Death Knows No Honor

Chapter3:Session4
Magic Arcane, Magic Divine, and Magic Most Foul

Magic Arcane, Magic Divine, and Magic Most Foul
Cast: Rufus, Ranthin, Bronan, Konrad

Dellin and Archibald were assisting Bronan’s men in fending off the return of the beastmen that had previously been lured away from the rear guard by Rufus’ marsh lights. As such, they were not part of the final assault on the tower. (Neither player was able to make the session…)

Bronan and Konrad race up the watch tower stairs, only to be forced from their feet by a magical hurricane-force gale of wind. While somewhat immobilized by the wind, another lighting storm strikes, hitting three of the four characters and seriously wounding Ranthin and Rufus. The lightning coursed through Ranthin’s studded leather — the shock knocking him off his feat and cracking two of his ribs. Rufus was heavily wounded, but not to the level of a critical hit.

Ranthin and Rufus decide to back off and let the fighters forge ahead. Rufus detects that the watch tower is situated atop a “well” of Dhar — a source of black magic. Rufus wonders if there might be some secret lower quarters and searches for secret doors — finding none.

Konrad and Bronan push through the gale-force winds only to be confronted by two very mean looking Norscan berserkers. Rufus continues to use his magic sense to track the spells being cast from on-high and notices that the spells have stopped. (It turns out that the evil wizard rolled a major chaos manifestation, which caused him an injury, and he fled by casting a flight spell and flying away.)

Konrad and Bronan best the berserkers and the party rushes to the top of the tower. As Rufus expected, the warlock was gone — the only evidence of his presence was a seriously charred weather vane. From the vantage, the characters see that the Inquisitors have vanquished the beastmen horde, but the Bronze Chaos Knight is nowhere to be seen — probably retreated with what remained of his forces into the wilderness. The characters notice that Archibald is engaged in a lively discussion with the leader of the inquisition forces, which is none other than Lord Bismark.

Bismark and the characters have a private discussion. Bismark asks questions about the character’s involvement in the summoning of the demon, and believes their response that they were set up by Rene De Rochelle. However, officially, if Bismark were to have encountered the party here, he would have had to arrest them…fortunately he was distracted by the beasts of chaos and missed the characters entirely (wink, wink.)

The characters learned from Bismark that the demon was destroyed. A large contingent of empire soldiers, many from the Nuln-area Grey Mountain Company, supported by elite cavalry from the inquisition battled the demon. It didn’t go well. Almost all died in the battle, but Bismark was able to hack off one of the demon’s tentacles. As all lay dead or dying, and the demon was distracted by feeding on a thousand corpses, an ill-kempt man in travel stained white robes arrived on the scene. In a short conversation with Bismark, who was one of the few that survived the onslaught, the strange man said that his destiny had arrived and the moment he’d been waiting for all these years was upon him.

That said, he worked a ritual of some sort, and a bright nimbus grew around him. Bismark took him to be a saint of the light sent to them in their time of need. The brightness reached it’s climax, the demon turned from its feasting and roared the cry of a million pains, and then vanished abruptly.

The white robed main said his work was done here, and he wandered off. Bismark and the few survivors of the battle were too disoriented to stop him or ask him who he was. Instead, they did their best to regroup and carry on as befitting soldiers of the light. As Bismark put it, “One doesn’t pester a saint with inane questions…one just feels blessed to have been in his presence however briefly the moment.”

The characters leave the Kerepault Watch area and head back to the main fortress to report on the events, to heal up, and to re-supply for a long journey. Bismark made it clear that powerful people, both within and outside of the inquisition, have it in for the group and that making themselves scarce would be for the best. Meanwhile, Bismark’s forces leave to hunt down the Chaos Knight and the remaining beastmen.

After resupplying and healing at the main fortress a day or so south of Kerepault, the group decides that they should try to reduce the number of their enemies. The must vulnerable seems to be Baron Strussel of Nuln. Assuming some assistance and intel from Grolst Van Eyke, they may be able to blow the lid off Strussel’s counterfeiting operation and get him arrested by the Honorable Captain Tanner of Nuln. This fits in well with Archibald’s quest from father Burkholt to rid Nuln of the source of its corruption, and also agrees with Rufus who thinks he’d like to track down the “saint” in white robes — he may be a powerful magician that can teach Rufus some things.

While convalescing at the fortress, Rufus has time to study the rune-scribed arrow. Now more powerful in the ways of Magic, Rufus is able to discern how the “recharge” the arrow. It will take a ritual and a human sacrifice. Bronan quips that Strussel would be a good candidate….

Thus ends the Battle of Kerepault Watch. Characters earned 200 xp for not getting obliterated by the storm mage (Herre Stormur). Lucky for them that magic is dangerous and can backfire in unexpected ways…

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Chapter3:Session3
The Slaughter at Kerepault Watch

The Slaughter at Kerepault Watch
Cast: Bronan, Ranthin, Dellin, Archibald, Rufus, and Konrad(!)

The party, including Bronan’s platoon, has managed to stick together during the route. The beastmen horde, aided by uncanny lightning strikes, has slaughtered most of the Ostermark defenders. The characters fled in a different direction than the main forces, and are pursued by a smaller force of beastmen, a few hundred yards behind.

The party emerges into a small clearing in the forest near a hillock and encountered 14 beastmen in the area. Knowing that a larger group of beastmen was only minutes behind, the characters choose to engage this smaller force and hope to find a hiding place. They are surprised to find that Konrad has also come to this clearing — in fact, he saw the rise of the hillock and thought it a good vantage to find his friends among the chaos of the battlefield. How he came to be in the Eastern Marches is a story Konrad has not had the time to relate to them. The battle goes well. Wounds are taken, but the only serious injury is to Ranthin. Quick attempts at healing are made, and then the group is forced to move on or face the larger party of beastmen that are in pursuit.

The group moves to keep ahead of the pursuit, while occasionally finding opportunity to gain a vantage point and spy on the battle (er, slaughter). At one such time, they are surprised to hear the war horns of an inquisition cavalry, and a great number of beastmen appear to be fleeing from the forest and back towards the keep. Further observation reveals that a significant number of mounted knights of the inquisition have arrived and are preparing to charge the main force of beastmen that has regrouped at the tower base, led by the Bronze Chaos Knight.

