fiercely by Ifaris for voluntering his services, and remarks that they must leave at once for he does not trust Luthor Hess’s intentions.

It’s soon become apparent that the company need to leave, promptly. Xaltarch, who was hiding away, witnessed the mercenary who was counting sneak back off to his own bunch. He lays low and makes his way over to the rest to find Sergeant Otto and tells him what he saw. Otto is alarmed, but Rylan, when finding out, remarks that he’d probably do the same if in their shoes. The company make plans to move out, heading east first, then south to give them a wide berth.

Xaltarch, who is placed on a forward scout with some other scouts, is nearly caught out by some rear scouts of the priest’s regiment. He skitters up a tree but in doing so, snow is ruffled from the top-most branches. This causes alarm to the nearby scouts, but thankfully Sgt. Otto who saw Xaltarch clamber up the tree in haste, draws his bow and comes out from near the tree, remarking that he was shooting at a squirrel. The deception works.

The Black Hearts continue south once they’ve headed east far enough to give the Luthor Hess a wide berth, and pray they won’t be followed as Hess seemed quite suspicious of them.

After heading south for a few hours, they setup camp and find rest at a nearby frozen stream, making shelter near some ruined old buildings.

A shrine dedicated to Taal & Rhya is seen nearby, providing comfort and a watchful gaze over the men.

As night begins to fall, the men rest up. Food from the supply wagon they took from the battle site where they found Iorite is handed out. Amidst treating the sick and the wounded, Eadulf is grabbed by Saltza and marched off into the darkness away from the fire’s gaze. This is seen by most of the company around the campfires, and some chuckle amongst themselves. “Ah, young love,” one is heard jesting. Otto remarks this is the second time, and protests to it but Rylan suggest to leave them be and let them unwind.

Pressed up against a tree, Eadulf isi unsure what is about to happen. “Saltza?” he says simply.

Saltza grabs his hand and puts it to her stomach. Eadulf can feel a slight bump. “You know what this means?” she asks.

Eadulf nods, “How far along?” he asks. Saltza can’t be sure, “Maybe two months, or four months till left… I don’t know.”

Eadulf asks how long has she known, and she says for awhile, but she’s been keeping it a secret up until now. He asks, respectfully, if he can know who the father is.

“Horst,” she simply states, although a hint of pain in the tone is heard.

“I need something from you,” she asks, “a herb. You kn-” Eadulf cuts her off, “Pennyroyal? Is that what you really want?”

“Yes. I can’t have the baby. I can’t. Should something to me, or…. no, it’s just too dangerous.”

“You need to think about this Saltza. You have options here, and you don’t have to choose the one that will cause you pain, bring uncertainty. Have you spoken to Ernst? Horst’s uncle… he has connections, maybe he ca-“, “No. I don’t trust him.”

Eadulf makes a case that Ernst might be able to help her if they ever get back to civilization, perhaps give her safe harbor. Regardless, he pleads with her to think about it, and while he will get her the herb if requested, she needs to be certain first. He convinces her to at least think it over. Although reluctant to keep it a secret, Saltza is firm and resolute in making sure no one else will know.

“I don’t want anyone looking out for me. I don’t want anyone to think differently about me. I can handle myself just as before. If it comes a time I stumble and fall, then… and only then, but not till that moment happens.”

Eadulf agrees to keep it a secret. They depart, and head back to the camp. A few eyes are certainly fixed on them as they return.

A few quick mentions:

  • Eadulf makes some nettle soup for the men.
  • Ifaris does what he can with some cabbages and questionable meat that he boils into a broth. He shares some words with Ingo and the conversation steers towards his battle toad that he keeps under his hat. Ingo may have left that conversation questioning the sanity of the old wizard.
  • Rylan Karth offers up his prized witch hunter pistol upon request by the runemaster Iorite, who says they can inscribe a rune upon it, although it will take weeks if not months for it to come to fruition.
  • Rylan kneels in his tent, praying to Sigmar. A vision or perhaps a waking dream, uncertain of which, is experienced in a moment of fatigue. The vision is not shared with anyone else ooc.
  • Otto and Xaltarch head out on a hunt that doesn’t bear fruit, but they share time with one another.

That’s it! It was a good low-intensive rp session. Next game will be the 19th!

Spotlight: Alaric The Mad

Alaric The Mad

Author’s Note: There’s very little established lore that expands upon Alaric’s background. What’s there is not much. So a lot of this will be a combination of what is established and then creative intent from me to expand upon iit.

One of the greatest dwarf runesmiths to have ever lived was Alaric the Mad, an epithet that stuck with him throughout the ages to the point that his full name has long been forgotten. He was the personal Master Runesmith to King Kurgan Ironbeard who was the High King during the reign of Sigmar Heldenhammer. Sigmar had once saved King Ironbeard’s life, and in doing so, he was gifted Ghal Maraz – Skull Splitter. Presently, Alaric is often mistakenly credited with crafting Ghal Maraz. In dwarf legends, it is Smednir, Shaper of Ore and one of the Ancestor Gods that is believed to be responsible for Ghal Maraz, and not Alaric. However, Sigmar’s act in saving Ironbeard earned him an eternity of dawi gratitude. King Ironbeard commanded Alaric to forge 12 Runefangs for each of the 12 tribal leaders who followed Sigmar Heldenhammer.

Alaric had spent a century forging the Runefangs that would become the great symbols of imperial unity wielded by the Elector-Counts. His relentless commitment to forging them is believed to have earned him the moniker, ‘The Mad’, although the truth is that he became known this after he decided to spend his time away from the dawi, and shared knowledge of his craft with the humans. Alaric believed that Man had a great destiny, and that the tides of chaos could only be held at bay by sharing wisdom. The dawi did not take his actions kindly, regarding him as a wayward soul.

