The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #271
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    Adelbert

    A tremor of paranoia ran through Adelbert's mind at the revelation Mother Raqiyah seemingly had been to see the book. Of course he had felt nothing but hostility and evil from the vile thing, but if it was capable of being more... seductive... could the old priestess be in danger. He'd have to keep his eyes open there just in case.

    He tried to think of happier things. 'As it happens I would be happy to write down my adventures. Perhaps you are aware of Felix Jager? An appalling liar by all accounts but his fanciful escapades with some drunken dwarf are the toast of much of the Empire.' Adelbert smiled ruefully. 'Perhaps I can do him one better by writing of things that are actually true.'

    He stroked his goatee thoughtfully, the germ of an old idea reviving in his mind. 'Father Hirenymous by any chance would you know if the city has a playhouse?'

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    Adelbert

    Hieronymus' face took on a faraway expression as he dug back through his memory. "There was the, ah, the Gilded Mirror, down by the river," he said. "But Duke Wulf's men burned it down. I did see a handbill for some travelling players in the north market though, quite recently. Otto... Sutler? Sattin? Something like that."
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    Adelbert

    Adelbert had a gleam of excitement in his eyes now. 'I see. Interesting. I must confess during my scriveners days in Nuln I had a great passion for the playhouses.'

    The priest fell silent for a long moment, lost in his own thoughts. Finally: 'Father Hieronymous... does the Temple have a position on plays?'

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    Adelbert

    "Position?" said Hieronymus, looking perplexed. "They're certainly not forbidden, if that's what you mean. You can attend all the plays you want, Brother Schreiber, so long as you attend to your Temple duties first."

    Again the faraway look stole over his face as he returned to the comfort of historical trivia. "I believe under the Codes of Caccino, actors were not permitted to marry any citizen of the town under the age of thirty-five, or to own land or livestock more than one acre and a goat. That was in Miragliano, of course, in the twenty-second century. In Kislev, as I have read..."

    He could clearly go on in this vein for some time.
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    Adelbert

    'Er... quite Father Hieronymous, but I confess my ideas were perhaps a little grander. I was considering financing a new playhouse. Think of it, an opportunity to bring something of the classics to the common, unlettered folk. History plays. Miracle plays.' Adelbert had a far away look of his own now.

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    Elsa and Sieghard, Bunthafen camp

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    "I see me, but it's a different me. There's an army at my back, more men than I can count. And my clothes and armor are finer. It's Captain Sforza's armor..."

    Elsa snorted. "It shows me something along the same lines," she said, taking her mirror back and glancing down at her reflection. "I first wondered if it was a vision of the future, but the more I think about it, the more I believe it's trying to tempt me... with all the subtlety of a man in a hooded cloak dangling candy in front of children."

    She shrugged and shoved the mirror inside her backpack. "At least I don't think this little thing is dangerous on its own, but I'll keep it out of reach of any impressionable fools."






    On the way back to Savonne

    Elsa was in higher spirits than usual on the trip to Savonne, despite the lack of success of the Harmugstahl expedition. In front of the new recruits, she tried to cut a both enigmatic and reassuring figure; the mighty wizard who they would all want to impress, be honored to fight beside, and trust to protect them. She never missed an opportunity to show off Morrslieb's supernatural intelligence, but when asked to demonstrate her powers, she went into great detail about the horrible consequences of disrespecting the Winds; all the better to awe them with the trials and dangers she faced as a wizard.

    Privately she hoped that some strong lasses could be convinced to bolster their ranks and make Hanna and the others feel less alone, but her hopes were in vain.





    Savonne

    “How long is this wretched war going to drag on?” Irene Sforza demanded. “That stubborn pig of a Breton should have had the decency to surrender weeks ago.”
    "Comes with the territory of being a man, I suppose," said Elsa glumly. "But we'll be the first to rule the unified Reaches in longer than anyone can remember. Hopefully we can make it last."

    She was glad that Valdes was being put to a better use. The man was being wasted here in Savonne. She welcomed an opportunity to work with him again.


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    I'll try to come up with detailed plans for Elsa over the weekend. She would love to look at the writings she brought back from Harmugstahl, but she might also be needed on Sieghard's foraging expedition to scare some peasants into giving up their food stores. Was Sieghard intending to give his new recruits some training (e.g. basic discipline stuff) before departing? Or is he leaving them behind under the care of a lieutenant/drillmaster?
    Last edited by -Sentinel-; 2019-03-08 at 10:56 PM.
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    The Bloody Crown (WFRP) as Elsabeth Holt, rogue pyromancer

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.
    Quote Originally Posted by LeSwordfish View Post
    Ludo has a crowbar, if that helps.