Bronan knows that to give the Inquisition Knights a chance, they must distract or kill the warlock that casts the lightning. They decide to attempt to infiltrate the rear of the ruined watch tower opposite the direction of the knight’s charge. They hope to face a smaller force by surprise. Bronan’s men will hold off the beastmen long enough for the characters to get inside the tower and dispatch the warlock. Unfortunately, the group is spotted by a small company of beastmen that flee to the tower with warning of their approach.

Rufus shows his value by casting Marsh Lights to make it look like about 30 soldiers with torches are moving through the treeline, off at an angle from the party’s position. A large number of the Beastmen rear guard is fooled into charging off, and the group attacks.

The battle raged around Kerepault Watch. Knights of the Inquisition engaged the main army of beastmen led by the Bronze Chaos Knight. Meanwhile, the characters with the aid of Bronan’s platoon and Rufus’ marsh lights infiltrated the rear of the ruined keep and assaulted the tower. The characters fought through a rear guard of Norscan Barbarian Raiders in the watchtower, but an attempt at a rush up the keep’s stairs ended badly. “Combat Commander” Archibald warned of a massive gathering of Aethyr, and Dellin was overcome with a strong foreboding. Archibald ordered a retreat out of the stone passageway, but Bronan and Konrad charged ahead.

A lightning storm rushed down the stone stairwell completely incinerating Konrad (Ulric’s Fury) and killing Bronan and the two remaining barbarians as well. But fate had other ends in mind for Bronan and Konrad, and they stumble back up to their feet to the amazement of the rest of the group. Although dazed and charred, Bronan and Konrad realize that the Warlock must be stopped. The group of beastmen that were tricked by the Marsh Lights will return, and if the Warlock is allowed to blast away at the Knights, all will be lost.

There seems to be no option other than charging up the stairs before the Warlock can get another lightning storm cast…or is there?

The session ended at this point. 200XP’s awarded.

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Chapter3:Session2
Trouble on the Eastern Marches

A-Story Line
Cast: Ranthin, Dellin, Archibald, Bronan, Rufus, and newcomer Johann the Peasant (Stephen Bloomingdale)

While Ranthin, Dellin, Archibald, and Bronan were killing beastmen in the forests (see last adventure summary), Rufus was secluded in his suite at the “Walled Tavern” in Ostermark, studying the runic arrow. After an intense week or so of trial and error, he managed to energize part of the arrow. The end of the arrow, nearest the fletching, appears somewhat less charred than before. Rufus twice narrowly avoided a grim fate while studying the arrow.

A peasant arrives in Castle Ostermark toting a sack of turnips. He seems desparate and is claiming that his farmstead in southern Ostland was attacked by monsters (beastmen). Most of the town folk think he’s mad and give him a wide berth. However, the other characters arriving back from the Beastmen encounter of the previous session run into Johann at the outer gates and have sympathy for him. They buy his turnips and then Bronan decides to conscript him into the watch, as he seems a sturdy sort…not to mention that surviving a beastmen attack while remaining (mostly) sane is a high-enough recommendation in Bronan’s book. The peasant’s name is Johann, and he reports to the watch commander for equipment and training.

The rest of the characters report to appropriate authorities about the beastmen attacking the outer farms, with the “trophy cart” available as physical evidence. Braden the Elder, Duke of Ostermark, is apparently feeling under the weather, so Braden the Younger is the one they end up reporting to. Braden the Younger tells them about an Imperial Special Commission of the Grand Inquisition that is making its way to Ostermark, and that there is concern that the characters “colorful” backgrounds is a liability. Braden the Younger suggests the characters find something to do away from the castle for the foreseeable future.

There have been reports of heightened threats along the border, and now that Ostermark is blanketed in midwinter snow, starvation of outlying villagers is a dire concern. The Captain of the Guard in Ostermark gives Bronan the task of journeying out to the far-flung garrisons and watch towers to investigate the source of the raids. He is to coordinate with local watch captains at the various garrisons and is given official orders that explains his authority and duties.

Pre-dawn the next morning, Dellin is wakened by scratching at his window. He discovers Ladies Man (the crow), and a happy reunion occurs (bird poop on the bed covers, etc.) Ladies Man has a small pack strapped to him with a missive. It warns Dellin that a Norscan Warlock is behind the troubles in the Eastern Marches and that he is likely in league with De Rochelle, who appears to be “squeezing the Empire from both sides.”

The characters gather equipment and supplies after a short rest and begin their journey to the outlying forts. They arrive at one such place a week or so later, Fort Klumpter. A lieutenant at the fort indicates that he’s sent two urgent messages to Castle Ostermark and is wondering where the reinforcements are? Watches further to the north have been besieged by an enemy, and hundreds of soldiers have been lost. Fort Klumpter’s commanding officer rode out two weeks ago with a strong force and has not returned. The party agrees to journey north to investigate, backed by an additional 50 troops from the fort. The lieutenant will rally the nearby watches to gather a larger force of a thousand troops or so, but it will take time.

Bronan, his squad, and the other characters leave almost immediately. They are followed by 50 soldiers under the command of four competent sergeants and junior lieutenant officer (“Schmukhouser The Incompetent”, he is called by the Sergeants when not in his presence.) After another day or two of arduous travel, they arrive at a hill overlooking the ruins of a watch, smoke billowing from the ruins and bodies strewn about the red-stained snow. The character make their way towards the battleground when Dellin gets a feeling of danger and Ladies’ Man takes flight. Dellin hears the sound of hooves in the surrounding woods beyond the clearing, and others notice movement as well. Bronan yells an order back at Lt. Schmukhouser, who immediately deploys in a defensive pike formation. That apparently triggers those hiding in the woods to spring their trap prematurely.

About two hundred beastmen swarm out of the woods, led by a chaos knight in bronze-looking armor. Archibald’s excellent vision makes out an insignia of De Rochelle on the knight’s shield. The “good guys” are outnumbered at least 3 to 1, but they were not taken by surprise and have the high ground. Half the beastmen charge the hill, the rest staying back to protect the chaos knight. The defenders had enough time to smartly arrange the archers and wagons, as well as the forward pikemen and men-at-arms, to repel the charge. Just as the beastmen’s wedge formation nears striking distance, Archibald unleashes a dazzling brightness, causing disarray in the enemy. The soldiers strike and route the charging beastmen, who retreat down the hill, having lost perhaps 20-30 compared to the soldiers 5-6. However, the victory is short lived, as the Chaos Knight will be more careful, and his forces still vastly outnumber the defenders.