Alaric’s greatest achivement at the time was the Runefangs, but he grew restless with ambition. Seeking inspiration, he found it in the annuls of dwarven history. The exploits of Gotrek Starbreaker and the Dragon Helm of Kingship; specifically, it was the Master Rune of Kingship he was interested in. With good intentions, Alaric believed he could create something similar and present it as a gift to Man, for he saw that men often quarreled amongst themselves and rarely were they unified. He believed such a crown could bring unity to the tribes. So it was that he sought to create the Master Rune of Ages, that would be the unifying symbol of Men throughout the eras.

Alaric spent far longer crafting the Master Rune of Ages than he did on the 12 Runefangs collectively. He became a recluse, lost in his work and shied away from those who sought to turn his attention elsewhere. His seclusion was so great, that for over a century or more, many believed he had simply perished.

He encountered a problem however that held him back; no matter what material he had used for the Rune of Ages, it would shatter. Be it iron, Gromril, Dragon scales; no material known to him could bear the weight of the Master Rune of Ages. Faced with the prospect of his life work amounting to a waste of time, he grew desperate in his despair and walked the trails of the Old World as a shadow of himself, aimlessly looking for something that could bear the weight of his task.

He travelled to the forbidden Rune Forges of the far north, to lost sunken dwarf holds to the far south, and still, nothing. That was, until he came across a hold that had fallen to enemies from within. Skaven. Stumbling upon their nest, Alaric drove the looting scavenging vermin away from the Hold’s precious treasures and amidst his struggle to do so, he discovered something. The Skaven had in their possession a strange piece of rock he had never seen before. Warpstone. He had found what he was looking for.

With the Warpstone in his possession, Alaric worked tirelessly upon a forge he built himself to harness the power of the Master Rune. When he was finished, he created the Crown of Crowns, the Crown of Ages. It is said that when he had finished his work, and had finally looked upon his creation with clarity of thought, is when he realized his greatest mistake. He cursed himself, he cursed his blind ambition and the madness that took him to create such a thing. He knew, if he would gift such a crown to Man, that Man would take the crown gladly, and that it would lead to the utter ruin of Man and all those who got in their way.

Wielding Tonitruum, his forge hammer, he smited the crown with all his strength. His mighty hammer cracked upon impact, and the crown did not budge. Knowing he was incapable of destroying his own creation, he sought to hide it. He contemplated giving it to the High King, to seal it away. But he was so far remove from dawi society, he could not be certain if he could trust the High King. Man must not find it, nor the vermin beneath their feet.

Alaric did something he never thought he would do, and sought guidance. But there was only one he knew he could trust. His estranged brother was a king. A rebellious one for that matter whose line of ancestors refused to offer fealty to the High King. Alaric’s fealty to High King Kurgan Ironbeard was a point of contention between the two. But now he needed his advice and aid.

His brother was the King of Karaz Ghumzul, a hold that did not fair well during the Time of Woes and had isolated itself from trade. It was located in the Middle Mountains. Alaric went there not with the intention of hiding the crown there, but to question his brother. His brother’s name has never been penned, as the dwarfs did not acknowledge his line, his right to rule as a result of the shame placed upon him that stemmed from an act of rebellion that goes far back as the War of the Beard. Such an act would have earned a grudge, nominally, but so incensed was the High King at the time of betrayal, he refused to spend ink on acknowledging the king’s name and instead committed the act of betrayal to the Book of Grudges as simply, “Karaz Ghum’zul,” committing the entire hold responsible for the grudge. Even Alaric had never uttered his brother’s name in front of High King Kurgan Ironbeard or even acknowledged him, struggled to recall his brother’s name upon meeting him at Ghum’zul. When he first met him, Alaric was said to have commented in anger, “I spent centuries focused on one task. I spent half of that trying to find this damned Hold of yours!”

It became clear to Alaric that Ghum’zul was truly a ‘lost hold’, untouched by enemies and even the dawi outside of it knew little of its presence, preferring not to acknowledge its existence. Alaric’s conversations with his brother were fraught with uncertainty. He was worried foremost that his brother would use the Crown to spite the High King, or worse, use it to stage an open rebellion. But his worries had quickly melted away, for he found that his brother had been a prisoner to his ancestors habits as much as Alaric has been a prisoner to the moniker of ‘The Mad’. They were of one mind; that this crown must never fall in the hands of another.

And so it was that Alaric’s Folly was buried in the deepest, darkest vaults of Ghum’zul. What happened to Alaric thereafter is uncertain. What is known is that sometime during the reign of his brother, the date of which is unknown, a great exodus had occurred. The dawi of Ghum’zul did not leave Ghum’zul, they fled.

Why is not known. But since that time, Ghum’zul has been regarded as a cursed place, forgotten in time and the dawi have, up until recently, been quite keen to leave it to the annuls of history.

Another Year Coming To An End

When am I going to finish this damn campaign!

Well, there’s at least another year or half of one left until this campaign completes its full arc. I’m looking forward to the New Year, and hopefully touch wood, we’ll not have any dropouts. The group appears committed and I regard myself as very fortunate to have a group who have a lot of patience to continue such a long campaign.

Towards the end of the year I normally do something. This time I thought I’d make a little video tribute for all those grim years my group spent developing PTSD in my games.

*A couple of mistakes in the video (including double ii’s as a result of my keyboard, and the Law Lord having a daughter when in fact it was his niece. Nothing major.