  7. - Top - End - #277
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    Adelbert

    Hieronymus blinked. "You'll forgive me, brother Schreiber - at my age my hearing isn't always what it used to be. I thought you said you didn't have the money to pay rent." He peered at Adelbert with a puzzled expression. "How do you propose to pay for such a thing?"
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    Dark Heresy 1E - Wake of the Byzantium
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    WFRP 2E - The Bloody Crown
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    Sieghard and Elsa

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    "So it's not showing the future then?" Sieghard asked, a bit confused. "I guess that makes sense. It wouldn't let me see you when I tried to." Realizing how that might sound, he quickly asked "What do you see when you look at it?"





    "When Alvarr held the city and we were trying to draw him out, I turned my men back rather than going east of the city itself," Sieghard began once Irene had left. "Didn't want to overreach and be trapped if the Duke sent men after us." A decision that may have saved his life, he reflected. "The farms around Selsan are untouched and can help provision the siege line. Are there any places south of Savonne that escaped the flames?"

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    Adelbert

    Adelbert grimaced. 'I have some saved money, but no income. While investing in theatre - or indeed any business - would use up most or all of my resources at least it would allow me to live without entirely dependent on charity.'

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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Bloody Crown X

    "I can go and start trying to make deals there." Ludo said. "And bang the recruiting drum a bit too, sell Sforza as a new lord. After that, perhaps I can go south to Manaan's Keep, see if I can get a good deal from Sussman and Ardelean and that lot for a percentage of their harvests. I can talk up how much Sforza's done for them, show off how quiet things have been in their neck of the woods since last year."
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    At the Keep

    Esteban nodded. "The Captain kept our raiding to the west side of the river. Everything on the east side should still be there." He gave them a sly look. "Except that one windmill, eh?"

    "There's farms on this side that escaped the raids too - mostly the ones close in to the city. We should draw on them all." He perused the papers again. "I'm sure Señor Stubbs will make an excellent negotiator, but perhaps we should divide our men. It's a lot of ground to cover, and no-one can be in two places at once. You should have guards, too. People do not always take kindly to tax collectors."

    "We'll need transport as well. No good gathering food to let it rot. Most likely it would be easiest to bring it up the river by boat."




    Adelbert

    Hieronymus raised his eyebrows again. "Well, how you spend your own money is your own concern," he said, "but you shouldn't worry about being able to support yourself. The Temple will look after its own. Food, clothing, lodging, a small stipend for your own purposes - it will all be provided."
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    WFRP 2E - The Bloody Crown
    Threads: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X

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    Ludo thought for a minute. "Sussman and his lot are already on our side, more or less, but the farmers might need more persuading. I doubt they'll be too well inclined towards us if they guess it's just a quirk of geography we didn't burn their crops. That said, I expect Sussman can run rings around a less experienced negotiator."
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    Adelbert

    Adelbert nodded slowly, relieved to hear that he would in fact be getting some money. Setting aside his other plans for the moment he asked: 'What actually will be my duties?'

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    At the Keep

    "All the more reason for you to have protection," said Valdes. He was a soldier; he thought in straight lines. "They won't feel so brave if you show them some steel."




    Adelbert

    "Each cult makes some contribution to the upkeep of the temple itself," said Hieronymus. "I imagine your boy can cover some of the more menial tasks there, with you taking some of the public services. Mother Raqiyah is the woman to speak with for all that." He poured himself a very small cup of wine. "Then there will be your specific duties as a priest of Verena. People come to us to receive the goddess' wisdom, particularly in the resolution of disputes." He paused. "Though they don't always take the advice they are given."
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    The Hour After Midnight
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Ill Met By Morrslieb

    Dark Heresy 1E - Wake of the Byzantium
    Episodes: I, II, III, IV, V

    WFRP 2E - The Bloody Crown
    Threads: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X

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    Adelbert

    'I can well imagine,' Adelbert answered, sadly reflecting on Alvarr. With a sigh he got to his feet.

    'Well thank you Father Hieronymous. I can see I'll be busy. If you forgive me I'm still travel worn so I'll bid you good day.'

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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Bloody Crown X

    Elsa and Sieghard

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    "What do you see when you look at it?"

    "Myself in nice robes and a crown, with something that looked like a throne behind me," answered Elsa. "And like you, I was alone. The mirror's apparently trying to appeal to our vanity. I can understand why a person might look at their reflection and get it into their head to start making deals with daemons."

    She, for her part, knew enough about daemons to know it was not worth it. Daemons always made sure to leave you wanting more, so that you would sell off yet another part of your soul. No one who had made deals with the Dark Power had ever died fulfilled and satisfied.

    Or at least, that was what she had been taught.