Bronan and the other army leaders decide to make an organized retreat to the treeline, where they may be able to mount a better defense, or at least provide for a few survivors to escape and get notice back to the watch. Archibald and Rufus feel the winds of the Aethyr moving near the ruined fort and they get a sick feeling in their stomach just as bolts of lighting begin to explode around them. As the defenders get to the treeline, trees are rupturing and soldiers are being blown to bits. The enemy Warlock must be attacking from the ruined tower and must be very powerful indeed! The defenders are routed, panic sets in, and the beastmen charge for the kill.

Thus ended the session. 50 XP awarded for the initial roleplaying/story aspects in town. Rest of the XP to be deferred pending the resolution of the cliffhanger!

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Chapter3:Session1
What lurks in them thar woods?

A-Story Line
Chapter 3: Session 1 “What lurks in them thar woods?”
Cast: Ranthin, Dellin, Archibald, and Bronan

Characters are staying at Castle Ostermark. The Duke of Ostermark (Braden the Elder) has a contentious argument with his son (Braden the Younger, who is now pushing 50 years old). The argument occurs in the castle temple, after normal service hours, and is overheard by Archibald who is praying in a quiet chapel room off to the side, unnoticed. Braden the Younger is a smooth-talking courtier who feels his father was quite foolish to get involved in the Toltevsky affair. More than two-dozen of his elite guard have perished, and Einhorn and Pohlmann will certainly figure out Ostermark’s involvement in the attack. Braden the Younger clearly is eager for his father to abdicate his title to his heir, and feels that his clumsy attempt to regain former battlefield glory will cause great harm to the Empire as a whole. (Inciting civil war, etc.)

Meanwhile, Sergeant Bronan is tasked with investigating a bandit issue at a farmstead a day away. Bronan is to take his squad of 8 Ostermark soldiers with him, and he’s welcome to have his friends go with. Ranthin is approached by one of Ostermark’s men to visit the Duke’s alchemist, who has made great strides developing a new weapon for the military. The alchemist is named Britt Veebel. His lab is a few miles away from the Castle, safe from prying eyes and ears. The project is secret, but the Duke trusts his new friends and wants their “independent opinion” on the progress of the new weapon.

So the characters go to visit Britt Veebel and then onwards to the farmstead. Veebel’s lab is in a fortified keep. Veebel is eccentric and scatterbrained, but apparently also highly skilled. He is thin, balding, and energetic. He resents anyone indicating that all alchemists do is to try to transmute lead into gold. His main project is designing a “cannon.” There’s all sorts of challenges in developing the right chemical mixture for the explosive powder, forging the metal cannon, designing an appropriate wheeled platform, choosing the right type of shot, etc. The characters get a demo of the cannon more-or-less working well, but the backfire destroys its base and burns one of the assistants — not quite ready for prime-time is the general assessment. While in the Alchemist’s shop, Dellin notices a lodestone, and he is given one as a gift. Britt Veebel asks the characters to report that he needs more supplies…including two more assistants and lots of butter.

The characters proceed to the farmstead. They interview the town elder who complains of bandits, livestock mutilations. Tracks indicate at least one of the bandits rides a huge Klydesdale-sized horse, and that other bandits must be ex-carnival workers who train pigs to dance…

Characters investigate, follow tracks, and chase someone in the woods. It turns into an ambush, but the bandits are not human. They are mutant beastmen, and a desperate battle ensues. Half of Bronan’s squad are killed, a few of the characters are lightly injured, but all the beastmen are killed — including the brutish boss, an enormous beastman whose legs were like a Klydesdale’s. Ranthin brought down this brute in a single round with two well-placed shots and a dose of Ulric’s fury!

The characters collect the heads of all the beastmen and the entire body of the brute. They report back to the farmstead that they’ve dispatched the bandits. They take the “trophies” as well as the bodies of their fallen comrades back to Castle Ostermark, to report on an apparent new threat to the realm.

Each character earns 200 xp.

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Chapter2:ConclusionPart3
"Per Veil, Ego Voco Nex", or "Some things are best left un-said"

Cast: Dellin, Ranthin, Archibald, Bronan, and Rufus
Continued from the cliff-hanger ending of the previous episode…characters have battled past the rear-guard of Toltevsky’s hideout, and are ready to charge into the entrance.

The characters make their way cautiously into the cave entrance to the Vivisectionist’s lair. After a hundred feet or so, the path through the cave turns into a crafted flagstone tunnel. Rufus casts Marsh lights to light the way, but spooks the other characters in so doing. They make their way through the tunnel, past the jail cells, and to the big double doors that mark the entrance to Toltevsky’s lab.

The find the doors unbarred, and so they enter. A few things are noticed immediately: the lab is in shambles, the desk and bookcases overturned and papers and other stuff scattered over the floor; a corpse is dangling like a marionette, tied by ropes to the rafters; there is a puddle of blood underneath the corpse, which has apparently been disemboweled; there are runes in blood surrounding the puddle; there is a crow nailed to the wall with a dagger, and there is also a note stuck to the crow.

Ranthin plays rear-guard and watches for oncoming danger down the tunnel. Rufus and the others enter the lab to take a closer look. Bronan notices the iron door on the far end of the “operatory”, and it is securely locked. Rufus glances at the bloody runes, and makes his way to the note and crow. Archibald and Dellin immediately recognize the dangling corpse as being Dr. Toltevsky. Someone has apparently gotten to him first!

Archibald puzzles out the meaning of the runes, reading them aloud as he recognizes them: “Per Veil, Ego Voco Nex”…Rufus hears what Archibald just said, translated as “Through the veil, I summon violent death,” and shouts that they need to leave immediately. At the same time, Rufus feels the winds of the Aethyr swirl and gust towards the corpse, where a black vortex visible to his witch-sight has appeared. To Rufus’ magic sense, it appears the vortex is sucking in the Aethyric winds and that the vortex is growing. The vortex is centered in the body cavity of the disemboweled corpse, about 5-6 feet off the ground.

Dellin’s hair stands on end, and even though he can’t sense what Rufus does, he knows from his sixth sense that something bad indeed has happened. He grabs the dead crow, which he recognizes as “Handsome” and the note, stuffing them into a pack and moves out of the room, behind Rufus who as already run out screaming doom and gloom. Archibald assumes that he’s accidentally cast a fear spell, so he casts courage on Bronan to steel his will.

