Jurgen rushes out to track Lupos, one pair of the Ar-Ulric’s wolves. Spotting a set of muddy tracks out in the courtyard, he follows it, hoping it might be Lupos.
His pace quickens as he spots senior priests heading into the main temple as the bells toll. He could perhaps try and warn them, but would they believe him? With little time remaining, he puts his faith in the tracks and finds it leads to The Winter Gardens.
The Winter Gardens are an important landmark within the confines of the Temple property. It is considered a holy place of respite and contemplation for the Ar-Ulric; only he may enter them, and anyone else dare not too unless invited by the Ar-Ulric. It is said that the gardens are always blanketed in snow, throughout the seasons; this is very much true, and Jurgen can feel the chill as he enters the gardens, following the tracks.
And there she is…
At the foot of a fountain that sits in the middle of the gardens, upon which a bronze statue of Ulric stands guard, is Lupos. She is resting, at ease and in comfort. Jurgen approaches cautiously; she raises her head, attentively watching him. Now sitting up, her ears on end, she stares at him as he kneels in front of her, bowing out of respect.
Jurgen has something in his hand… a piece of parchment, and scribbled on it is a message meant for the Ar-Ulric. He hopes it will be enough…
“Lupos, I need your help. Your master is in danger, and I need you to go to him. I need you to bring this to him.”
Lupos leans forward, and Jurgen braces himself… she licks him quickly on the upper lip of his mouth. Jurgen relaxes… he places the parchment around her neck, which is supported by a thin piece of string.
Then, without warning, she bares her teeth…
“A wolf has good instincts… It knows who its enemies are.”
Jurgen stands up and turns around to see Wolf Lord Brunner, but he is not alone.
Standing loyally by his side, is the largest wolf he has ever seen, bigger than Lupos. And he knows this wolf. Fang. Brother to Lupos. Fang bares his teeth and snarls in response to Lupos; the two siblings appear to have no love for one another. Strange indeed, perhaps there is more to these siblings than meets the eye…
Jurgen walks off to the side away from the path and onto the snow. Brunner does the same. Jurgen begins removing pieces of his clothing as does Brunner.
Despite Brunner’s age, his physicality is imposing. Jurgen would perhaps have the advantage, yet he remains seriously injured from the fight that took place in the alley earlier with Nickel Kess. His chances are not good.
Brunner takes a side glance at Lupos and Fang as they jump at one another, as teeth and claw clash.
“They know who their enemy are. They know who not to trust. What of your instincts Pup, what do they tell you? Do you know who your enemy is?”
“Your my enemy,” Jurgen replies.
“I’m not your enemy. The ones who support the Ar-Ulric and seek peace with the Sigmarites are the enemy. They are our foes. We have lost our way, and I intend to set us on the right path.
“I’ll give you one last chance pup. I saw strength in you, I saw a true Ulrican. You do have what it takes to become a white wolf. I lectured you, i scolded you for your efforts in seeking out the Purple Hand. I was simply trying to keep you alive, so that you may stand with me as I rebuild the cult.
“Jurgen, I know who the purple hand are. I know who its leader is. After we are done here, we will rebuild on the ashes of our fallen brethen so that our order may survive and go strong. Before we do that though, we will root the hand out and destroy them. They are but a means to an end, and they will have fulfilled their purpose. I want you by my side while we hunt them. We will march into the Goddess and clean it, and we will march into the Palace and rid ourselves of the corrupting influence of this cult.”
Jurgen drops his quarter staff and removes the rest of his clothing, baring himself fully to nature. His intentions are clear.
Brunner scoffs, “Then your a narrow minded fool. I misjudged you, but here now, I shall give you the death that you deserve. We will do this the old way. Claw and teeth. The wolf way.”