    Savonne

    Elsa felt uncomfortable about the whole discussion on pillaging the countryside. "I'll make a list of the farms we hit and what we take from each and every one of them. Perhaps I can prevail upon Sforza to waive their taxes for a year or two once peace has returned. We wouldn't want a revolution on our hands as soon as we've managed to unite the land," she added, trying to let everyone know that her concerns were purely pragmatic and not driven by soft-heartedness.
    Last edited by -Sentinel-; 2019-03-09 at 01:28 PM.
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    Playing:
    The Bloody Crown (WFRP) as Elsabeth Holt, rogue pyromancer

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.
    Quote Originally Posted by LeSwordfish View Post
    Ludo has a crowbar, if that helps.

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    At the Keep

    "You don't need to trouble yourself with this work, señora," said Valdes. "I'm sure our men can handle the keeping of lists."

    He handed Sforza's orders to her. "The Captain wants you to be his messenger between us and his army in the Valley. It says here he wants regular reports."
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    WFRP 2E - Tales of Perilous Adventure
    The Hour After Midnight
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Ill Met By Morrslieb

    Dark Heresy 1E - Wake of the Byzantium
    Episodes: I, II, III, IV, V

    WFRP 2E - The Bloody Crown
    Threads: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X

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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Bloody Crown X

    "We're not really robbing them again," Ludo insisted. "It's not robbing when it's tax, no matter what my father said."

    "I bet some of the people who've come to Savonne or who's farms we robbed will be looking to sell animals or wagons - or to rent them."
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    Sieghard

    "Probably better to write to Abdul before offering to waive next year's taxes," Sieghard said. "I imagine anything like that will depend on how much is taken from each farm, so its probably not something we need to consider just yet."
    Last edited by TheSummoner; 2019-03-10 at 03:35 PM.

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    Adelbert

    Retiring to the Temple for the night, Adelbert took residence in one of the austere, cell-like rooms beneath the ancient building. Bertelis seemed in good health, and happy to see him. For all they seemed outwardly forbidding, the Morrites had taken good care of Adelbert’s young acolyte.

    The next morning, Hieronymus took him before Raqiyah to administer his oaths as a temple priest – to serve the gods, to serve the people of Savonne, and to serve no prince or lord above any other. It felt good to be speaking the words at last, however painful the road to this point had been. Here he was among people who saw his worth as more than just a pawn.

    Slipping into his duties felt as easy as putting on a well-worn glove. There was far more to do than Hieronymus had led him to understand – but, as Adelbert began to appreciate, Hieronymus was quite absent from the day-to-day running of the temple. A steady stream of foot traffic passed in an out of the time-worn gates, the countless souls of Savonne coming to the house of the gods to seek their blessing, offer thanks, or just to find sympathetic counsel.

    With the number of outsiders that had been driven to the city by Sforza’s scorched-earth raids, the number of people in need of divine assistance was higher than ever. Adelbert could tell from her appearance that Raqiyah was stretched thin between her various duties. Working alongside Brother Jakub of the Azrillites, and Liebrecht, the most senior of Raqiyah’s acolytes in Savonne, he endeavoured to be the reinforcements she needed. It was wearing work, and there was a limit to the charity the temple could provide. Still, it felt as if he was making some small difference.

    As well as being the city’s spiritual heart, the temple performed all the functions required by the Cult of Morr. Predominantly female and uniformly shaven-headed, Raqiyah’s initiates outnumbered all the other clergy combined. Adelbert would often hear their soft footsteps at night as they brought in the dead to be prepared and interred in the Garden of Morr that surrounded the temple. Though they seemed eerie and taciturn at first, Adelbert soon began to find their quiet, respectful company agreeable. They got along well with Bertelis, with a single exception. A boy of about Rhadegund’s years, he went by the name of Besnik, and was apparently one of the cult’s most recent recruits. It was probably just his surly demeanour, but there was something about the cast of the boy’s pale, hangdog face that Adelbert instinctively disliked.

    In what little time he had to spare, he walked the streets of North Market and the Old Town in search of quarters more comfortable than his stone cell beneath the temple. With Savonne so crowded, space was in high demand – he found it difficult to find anything better than the cramped attic room he had rented from Krucke back in Mirino. The one exception was in the neighbourhood of Half Moon Alley, where Irene Sforza’s quarantine had just been lifted. Though the death toll had been mercifully, even surprisingly low, two houses there now stood empty, and the lingering spectre of the contagion kept other tenants away.

    On one of his house-hunting strolls, Adelbert saw one of the handbills Hieronymus had mentioned, advertising the marvellous performances of Otto Sutter’s Travelling Players. They could apparently be found five days of the week in the South Market, and on Konigstag nights in the docks, at a place called the Fat Fish...

    OOC:
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    As a paid-up priest of the temple, Adelbert can draw a stipend of 1 gc, 7s and 6p a week. He is entitled to a bed and meals at the temple, and can by ecclesiastical law ask any goodman of the Reaches to shoe and/or water his horse for free, provided he does so no more than once per month (Hieronymus says this is the law – no-one claims to have actually put this to the test).