Bronan and Archibald remain near the corpse as the vortex becomes visible even to them and a large bony/spiny mantis-like protrusion emerges from the void and anchors itself on the floor, like something monstrous is starting to pull itself through the rift. Meanwhile, Toltevsky’s corpse is swelling into a bloated sac of protoplasm. Bronan takes a swing with his axe at the corpse, which explodes into chunks of gore, and temporarily blinds Bronan as the bloody mess splashes over his face and body.

The “thing” is still coming through the rift even though the corpse has been destroyed. More protuberances appear in the void. Archibald has had a few seconds to think things over, and from his theology knowledge, he’s decided that he might have just accidentally summoned a Greater Demon into the world. Oops. He and others yell at Bronan to retreat, as they move out of the room. Just then, a spiked tentacle whips out of the void, narrowly missing Bronan and smashes into the overturned bookcase, where it gets temporarily stuck (a critical failure rolled by GM…saved Bronan’s life).

Bronan clears his eyes, realizes he was about 3" from death’s doorstep, and decides that fleeing is the better part of valor in this case. The characters all run out of the tunnel, through the cave, and back outside. They survey the battle below the bluffs. It looks like Ostermark’s men have won, but with massive casualties. There is less than a dozen defenders surrounding the Duke, and they look to have just dispatched the final Black Knight. They spot the characters emerging from the cave and ride to the path up the bluffs while the characters run down. Choppy and Spike are nowhere to be found.

Dellin retrieves the note he grabbed from the lab and gives it to Archibald to read it. Archibald relates that the note says something to the effect of: “Dearest Einhorn: You should have taken me up on my offer. I do so hate rejection. Dr. Toltevsky was a brilliant man who fortunately left highly detailed and clear notes of his research. I now have the means and the power, so you’d be advised to keep out of Brettonia and away from me. —R”

Archibald and others believe the note, which is written in a feminine hand, is from Lady Rene De Rochelle.

The characters and Ostermark‘s group meet on the path and they notice that a mounted army flying the Empire’s colors are galloping over the battlefield towards the bluffs. They also notice a dark cloud on the horizon. Archibald’s excellent vision sees that the cloud is an enormous swarm of black birds (thousands). He describes the leading banner of the approaching forces to Ostermark, who identifies it as Murdoch Einhorn.

Archibald relates that Toltevsky is dead but that a “major death demon” is coming. Ostermark had brought some extra horses up the hill with him, and so the characters each have a mount. They all try to gallop down the rough narrow pass to flee before Einhorn arrives. Ostermark’s trained men make it down the path, but several of the characters who have no horsemanship struggle. Archibald’s horse refuses to move, because Archy is yanking back on the reigns frantically while kicking the horse in its sides. Rufus falls off his horse. Ranthin and Bronan do better, but they can’t maintain the pace. Dellin is an experienced rider, but turns back to help Archibald and Rufus. Ostermark yells at Dellin to meet him at a certain road-side inn on the route to Ostermark. Ostermark and his remaining entourage flee the scene before Einhorn arrives, but unfortunately, the characters are unable to do so, and are trapped on the narrow path by Einhorn’s vanguard, which waits at the bottom.

Archibald moves down the path to talk to Einhorn. Einhorn accuses Archibald and the rest of interfering with the Empire’s business and a number of crimes. Archibald protests and says that Toltevsky was killed by Rochelle, and gives the note to Einhorn as proof. Einhorn swears when he reads the note, but is undaunted in his quest to apprehend the characters…except for Rufus, who is being saved for Augustus Grimm, who rides with the main forces (which are still a ways away across the battlefield).

Around that time, a gargantuan worm-like monstrosity bursts from the cave entrance at the top of the bluff — it is hundreds of feet long and has a maw like a lamprey eel’s, but with bony mantis-like mandibles surrounding the mouth area and several spiny whip-like tentacles lash out from the maw, stretching almost a hundred feet themselves. The demon is beyond huge, and is struggling to extract itself from the tight confines of the tunnel/cave through which it has been summoned.

Everyone is terrified by the demon. (Well, almost everyone). The horse bolt, soldiers flee, and general chaos ensues. The swarm of crows attack, and all this together allows the characters to escape, fleeing into the wilderness. A few instanity points are gained due to the trauma and terror of the demon’s emergence.

The characters regroup at their old camp site. Lt. Bronn’s horse has gnawed through its reigns and escaped. They gather some horses and make for the road to Ostermark. After a day’s travel or so, they find the inn that they were referred to. Ostermark is there with his remaining men.

Ostermark and the characters have a conference in a back room, and the entire situation was explained to the Duke. The Duke requests the character’s continued assistance as an escort back to Ostermark. He even offers Bronan to be a sergeant for a squad of soldiers in his retinue. The characters agree to escort the Duke home, where he plans to gather his armies and prepare for conflict. Ostermark also observes wryly that the demon should occupy the armies of the west for a while. He also suggests that the characters treat the battle as a glorious victory — that the goal of eliminating the Vivisectionist was accomplished and therefore the losses endured by the soldiers was not in vain. Archibald later gives a motivating sermon to lift the morale of the surviving soldiers.

The characters each earn 350 xp for the combined session (this one and the previous). They gain a valuable ally in Duke Ostermark. No monetary reward was offered, other than employment in Ostermark’s retinue…except for Archibald who is a priest of the light and thus can not serve directly as Ostermark’s retainer.

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Chapter2:ConclusionPart2
The Order of the Travelling Flame Wot Doth Illuminate Shadows Made and Secrets Kept

Cast of characters is same as in Part I, except Bronan the woodsman returns from an unhappy trip to Brettonia and rejoins the gang. The gang moved to a different campsite following the previous day’s attack. The next morning (actually pre-dawn), the crow called “Lady’s Man” wakes Dellin with the cry “Here Comes the Sun!”

Dellin follows the crow for a couple miles, crossing over a ridge and spotting an encampment of a significant size…one the order of 50 men, including two-dozen knights and heavy horse. A banner flying on the main tent identifies the camp as belonging to the Count of Ostermark, which is a province on the North-Eastern side of the Empire, tasked with monitoring the border to Kislev and the northern wastelands.

Dellin returns with the news. Mix Riggens says something about Ostermark being known as a good man, but also a very old man (in his 80’s, and decrepit, but in his youth he was known as “The Bull of Ostermark”). The characters decide to ride out to the encampment and introduce themselves. Mix disappears into the forest.