Brunner charges at Jurgen, bare chested as they wrestle. Baring his teeth, Brunner tries to go for Jurgens neck, but Jurgen flinches back and uses the moment to trip Brunner up. Brunner gets him in a headlock though and brings Jurgen down on top of him. Jurgen sits on top, mounted in dominance as he puts a knee to Brunner’s face. Brunner struggles to hit back as Jurgen pounds into him. Brunner gains the advantage when he uses his weight and strength to shift over, and now gains dominance.
Wasting no time, he starts slamming Jurgens head against the snow and leans in to bite the bridge of his nose off, spitting it back at Jurgen as he does. Dazed and winded, Jurgen is picked up forcefully against his will as he’s pushed against a nearby rock. But Jurgen resists as best as he can, frustrating Brunner.
Brunner knees him in the ribs and pushes him towards a nearby birdbath. Grabbing his head, he forces Jurgen’s face into the bath. Jurgen struggles, unable to breath, unable to find his balance, he desperately tries to struggle free and uses his legs to try and trip up Brunner. But Brunner’s strength proves too much, and Jurgen is unable to free himself.
Bubbles start to form on the surface of the bath; the birdies are staying well clear of this one… Brunner continues to hold Jurgens head, then… Jurgen stops struggling. His movements cease. Brunner lets go.
Jurgen’s body flops to the ground. The initiate pup is no more.
The struggle between Lupos and Fang is unseen, the victor unknown…
Outside Middenheim, the rest of the party are facing a desperate fight of survival. Cut-off, alone, surrounded by cultists and something ‘unnatural’ coming for them, they find themselves down in the cellar of the old abandoned farmhouse. Its partially flooded, water seeping through some rocks in a nearby wall. Gado places two torches and a plank into the handle of the trapdoor with the hopes of reinforcing it, and stays there bracing with his shield, while the others try to find another way out.
They do find a gap in a wall where the water is seeping through. Michel starts shifting some rocks and the party find a tunnel entrance. Then suddenly something crashes against the door. Gado can hear some strange noises coming from the other side. He joins the party in the tunnel as the trapdoor leading into the cellar continues to receive a beating.
They rush down the tunnel and find a well that’s had the side of its bottom wall caved in, and seems to be the source of the water. Yet Gerhard notes that this is not the same well that is outside that was bricked as that was east of the farmhouse, this one appears to be north slightly.
Then they hear the door leading into the cellar smash open. Something steps through…
Ser Gado, wasting no time, spots some wood beams supporting the tunnel entrance protruding from the side of the dirt wall. With his sword, he starts trying to cut through them. One wood beam smashes, but the tunnel’s integrity holds. He backs up and tries again with another. As he cuts away at it, something from the entrance of the tunnel steps into view. Its hideous form and twisted shape is unclear to Ser Gado, as he can only make out its darkened shape, but it looks like some hideous bird-creature.
The party previously heard tales of a ‘bird-woman’ that haunts the northern realm of Middenland, could this be her?…
It casts a spell, but as it does, the support structure collapses and the tunnel comes crashing down. Gado immediately backs up. The party look for another way to proceed, and spot a junction. One way leads to a dead end, the remains of a skeleton sits at the bottom. The other way however continues onwards, and the party proceed with haste.
The bird-woman is forced to retreat back outside, her entrance cut-off.
The party stumble onwards, and find themselves facing a strange sight…
Gado recognizes the structure that he spies in front of him; it is the same mark that he saw upon his sister, and the same mark that Erika saw upon the family of her murdered guild colleague, Riddik.
Yet he and the party also recognize the faces that sit in the chairs in front of them. Sitting in chairs placed on the top-ends of the three middle fingers, are three men, chained down.
Knight Eternal, Siegfried, Luigi Pavarotti and the Norscan, Hanz.
They appear to be strapped to the chair by chains, but no ordinary chains. The party rush forward to see that these chains are actually of flesh and blood. They appear to be ‘alive’ in a sense, and have strapped all three men down on the chairs firmly. More alarming is the fact that all three appear to be oozing out blood, which works its way down the three fingers and into a gem, which sits at the center of an eye; almost like a pupil.