    Ludo

    Ludo had hardly had the chance to put his feet up in the luxurious accommodation of the castle before the demands of Sforza’s war had him on the road again. Accompanied by six trusty militiamen and the two carts they had brought back from Bunthafen, he was to trace a figure-eight between Selsan and Arrow Heap, with Savonne at its centre. It was many miles to cover in one week, and he would have been better able to grumble about it if it hadn’t been largely his own plan.

    Still, if one had to take a tour of the Downlands, this was the right time of year. Riding on the back of one of the carts – his stride was shorter than theirs, he told the men, if he marched with them he’d only slow them down – he watched fields of growing wheat roll by, his wide-brimmed hat providing ample shade from the sun. Stoutheart trotted along behind them, barking determinedly at horses and oxen.

    At every farm and hamlet they passed, Ludo gave the same speech, selling the gold and glory to be gained in service to the Captain as hard as he was able. He supposed it must have been good, because at every farm and hamlet they passed, more young men signed up to join. The numbers of his little party had more than tripled by the time they doubled back to the bridge at Savonne, and didn’t stop growing as they headed north to Selsan.

    On the subject of taxes, the Downlands farmers were less enthusiastic. Those on the east side of the river were particularly truculent, having not been exposed to the same demonstration of what could happen to their farms as those to the west. They protested that he was asking too much, that he was taking their workers, that the weather had been too dry for a good harvest, that it was typical for a Halfling to be trying to pinch their food, that the Captain’s war was all well and good, but you couldn’t squeeze blood from a turnip, and that was the gods-honest truth.

    It took a great deal of persuasion for Ludo to win them round, but he stuck at it until he did. As he rode from farm to farm, he mentally checked off the items on Abdul’s list. Per week: sixty bushels of wheat flour. Forty bushels of oats. Nine hundredweight of roots. A dozen pigs or similar weight of livestock for meat. Ten barrels of salt meat and cheese. A dozen barrels of wine, twenty of beer...

    By his reckoning, if the parts of the Downs he had yet to visit paid up at the same rate, then between them the Downlanders could provide at least half the grain, and pretty much all the livestock. There was a large water mill on the river just south of Selsan that could handle turning their wheat into flour, though it would have to work double since some reprobates had burned the mill at Arrow Heap to the ground. Still, the miller meekly agreed that the Captain’s work took priority over that of his neighbours, seeming rather cowed by the growing mob of recruits that Ludo now brought with him.

    So it was that by Marktag of that week, Ludo came back in sight of the walls of Savonne, forty-one men marching behind him, and his wagons laden down with the first offerings from the farms. He was tired in body and mind, but he felt he had done the job required of him, and done it well. For this week at least.

    OOC:
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    35 brave lads sign up to join the militia!

    Quick recap of the quartermastering numbers:
    • Downlands farms are on track to supply 50% of the grain you need, if Ludo is as successful with the parts he visits next week as he was this week.
    • Similarly, Downlands farms are on track to supply 100% the fresh meat you need.
    • Since you said you were buying preserved foods (cheese, cured meat etc.) rather than taking them as tax, I’ll leave it to your discretion how much you buy. Abdul wants ten barrels a week; a full barrel runs to half a crown, modifiable by Haggle at -20.
    • The Downlanders don’t have much of a line in root vegetables or booze. The monks of Azriller run a brewery in Putbad though.





    Sieghard

    Sieghard spent the day that Ludo departed in lengthy conversation with Valdes, planning in detail the disposition of their troops. Valdes didn’t take much persuading to agree to take command of the blockade on Pieter’s Pass – Sieghard suspected that all the Estalians were secretly eager for a chance to get out from inside the city walls.

    All would have been well if Irene had not found out, but the Captain’s wife seemed to have ears everywhere. She was not happy, as she made emphatically clear to a cornered Sieghard, that the real soldiers that Muzio had assigned for her protection were marching off to picnic in the mud at the mouth of some pointless pass. Valdes bravely intervened, pointing out that she still had the ahosi who remained in the castle to protect her, and clinging to Sforza’s written orders like a protective talisman. Sieghard saw now why the Captain had made such a point of giving them to him in writing.

    At last, Irene relented, sinking into a sulk in lieu of getting her way. Taking the opportunity to escape, Sieghard hurried away, seeking out Elsa and Ingwald to help him with writing a letter to Steffan Sussman. Ingwald suggested they get the lady Irene to sign it. Sieghard left that job to him.

    Once the Brotherhood and his messenger to the Vale had both departed, Sieghard took Ingwald with him in search of carters and boatmen. All the food in the Reaches would be no use to Sforza unless they could get it to him. Carts and animals to pull them were in abundant supply, though largely poor condition – many of the refugees who had come to the city from the western Downs had come with their possessions on carts they no longer needed, drawn by animals they could no longer feed. However, the most efficient way to move the volume of supplies they needed would undoubtedly be by water.