At the encampment, the characters encounter Father Burkholt (previously of the third-most glorious temple of the light in Nuln, and the quest-giver to Archibald). Burkholt has been looking for Archibald, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to return safely to Nuln. The Count of Ostermark had recently been in Altdorff pleading with the other Elector Counts not to decreasing the Empire’s funding of the defense of the “Eastern Marches”, which Ostermark oversees (among other things). His petition denied, he later encountered a man he knew as a formidable spymaster, who encouraged Ostermark to see for himself where the Empire’s funds were being spent, in lieu of supporting the army of the Eastern Marches. The spymaster, of course, is none other than the Lanky Man, a.k.a. “Frederick.”

So, by good fortune (hardly…by the scheming of the Lanky Man), Ostermark’s entourage encountered Burkholt and his servants just outside Nuln. Burkholt has been relieved of his position in Nuln and recalled to Altdorff. Somewhat insubordinately, Burkholt has decided to follow the Lanky Man and Ostermark for a while after he was told that he would find Archibald where they were going.

So…there was a wonderful scene with Choppy and the other characters (all except Archibald), eating bacon with the foot soldiers by the camp fire, and the Lanky Man in his finery, including silver utensils, joining them to check-in with Dellin. Choppy still bears his grudge against the Lanky Man for being played.

While that transpires, Archibald has a private audience with Burkholt in his pavilion. Archibald is formally ordained as a priest in the Order of the Travelling Flame Wot Doth Illuminate Shadows Made and Secrets Kept. He is given his papers of ordination in a fine-but-durable scroll tube. He is also presented with a tarnished rod that is a holy implement given to members of this “highly selective” order. Burkholt informs Archibald of his suspicions of wide-spread and growing corruption in Nuln and elsewhere in the Empire. Archibald is tasked with the covert assignment of getting to the bottom of the corruption in Nuln, and bringing the searing flame of justice to those that serve the Ruinous Powers. Burkholt must return to Altdorff, as he is already overdue, and with the recent suspicious death of the High Inquisitor Skaarsgard of Nuln, Archibald is warned that even high ranking members of the Church are not safe. One last piece of advice is that there is a Captain of the City Guard, named Tiller, that seems trust worthy and of high integrity.

The characters work out with the Lanky Man that they will show Ostermark evidence of the Vivisectionist’s evil (from the previous day’s battle), and after that, they will join forces to storm Toltevsky’s lair and eradicate him and his vile minions. Ostermark’s men will ride without banner or other heraldric devices to maintain deniability that they were involved in the attack (for obvious political reasons.) The Lanky Man takes Lady’s Man from Dellin and indicates that Handsome may find Dellin in the future. For now, the Lanky Man has other serious issues to attend to, and takes his leave of the party.

In other conversations, the characters learn of the deadly capabilities and personality of Murdoch Einhorn, who is a master duelist and now the head of the Empire’s covert operations (having deposed “Frederick”).

In a brief audience with Ostermark, the plans are solidified. Ostermark’s men will clear the path so that the experienced “monster hunters” (e.g. the Player Characters) can get to Toltevsky in his lair. They march on the Vivisectionist’s abode in the bluffs, and they find a small army of Chaos Knights waiting for them. Ostermark’s men, especially the heavy horse, manage to open the hole in the ranks of the Chaos Knights, and the characters, assisted by two of Ostermark’s men (“Rich” and “Torvalds”), shoot through up the path that winds its way from the battlefield, up the side of the rugged bluffs, towards the entrance they seek.

The path is not without its defenders. The group is set upon by the rear-guard consisting of three black knights. These knights fight the party to a stand-still, while yet another threat charges down the path…it is the “Slaned” version of Owen, Helga Whoopknacker’s adopted son…all 7’2" of him turned into a raving mad death machine. Rufus, in an exceptional demonstration of bravery, charges “Dark Owen”, and manages to fell him with a sleep spell. Other party members take several shots to kill him before he awakens. Meanwhile, the other Chaos knights get the better of Dellin and Choppy — Choppy is impaled on a giant halberd and flung across the ground. (A fate point is spent so that Choppy can rejoin the fray…not dead yet!) A few seconds later, a bleeding giant wolf-creature (Spike), charges up the path with the severed arm of a Chaos knight in his giant maw. He charges into two of the Chaos Knights, allowing the characters the ability to charge up the remaining path past the rear guard.

Thus ended Part II of the Chapter 2 Conclusion Event. We ran out of time to get any further, so I guess that puts us at sort of a cliffhanger.

What happened in the battle below between Ostermark’s forces and the Chaos Knights? Will Spike be able to single-handedly hold off the remaining rear guard while the PC’s enter Toltevsky’s fort? What other surprises lie inside? With the death of the Troll-golem (Part I) and Dark Owen (Part II), what more could possibly remain?? We shall see..

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Chapter2:ConclusionPart1
The Puppet Show and a Strange Arrow

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Cast, Part I: Dellin, Ranthin, Archibald, Rufus, and Choppy (special guest star)
Cast, Part II: Dellin, Ranthin, Archibald, Rufus, Choppy, and Bronan
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Part I: Characters meetup with Mix Riggins. They are delighted to be reunited with Choppy, who as a part of his literacy and monster-lore training was sent by Riggins to study occult texts in a special section of one of the university libraries in Aldorff. After several months of pain-staking research and scribing, Choppy has returned with the requested information. The topic: “Slaning” (pronounced SLANE-ING…long A). Slaning is the process by which certain evil wizards of ancient times repressed the personalities of their victims and implanted them with a minor demonic entity to control their actions. Choppy wasn’t able to understand much of what he scribed (being only newly literate and dealing with complex material in archaic languages, etc.), and Mix Riggins claims he’ll need time to study the material with the hope of finding a weakness to be exploited.

That evening, they are plagued with troubling dreams of a creepy puppet (marionette) show. The puppet master has 8 fingers on each hand, and is pulling the strings of heroes and villains alike. The audience consists of pigs, goats, and donkeys, stuffing their mouths with food and braying loudly every time a villain or hero dies some gruesome death (even though they are puppets on stage, they look like real people and so the deaths are particularly gory). On the sidelines is a fat merchant making stacks of coins selling food to the audience and admission fees to the show. Each character has the same core dream, but with a different ending. [Author’s note, we rolled the endings, and I’ve lost the paper that told me who saw what combination…alas! Does anyone remember? At least what your character saw??]