    Sandu was not in town, but two men represented themselves to Sieghard as chiefs among the boatmen of the docks. The first was a man of Arabyan descent by the name of Burhan, low-born but from the cut of his clothes clearly successful in his line of business. He had many friends on the river, he said, and if he drew on some favours he could get three big barges. That would be enough to ferry all the supplies the Captain could need up to Putbad, so long as the boats didn’t have to go south of the city – Burhan claimed the river was still too low for a laden barge to cross the ford at Arrow Heap.

    The second didn’t meet with them in person, but sent a messenger – a stocky, bald man with a face as thuggish as Sieghard’s. His boss’ name was Dragos, he said, and nothing moved in the docks without his say-so. He would move as much cargo as they wanted, he said, and match anyone else’s price. All he asked for in return was an audience with the Captain when Sforza returned to the city.

    Mulling his choices, Sieghard spent his afternoons alternating between the north and south market squares, beating the recruiting sergeant’s drum as best as he was able. Lacking Ludo’s easy charisma, he found it a struggle to overcome the natural animus the townspeople seemed to have towards the Captain and his soldiers. The streets were packed with people who had fled Sieghard’s own raids in the west, and even the born city dwellers remembered Sforza as the prince who had stormed the city not once but twice. By the end of the week, he had secured only a measly seven recruits. To Hanna’s not-so-hidden satisfaction, four of them were women. Even packed with refugees from the Downs, Savonne remained a place where women outnumbered men.

    Between his many errands, by the end of the week Sieghard was run ragged. On Marktag, he finally found the time to make the climb up to the High Market, and claim his new sword and dagger from the dwarf smith he had commissioned them from weeks ago. Though she still spoke of the weapons as “umgi toothpicks,” she seemed quietly proud of her work – as well she should be. Turning the fine sword over in his hand and admiring the design of the gnarled tree worked into the pommel, Sieghard thought all the struggle seemed briefly worthwhile.




    Elsa

    While the others toiled in the city below, Elsa remained cloistered high in the keep with the books and papers she had taken out of the ruins. She had clearly found plenty to study within their pages.

    Elsa Only
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    Spoiler: Book: Seeking the Silver Tower
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    The book was a touch over two hundred pages, slim by the standards of some of the tomes Elsa had been required to read at the Bright College. Written in accessible but somewhat dated Reikspiel, it looked to have been rather cheaply printed. Still, the pages and the binding were in good condition – a minor miracle considering the state of everything else down in the caverns.

    It spoke of the Silver Tower not as a physical place – or at least not one in this world. The tower was a philosophical destination, a symbol for the collection of all human knowledge beyond the reach of ignorance and prejudice. To set out on the road to this mystic’s paradise, all you had to do was swear yourself to its keeper – Tzeentch, the Architect of Fate, the Changer of the Ways.

    The early pages read as a manifesto for the movement, eloquently expressed although again out of date. From the way the author wrote of the persecution of mages, Elsa gathered they were writing in the Empire, before the establishment of the Colleges. The common people feared what they could not understand, said the book, and so those who sought the Silver Tower must do so in secret, to safeguard it from those who would rather consign its knowledge to the flames.

    From there, the book took a rapid dive into more mystical matters. The author wrote on the nature of magic and reality in a way that seemed more engaging to Elsa than the dry rules and prohibitions that the College had drilled into her. The claims they made would surely have seen both their book and their body consigned to any self-respecting Sigmarite’s pyre. There was no distinction to be drawn between the gods of the north and the gods of the Empire; they were all creatures of the Realm of Chaos, which was the divine wellspring of pure creation. The eight Winds – the author knew all their true names, just as they were taught by the Colleges – were shattered facets of that single force, separated and weakened by its entry into the mortal world. A master of the Silver Tower would learn to wield all eight as one.

    Words and signs were introduced to represent the author’s concepts – symbols Elsa recognised as the same primitive runes she had seen scratched into the rock of the caverns. This was the language of the gods, the author wrote, and could be used to shape reality in the same way that they did. Its secrets had been taken from the beasts of the woods, whose minds were more directly in touch with the primal forces that shaped them, but its power could be used by anyone. A tool was a tool, nothing more.

    What followed were instructions on how to do exactly that – spells written in the same runes. Even sounding the simpler ones out in her mind, Elsa could feel the power locked in those strange syllables. This was real magic, not some hedge wizard’s charm for curing boils – and not the carefully circumscribed ritual of her own order. For these spells to work would require the caster to draw on all the Winds, just as the writer had said.

    Her old order, a treacherous voice in her head seemed to whisper. Her bridges to the Bright College had burned with Theo.

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    From this book, you can learn Arcane Language (Daemonic) and Dark Lore (Tzeentch).


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    The papers Elsa had taken from the box were in remarkably good condition. Though the ink had faded and browned with age, the compact, feminine handwriting was still perfectly legible – at least where it didn’t slip into the strange runes of the Dark Tongue.

    They appeared to be the research notes of a single wizard, though some passages hinted as some external source or mentor with whom the writer had consulted. Their subject was the development of a ritual spell of a scale beyond anything Elsa had experience of. The writer named it the Rite of Exile, and Elsa felt she knew its purpose before she even read it on the page: to cast a part of the mortal world wholly and permanently into the Realm of Chaos.

    The requirements were formidable. A silver key for the focal point, a foundation stone from the building to be transported, a bone from one of its builders, and a circle of nine sacrifices around its location, nine miles wide. The nature of the sacrifices seemed left to context, but Elsa felt unpleasantly sure that they were human.

    More than even that, it seemed that Harmugstahl itself had been built to the specifications of the ritual. Elsa found what looked like floor plans of the building before its ruin, lines of coloured ink showing how the structure of the tower intersected with the spell’s arcane geometry. Pages of strange symbols laid out enchantments to be worked into the glass of the tower windows, designed to channel and concentrate the Winds to the fierce intensity that the ritual required. From the amount of crossing-out and repetition, they looked to have been the subject of some trial and error.

    Reichart’s wyrd-glass is a minor miracle, Elsa found scribbled in the marginalia, and shows great potential for other uses beyond the great work. Already I have fashioned a divining glass from some spare material, which works tolerably when commanded. How pleasing that the star should have fallen here, and we should use the Enemy’s weapon against Him!


    She met the others in the evenings, when she emerged for food and drink. Sieghard kept her up to date on their work for the war effort, while she did her best to stay out of the way of the lady Irene, and occasionally crossed paths with Leona Groz and her baby boy. Now it was a little way past being a wrinkled pink newborn, the resemblance to the late Count was quite clear.




    Backertag, 13th Vorgeheim

    The same day that Ludo led his merry mob of new recruits back through the river gate into Savonne, two letters arrived at the keep. One was from Valdes and his company at the Pass; the other was their long-awaited reply from Steffan Sussman. Sitting together with Ludo and Elsa in the kitchens of the keep while Stoutheart gnawed on a soup bone, Sieghard listened as Elsa read the letters aloud.

    Ingwald had been successful in getting Irene’s signature on the letter they sent to Manann’s Keep, and Sussman’s reply was obsequious in the extreme. He was overjoyed to once again be of assistance to the house of Sforza, and he would of course do everything in his power to assist the lady and her husband. He would speak with the right people and ensure that shipments from the Vale began arriving in Ravenskird by, at the latest, the twentieth. For supplies from Last Water, he would need a little more time, for which he begged forgiveness – but there was no way to shorten the time it took his messages to cross the Iron Claw Hills.

    Valdes’ letter was much shorter and to the point. News of the siege had crossed the Karst faster than his men had arrived at the pass, and he had already intercepted several groups trying to run his blockade. The channels of the Karst made the mouth of the pass porous, and his depleted company was stretched thin trying to cover all the approaches. As such, he was requesting more men.

    In a short postscript, he suggested that perhaps the caballera d’Evangelisti might like to join them. The reputation she had won at the battle of Arrow Heap would inspire the men and discourage further blockade runners. Elsa had a sneaking suspicion that Valdes’ request was about more than good tactics; she looked forward to seeing Astoria’s reaction.

    They only had to find her first. She had sworn herself to protect Elsa, but this last week Elsa hadn’t needed much protecting. The castle was no place for any noticeable woman to be when Irene was on the warpath, which was most days, so in recent days she had taken to exploring the city. Elsa hadn’t seen her since the previous afternoon.

    ~

    It was Adelbert who found her first, hearing the frantic ringing of a watchman’s bell from his rounds near the Temple. A small crowd had gathered around where she lay at the corner of Tower Street and Half Moon Alley, and had presumably been lying since daybreak.

    Her skin was ashen grey, a pale mockery of its usual copper hue. She lay without her armour or shield, her clothing torn and bloodstained. The Jarl’s sword lay on the cracked cobbles a few inches from her outstretched hand, its blade clean.

    Her throat was one horrendous wound, as if she had been savaged by a wild beast. As the dreadful sight hit home, Adelbert’s thoughts jumped instantly to Kelda – but that was impossible. Kelda was dead.
    Last edited by LCP; 2019-03-10 at 11:56 PM.
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    Adelbert

    It was a strange shift. Though Adelbert had been a priest for some time, he was less familiar with working as part of a hierarchy. Oddly if anything it reminded him most of his hectic early days as a journeyman scribe, when he had frequently worked as part of a group. Though his standing (and pay!) was rather higher this time around.

    Though he had never been particularly drawn to the worship of Morr, his recent escapades and especially his eerie encounter with Nahorek had left Adelbert with a different view. Now he found the presence of the Morrites rather comforting and he was happy to stroll in the Garden of Morr or discuss theology with Liebrecht (especially regarding Morr's domain over dreams.) In his fleeting moments of free time he also spoke with Jakub.