Mix foresees potential disaster in the near future and presents to Ranthin a magic arrow, encased in a special box lined in felt. The arrow has intricate scroll work, which captures the eye and risks putting the observer into a trance. Ranthin fell into a trance while investigating the arrow and briefly saw the life force emanating from everyone around him. Mix cautions that using the arrow will have a serious cost, but he’s not sure what…

The next morning the party is attacked by three of the Vivisectionist’s creations. One is a monstrously large patched-together version of a greater mountain Troll, complete with iron armored tusks. The beast stands nearly 15’ tall and wields a double-bladed axe of enormous proportions. “Herding” the troll-golem are two knights that look similar to the previously encountered black knights, except that they wear blood-stained yet otherwise normal colored armor (steel) and they move exceptionally fast. Mix Riggins and Choppy take the first two blows of the troll, but skillful shield blocks prevent any damage. Rufus had previously climbed a tree as a lookout and decides to stay up there. Ranthin tries to shoot his arrow at the troll, but gets bewitched by the arrow’s magic. Archibald runs in abject terror. Dellin uses a rope trick to slow down one of the chaos knights. Choppy rallies Ranthin out of his trance, and Ranthin lets fly with the arrow, using the witch-sight of the arrow’s magic to target the “heart strings” of the monster.

The arrow burrows deep into the troll’s heart, a magical “arc” momentarily lights the Aethyr (which only Rufus can see), connecting the arrow in the troll’s heart to Ranthin. The troll collapses, instantly killed, but alas, Ranthin also falls, a victim of the arrow’s “backlash.” The arrow embedded in the Troll’s corpse is charred but unbroken. With the troll down, the party with the formidable help of Mix Riggens take on the two Chaos Knights. Dellin works wonders with bolas, nets, and what-have-you to greatly inhibit the foes. Rufus casts drop repeatedly to prevent the Knights from having effective attacks with their weapons, and eventually they even drop their gauntlets, opening up a weak point. Ranthin, apparently only “dazed” by the magic’s violent aftershock (he used a fate point), rejoins the battle. The Chaos Knights are defeated. Mix and a few others were wounded, but are healed with Archibald’s skills and Dellin’s poultices. The charred arrow is returned to the felt-lined box, and temporarily given to Rufus to study…he believes at some point he may be able to “fix” the arrow so that it may be used again. Of course, the corpses are all burned to prevent any troublesome regeneration.

Thus Ended Part I of the Chapter 2 Conclusion.

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Chapter2:Session7
Prison Break

Cast: Cedric, Izzy, Ranthin, Mako (Nathan’s new Hedge Wizard), Konrad

While Archibald and a few others venture to Altdorf to recruit Lord Bismark, Dellin spends time with Mix Riggins training on “Monster Hunting” skills. Ranthin, Konrad, and Cedric go to find Izzy, who split from the party after leaving Beaufort Pass. (Side Note: Izzy wasn’t involved in the combat against Grimm’s Reapers because he was unexpectedly knocked out by a falling tree and only revived afterward.)

Mako (new character), did a job for Grolst Van Eyke about a half year ago. After doing the job, he was being tracked down by the inquisition as a potential witch. GVE arranged to get Mako smuggled out of Nuln and sent to a safe house. More recently, Mako was contacted by one of GVE’s loyal men. Mako was asked to find Markus in Nuln and give him a missive that offers him 250 guilders if Markus can find a way to get GVE out of the RuchenBrecher Mining Camp. Mako found Markus and Ghoma, who are currently up to their ears trying to stay one step ahead of Strussel. Markus suggested Mako find one of the other crew members and give them the offer instead. Markus has Ghoma write a post script to the missive.

Which brings us to the start of this adventure. Mako has found Izzy at a road side Inn, safely beyond the outskirts of Nuln. Mako delivers the message, but Izzy can’t read it. Cedric, Konrad, and Ranthin arrive some time later. Mako is still around, having nothing better to do. Konrad, being the only literate among them, reads the missive. Markus’ post script encourages the characters to free GVE if they can because he might be able to help undermine Strussel’s control over the lower quarter of Nuln (and thus make life much easier for everyone). Izzy is especially on board, as he has a vendetta against the supervisor of the guards — a sadistic brute named Hinks.

So the characters decide to do it, and they include Mako in the job. They reconnoiter the prison/mining camp, and Cedric does a good job of being sneaky. They cook up a plan to rescue GVE over the Hexenaucht (witching night) holiday, which marks the coming of the new year. Mako uses his apothecary skills to prepare some Bugmann’s XXXX Ale. They procure several large barrels of beer as well. Mako and Ranthin play the role of delivering Beer and Ale to the guards at the prison camp in celebration of the holiday, and as a gift from Councilman Strussel.

Cedric, Konrad, and Izzy hire a sign maker to paint Strussel’s colors and insignia (scales and coins) on some of their equipment. Konrad writes an official looking note that is an order from Strussel to transfer GVE out of the mines and back to Nuln for special questioning. Cedric has the note embossed with Strussel’s sigil. They also procure a cart to use as the prisoner transport wagon.

The plan couldn’t have worked more perfectly. Mako and Ranthin show up on the eve of Hexenaucht. They charm the guards, who partake in the brew. The wagon with the barrels of beer is brought into the camp and the barrels are rolled out and distributed for easy access by all guards. Mako gives the small “reserve” cask of Bugmann’s to Supervisor Hinks. They are invited into the guard house for food and drink. Hinks drinks two pints of Bugmanns and passes out (for 15 hours!). The remaining pint is drank by Hink’s right hand man, who gets to feeling “unusual.” A number of the other guards over-indulge as well, but not all of course.

When Cedric shows up several hours later, he’s met by a completely toasted and somewhat belligerent drunk at the front gate. Eventually the supervisor is called to look at the orders that Cedric is presenting. Being indisposed, the “acting supervisor” (still feeling a bit unusual…) comes to the gate and accepts Cedric orders as true. Cedric and company are ushered into the camp. A couple guards are dispatched to retrieve GVE. Meanwhile, Izzy chats up a guard and moves into a position where he can whisper to Mako that he’ll get extra gold if he can do something nasty to Hinks.