    Besnik struck him as a potential problem but with the resources of the Temple stretched thin he would have to wait. Still, Adelbert kept an eye open. Even with all his other concerns he was not about to let his ward be bullied.

    As soon as time permitted he'd pay a visit to see Otto Sutter’s Travelling Players. He still had at least vague plans in direction.

    After the quarantine lifted he decided to visit Half Moon Alley. Adelbert still strongly suspected the plague had not been a traditional plague at all, but was instead the result of other factors. On his trip to personally investigate the vacated houses he tried to find if anything had been left behind of the so-called pestilence.

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    Magic Awareness: (1d100)[22] vs. 53





    Backertag, 13th Vorgeheim

    'Get rid of these people,' Adelbert instructed the watchmen and gestured at the gawping onlookers. He had no idea if he actually had the authority to do this, but he was hoping standing here in the robes of the Temple would give him some weight.

    Grey faced himself Adelbert got to his knees and began to carefully examine the body. He had not known Astoria well but he had liked the Tilean woman and to see her like this now... No, he had to force himself to think clearly, to think clinically. With an effort the priest shifted his eyes from her face to her throat, and then to her clothing. Her civilian clothing.

    It made no sense. Adelbert couldn't recall ever even seeing Astoria without her armour. Perhaps she'd been on a visit outside her work, to visit a lover perhaps (had Astoria a lover? He realised he had no idea.) But that didn't explain why she had her sword with her, something which also ruled out this being a robbery gone wrong. And that wound...

    Kelda was dead. He knew that. Except, Kelda was not entirely human. Maybe...

    To his shock and shame Adelbert felt a tiny flicker of hope at the back of his mind.

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    Adelbert

    In the quiet streets around Half Moon Alley, Adelbert fancied he could feel something of the lingering shadow Hieronymus had spoken of. It was nothing on which he could pin a name - just a feeling of unease that stole quietly into the soul. He did not think he was alone in feeling it, either - on his second or third visit, he noticed how the feral street cats of the Old Town seemed to still observe the boundaries of the quarantine, days after the last barricade had been dismantled.

    Of the two empty houses, the first had been inhabited by a large family that had been among the worst struck by the disease. Both parents had passed on, and the surviving children had been scattered - some to more distant relatives, others to the uncertain mercies of the streets. A crooked white cross was still painted on the door, and the interior was the kind of squalid mess that one might expect from a long, wasting sickness. Traces of the neatly-ordered home it had once been were still visible under the mess: Adelbert saw an orderly stack of firewood by the hearth, and a bundle of charms hung above the lintel. Among them was a jackal's paw - it had clearly not worked in keeping Morr's hound from the door.

    The second was a tall, narrow building, squeezed between two more well-built neighbours. It had been the home of a solitary old man who had apparently died shortly before Sforza's quarantine was imposed. The people on the street were divided about whether his death had been a result of the sickness - some said it was, others said it was his heart that had given out. Old Lazar had always had a dicky heart.

    Inside Lazar's house there was none of the mess of the one across the street - just a fine layer of dust. Up two rickety flights of wooden steps, an empty chair still stood facing the window, looking out over the alley.




    13th Vorgheheim

    "Come on!" shouted the watchman, ringing his bell to the general indifference of the crowd. The watchmen of Savonne were little more than paid pairs of eyes, hired by those merchants with interests valuable enough to protect to alert their ruler's men if things got out of hand. No-one feared his authority. "You heard the reverend brother! Clear away!"

    "Check her pulse!" shouted one helpful bystander. Another scoffed. "Check her pulse? All her blood's on the outside!"

    "Isn't she one of the Captain's people?" said a third. "We oughter take her to the castle."

    "To the Shallyans, more like."

    "To the Temple!"

    As the general hubbub rose, it became clear the crowd wasn't going anywhere.
    Last edited by LCP; 2019-03-11 at 08:56 AM.
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    Ludo had handed the new recruits off to Ingwald with a certain glee at the lad's surprise at seeing such a large group, and headed out into the city, alone except for Stoutheart. He was very happy to have had a successful week, and was planning on enjoying a Savonne-style pie before he saw the large crowd. He shouted for calm a few times without much success, and settled on using sharp elbows and a low centre of gravity to force his way though to the front to where - no no no!

    Ludo scrambled forward to Astoria's side, raising his voice as much as possible. "Get back! She needs a doctor! Someone go and get the shallyans, dont just gawp you idiots."

    Ludo had not the slightest grasp of battlefield medicine, but he had a vague sense of what a pulse was and he prodded hopefully at Astoria's wrist, searching for any sign of life. "Adelbert, you're a healer, do something."