GVE is brought to the prison cart in bad shape. He is obviously starved, being skin and bones. His right hand has been cut off, and is now an infected stump. His right eye has been destroyed with a branding iron. He is feverish, and all but unconscious on his feet. Cedric loads him on the cart, where manacles have been prepared to lock in the prisoner. Cedric, Izzy, and Konrad leave without any confrontation, taking GVE right out the front gates! When out of sight, Cedric administers a healing poultice (previously given to him by Dellin) to try to stabilize their dying prisoner.

Mako and Ranthin spend the night in the guard house. In the morning, after a changing of the guards, they have a few minutes alone with the unconscious Hinks. They shove him into an empty barrel, and roll it out to the cart. The guards see this and come to the rescue! Do they need any help loading the cart? Why sure…and the guards go and retrieve the other barrels and kegs while Mako and Ranthin struggle to get the barrel concealing Hinks up into the cart. The rest of the barrels are piled on, lashed down, and the characters leave the camp with smiling and waving guards.

The two groups meet up at a safe distance. Izzy is given his present from Mako — Hinks in a barrel! While Izzy figures out what to do with Hinks, the rest take GVE to the safehouse. They administer a healing draught to GVE after he revives from the slumber caused by the poultice. He is still in pain, but no longer at death’s door. They deliver him successfully, and are rewarded.

GVE is impressed with the operation and takes special note of Cedric as a promising new addition to the new structure he’s putting together. GVE tells the characters that Strussel was skimming 10% of the silver ore from the mine, and is most likely running a counterfeit operation, minting his own shillings. GVE had his eye put out for paying too close attention to the numbers (noticing the skimming) while at the prison camp. GVE says that if the characters can catch Strussel men red-handed with their counterfeit minting operation, that would put an end to Strussel.

So ended the session. Cedric will stay with GVE for a while to learn a few tricks. (Eric will not be playing until the summer.) Konrad will stay as well to provide protection (Scott also will not make the Chapter 2 conclusion). Izzy and Ranthin return to the rendezvous point with Mako, who has proven his worth in a tight spot.
===
Characters earn 200 xp, which includes a bonus for pulling off the plan with such aplomb. Each character also earns 50 gold as reward payment from GVE.

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Chapter2:Session5and6
Grimm Tidings

Chapter 2, Sessions 5&6
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NOTE: Session 5 was interrupted about 3 hours in. We basically suspended game play and picked it back up in Session 6. There was also a significant break between these two sessions due to issues beyond the scope of the game. (i.e. real life.)

Any characters present for Session 5, but not 6 (Izzy? I think) gets 50 xps. Characters only present for Session 6 get 200 xps, as the combat and story events in Session 6 were big. Characters present for both 5 and 6 get a total of 250 xps, as you might expect.
===
Characters have taken Guy Margeaux prisoner and are escorting him back to Nuln. A new raven from the Lanky Man arrives. His name is Lady’s Man, and he has red tips on his wings, which he likes to show off with a little dance. Lady’s Man brings a message of warning to Dellin.

Characters encounter a man named Murdoch Einhorn before they leave the Empire’s side of the Beaufort Pass. Einhorn obviously has money, as his dress and diction indicate an upper class lifestyle. He claims to work for the Empire and typically habituates in the Imperial Court at Altdorf. He tracked the characters down because they have been working for the Lanky Man meddling in affairs of the state. He informs the characters that the Lanky Man is no longer working in the best interests of the Empire, and should the characters not desist their association with him, things will be bad. Otherwise, the Empire is grateful for their service in ridding the land of Jonas Whitespore and the cultists at the Blackwoods Garrison. In payment, Einhorn shares some dire news with the party. Inquisitor Skaarsgard of Nuln was apparently assassinated, having been found floating in the canal. Lord Bismark was recalled abruptly to Altdorf, and Baron Strussel has continued to gain political and economic strength in Nuln. A bounty has been posted for most of the characters and returning to Nuln would be seriously dangerous.

Einhorn leaves after some banter/discussion, says he was returning to the Grey Mountain Garrison and then onwards to Altdorf. Less than an hour after Einhorn trots away on his horse, the characters hear the thunderous sounds of heavy horses galloping in their direction. Augustus Grimm, and Grimm’s Reapers, have found them! Given some warning by Bronan who had followed Einhorn down the trail a few miles, the characters had time to string a rope across the path as a trap. Because it is now night time, the hopes are that the rope won’t be seen and it will take down some riders.
(End of Session 5)

Meanwhile, Cedric and Konrad (remember them?) have heard the word in Nuln that their friends are in danger. They learn from people who know people that Dellin and Archibald went across the Beaufort pass on some mission to Bretonnia and are expected back soon. Cedric and Konrad take their horses and ride hard to the pass, knowing they must warn their friends that Augustus Grimm is on their trail. They arrive just behind Grimm’s company and are able to join the fight from the rear.

The rope trick works (when does it not?), and two of the riders are felled, taking serious damage. Augustus Grimm, Lieutenant Bronn, and the rest of the riders press the party. They are exceptional warriors and use their mounted position to great advantage against the characters. Augustus Grimm is truly an awe-inspiring combatant…even Bismark might have trouble handling him one-on-one.

Things look Grimm indeed. Konrad takes multiple serious wounds protecting Cedric from Grimm and is nearly killed. Rufus uses magic to put Lt. Bronn to sleep, but takes a sword through the gut from a rider trying to protect his boss. The other characters are pushed around, but Dellin with help from Archibald does manage to cut down one rider.

Morale turns when a group of the walking dead charge from the trees into the road side and swarm one of the riders, rending him into pieces. Rufus cuts down the unconscious Lt. Bronn with Bronn’s own sword after a couple hacks. Grimm sounds the retreat, surprised by the apparent ambush and perhaps demoralized by the loss of his trusted second-hand man. Rufus makes a point to send a challenge Grimm’s way by waving Bronn’s bloody sword and pointing at Grimm. “Duly noted, you piece of rabble. I’ll have your head on a pike soon enough,” is what Grimm thinks as he gallops away.

Guy Margeaux, of course, was able to summon the undead with his novice necromantic abilities, just in time to turn the tide of battle. Archibald decides that he owes Margeaux and lets him go. Margeaux pens the missive that Archibald needs to complete his quest. Bronan decides that associating with this group is simply too dangerous, and decides to travel with Margeaux to Brettonia [Exit Stage Right for Bronan, for now.]