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    Adelbert

    There was something more (though not Morr) to these deaths. Adelbert knew it in his bones, even if the answer eluded him. They seemed too concentrated to be a true plague. A lonely old man vs a large family, both apparently relatively clean living and not desperately poor. Was it poison of some ingenious kind? Had the enemy - it was hard not think of some malevolent force at work here - sought to hide a murder by faking a disease?

    Or was he on the wrong track altogether and this really had been a disease?

    It was a frustrating experience, and he'd have to investigate it further. After some thought he looked into renting one of the properties, assuming they had not been abandoned outright.




    13th Vorgheheim

    This was getting tricky and Adelbert started to get nervous that the crowd might unwittingly destroy any evidence that remained.

    'Good people please stay calm,' he asked the crowd, scanning the faces for any men and women he recognised. 'Alas there is nothing I can do for this poor woman, other than guard her body for the moment. I need three volunteers - one to go to the Temple and report this, one to go to the Captain's Guards and get help and one to fetch a sheet to cover the body. Let us afford the departed a little dignity.'

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    Charm: (1d100)[78] vs 56

    If Adelbert does notice anyone in the crowd he knows (as worshippers or others who have approached him before) he'll direct his appeal for aid to them, by name if he can recall it.

    Perception: (1d100)[7] vs 66


    At that moment Ludo arrived. Adelbert was glad to see him, though slightly taken aback at his suggestion of taking a pulse. 'Ludo I think she's in Morr's hands now,' he said quietly. Still more out of duty than hope he took the woman's pulse, fully expecting her skin to feel like ice.
    Last edited by RossN; 2019-03-11 at 10:47 AM.

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    There was no pulse. Even if her heart had still been beating, it would have had nothing to pump. Adelbert would have been surprised if there were more than a couple of pints of blood left in Astoria's body.

    Compelled by Adelbert and Ludo's words, some of the more helpful members of the crowd began to scatter east and west, though Adelbert was unsure how clearly they would carry the message. Finding something to cover the body at least didn't require them to go far. Two women returned fairly promptly carrying a ratty woolen blanket.

    Stoutheart refused to go near the body. Head low and hackles raised, he looked around in all directions, turning his whole body to do so. He barked fiercely at any of the bystanders who came too close, prompting them to jump hastily back despite his size.
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    Adelbert

    Shivering at the dog's wining Adelbert turned to Ludo. 'I'm afraid she's gone my friend.' He leaned in closer and added quietly: 'That wound wasn't done by a knife. Help me look around for any evidence of a very large, fierce dog. You know hairs, pawprints, anything.'

    He carefully studied the area around the body, hoping to find some traces other than just normal footprints.

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    Not sure if this Perception or untrained Search.

    Perception: (1d100)[57] vs 66 (or 33 if Search)

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    The streets in this part of the Old Town were cobbled, although it had been a long time since anyone had properly maintained them - in many places the age-worn stones gave place to bald patches of earth. The sun and lack of rain had baked the ground too hard to hold much of an impression; all Adelbert found was a single scrape-mark from what might have been claws, and a couple of cobblestones marked with drips of dried blood.
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    Adelbert

    It was scarcely conclusive but short of anything else Adelbert leaned towards death by Kelda, or another of her kind. There were other frightening possibilities but he did not feel this the work of a daemon and it was unthinkable a merely mortal adversary should have defeated Astoria without suffering at least one wound.

    He didn't dare voice his suspicion to Ludo and was left standing impatiently, waiting for aid to arrive.

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    Sieghard

    Sieghard had been helping Ingwald manage the new recruits when he heard the bell. Leaving them behind, he made his way towards the noise with half a dozen veterans from the Volunteers. "Make way!" he snarled, forcefully shoving past anyone in the crowd too slow to do so.

    It took a moment for him to take in the grisly scene. His eyes lingered on the wound, then shifted to Adelbert, Ludo, and finally back to the gathered crowd. "Five crowns to any man who saw and can describe the one who did this, to be paid once I have the attacker's head!" he shouted "Double that if anyone has information that leads directly to their location! Anyone who knows something can speak to me at the castle in an hour, for now go back to your homes!"
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    "It's like some kind of animal." Ludo said, unwilling to inspect the wounds too closely but unable to draw away. "I can't... she had her sword. She can't have been killed by a dog or a wolf, she was... she beat Rorik. She held that gate, she..."

    Ludo wanted to say "it isn't fair", but whether or not it was fair didn't matter, apparently. Apparently what you did at this point was close the eyes of the body, but he really didn't want to: Astoria had been such a dignified, powerful presence: touching her would have felt wrong without asking. Instead, he carefully covered her with the cloth.

    "What happened here?" he asked the crowd. "Is there... is there an dog around here or something - not him!" He had already spotted a few eyes flick to Stoutheart.
    Last edited by LeSwordfish; 2019-03-11 at 07:33 PM.
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