After regrouping (and with some healing work by Archibald and Dellin), the characters press on. They exit the pass and travel through the wilderness to the foothills where Mix Riggins tends to habituate. After a few days of camping, Mix finds them and a happy reunion ensues. Information is exchanged, secrets revealed (what secrets you ask? well you should have been there…you can ask one of the characters that was…), and a plan hatched to go after the Vivisectionist. A suggestion was made to try to find and recruit Lord Bismark and his company for help.

One final note, there was evidence to believe that Owen, the dim witted man-mountain, has been taken to Toltevsky for “processing.” They should expect one seriously bad-ass Black Knight, if that is indeed the case…

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Chapter2:Session4
What Havoc The Grey Mountain Company?

Cast: Bronan, Dellin, Izzy, Archibald, and Ranthin
NPCs: Guy Margeaux (new), and Bill, Bronan’s Mule. Also, Handsome the Crow, of course!

With the Ogre dead, Archibald decides he wants the head to prove the existence of Ogres. Dellin wants some of the caustic blood, and Bronan wants one of the tusks. They all manage to get what they want and then (later) burn the rest of the corpse.

They explored the ruined fort, heading for the Chapel to find any signs of Guy Margeaux and/or the missive that Archibald was charged with returning to Father Burkholt of the 3rd most impressive temple in Nuln. Bronan and Izzy loot soldiers for weapons and armor, they find the blacksmith’s shop and some cool metal tongs, which Izzy takes a fancy to. They also bring the horses and mules into the remains of the stables across the square from the chapel. Handsome is placed in his cage within pecking distance of a corpse, because he’s hungry. Also, Archibald sends one of the messenger pigeons with a short report back to the temple at Nuln.

Ranthin notices that the small graveyard next to the chapel has dug up plots by some head stones. Archibald notices that there was some sort of last ditch defense in front of the chapel, with almost a dozen corpses littering the stairs and entry areas. A few are Imperial soldiers of the Grey Mountain Company. But a disturbing number, around six or seven, appear to be Brettonian Soldiers that have been dead for quite a bit longer than a few days.

The group investigates the ruined chapel, noting the alter has been desecrated with human feces and blood painted in obscene pictures. They investigate the Chaplain’s offices and find two torn pages with cryptic writing on them, written in an archaic dialect of the classical language. Archibald identifies them as being heretical and also notices a few drops of blood on them. He stashes them carefully in his tunic. Then the crew notices a secret door behind a book case, a half-door that opens into a ladder well going down some 30 feet.

The characters, after making some preparations, go down the ladder. Bronan returned to the horses briefly to get some rope and other things. Handsome squaks something about " ’ware the walking dead", “nightfall approaches”, and then “beetle! Hungry!” This is a bit disturbing to Bronan, and he releases Handsome from his cage, and the crow flies away.

Back in the tunnel beneath the chapel…There’s a short hallway with a reinforced door. Izzy chops down the door and kicks it open. Archibald behind him, and Dellin bringing up the rear. Izzy is faced with a half-dozen angry, well-armed, and apparently already-dead Brettonian soldiers. Izzy steels his courage and charges in to the attack. Archibald gets a look at the rotting horrors and makes a run for it, back up the ladder to safety. The walking dead briefly surround Izzy, but with a fancy footwork maneuver, he manages to break free and makes a controlled retreat back up the ladder. Three of the dead soldiers follow, but are mowed down by Ranthin’s deadly arrows and Dellin’s sharp-shooting crossbow. Archibald, having recovered his composure, dumps lantern oil down the hole and burns the dead soldiers. Although they were incapacitated from the ranged weapons, they were nonetheless still wriggling around. The fire burns especially quickly and Archibald has a vision of luminous radiance empowering him to walk bravely in the “Order of the traveling flame wot doth illuminate shadows made and secrets kept!”

After the fire burns out, the crew heads back down and back into the room beyond the now ruined doorway. The rest of the walking dead are waiting, and a melee ensues. A figure in religious vestments stands behind the dead soldiers and mutters unholy incantations. Dellin is struck with violent illness, dry heaving and unable to fight. Izzy, Archibald, and Bronan are more than up for the task, however, and Ranthin uses his extreme skills to make crazy shots into the melee. The dead are once again dispatched, but the unholy priest has fled up another ladder well on the other side of the room. Bronan follows, chopping through another short doorway and pushing aside some shelving blocking the doorway. The party emerges from this ladder well into another ruined building in the fort, and quickly rush outside to the square. The priest is galloping away on one of their mounts!

Ranthin takes a shot and scores a critical hit on the fleeing priest’s head. With uncanny skill, and perhaps a bit of overdue luck, Ranthin’s arrow manages to turn sideways at the last minute, smacking into the priests temple and knocking him from the horse without killing him. (Seriously…no DM intervention there…it’s what came up on the critical hit +4 to the head chart that Ranthin rolled…stunned for d10 rounds…)

Bronan has long since realized that the unholy priest is none other than Guy Margeaux. Archibald’s zealotry blinds him to that fact, but he is stopped from executing the man by Bronan and the others, and the situation is made clear. Dellin goes to retrieve the horses, notices that the second pigeon cage is empty. He is also more than a bit put out by the fact that Handsome was set loose by Bronan.

The priest is manacled and tied up to a pack horse. The twice-dead soldiers in front of the chapel are burned. The characters leave the fort before sun down and head back up the trail to their original camp a mile or two away. Handsome is awaiting them there, eating a beetle it found under a stone. Guy Margeaux is questioned. The story is pieced together as follows:

The Grey Mountain Company, lead by the Black Knights, attacked the fort without provocation. The battle raged for a day or so, and when it was obvious they’d be overrun, Guy Margeaux took desperate action. He claims to be a good man and a servant of the light, yet he invoked necromantic spells to raise dead soldiers from the graveyard to protect the chapel, himself, and some important secret that he’d not reveal. He claims his actions were to protect the order of civilization, and is shocked at the treachery of the Empire, that they’d provoke a war with Brettonia by this attack, and so obviously cavort with the “Ruinous Powers.” He is also shocked and revolted at the atrocities committed by the Black Knights during the battle. He’s been hiding in the secret storage room below the chapel, and would have left sooner, but an Ogre arrived and there were no horses remaining to allow him to flee effectively.

Dellin uses the secret phrase and gives Handsome a message for the Lanky Man. Handsome flies away.

Thus ends the fourth session of Chapter 2. Characters each gain 150 xp. No direct monetary rewards, but the loot recovered from the battle will probably bring gold on the under-markets of Nuln.

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