Gado enlists the help of Michel to cut away at the fleshy chains, as they do, the three men appear to waken from their somewhat daze state, weakened and in pain. Gado starts with Hanz, hoping to get the big brute out first to assist. With some effort, he cuts away at the fleshy chains, but the chains do not give up without a fight; they regenerate very fast, and attempt to reaffirm their grip on Hanz, but Hanz uses what strength he has to pull away before they can reattach themselves to him.
Him and Gado then try to get Siegfried out, but that’s more of a struggle, and only with Hanz helping is Gado able to free Siegfried. Luigi Pavarotti appears worse for wear as Sibillia tries to comfort him. He looks to be in a sorry state.
Gado cuts away at the chains but they reform now quicker, and start to smother Luigi, choking him and smothering him as they refuse to let him go. Gado hacks away at the chains, as does Hanz, using Michels sword, as they have none of their weapons or armor on them.
With each swipe from the swords upon the flesh chains, the gem in the middle of the eye pulsates in rhythm… Whatever purpose it has, it can’t be good, the party figure. Finally they free Luigi, and the chains release their grip.
Gerhard is at the front near the entrance to this chamber, watching into the tunnel… Then he spots it. A creature from his darkest nightmares. A hideous twisted form of woman and bird makes its way down the well structure they had passed. But it is not alone, a pack of Daemons follow it…
There is four of the horrors, and two-by-two they take the front as their master waits behind.
Gerhard is a gibbering mess, and Michel pulls the fear-struck accountant back towards the party. The party are now cut-off, unable to find a way out except the way they came in, which is blocked by nightmares.
Helnacht, initiate of Sigmar, Ser Gado Knight Errant of Bretonnia and Hanz, all line up towards the entrance, side-by-side as they prepare to defend their position. Michel stays back, loading his crossbow and readying it. Siegfried, Knight Errant, is helpless, struck with fear. Sibillia hands him her quarterstaff in the hopes he’ll make good use of it, but he remains frozen with fear at what he sees.
The bird-woman taunts the three approaching warriors, and chucks a head at them. It rolls in front of them. Ser Gado is horrified to see that the head is none other than Ser Godfrey de Montfort! The Bretonnian Knight he had met when he first arrived at Middenheim. His anger grows inside him.
Hanz charges first, screaming in a battle frenzy as he swings Michel’s sword at the nearest horror. It ducks, weaves and taunts him, only to get a smack of blade in the side of its face. Helnacht charges next, “For Sigmar!” as he rushes in with his hammer.
Ser Gado shouts, “For the Lady! For Glory!” As he rushes in.
Three against four, yet the party are using the narrow passage way to avoid being flanked, giving them a tactical advantage.
The bird-woman prepares to cast some spells as her ‘pets’ claw and bite their way through. (GM Note: Bird-woman is played by Darren during all of this, as it is his former character, ie… Liliana.)
Yet the bird-woman opts to using some of her more powerful spells, and ultimately is unable to cast them. However her minions appear to quite effective. Hanz’s left leg is seriously injured as a horror bites and chews into it. Helnacht strikes out at a horror and smashes it into oblivion. Siegfried has joined the fray, finding his courage, but his aim is not true. He misses wildly (crit fail) and hits Gado on the back, wounding him severely. He apologizes profusely as he tries to lend aid.
3 horrors remain, the other horror that Helnacht dispatched divides into two blue horrors! There is just no end of them!
Michel lets loose with his crossbow towards the bird-woman, narrowly hitting her. Her spells failing her, she opts to flee back outside with the aid of her disk. The party hope that’s the last they’ll see of her.
Gerhard meanwhile, finding his courage, decides to investigate the pulsating gem. He goes to try and remove it from its socket, but his hands suddenly find themselves glued to it. A dark vision creeps across his mind, a dark abyss is all that he sees; writhing tentacles and strange forms twist in the shadows. His mind is rattled. Yet he sees something else beyond the veil of darkness; a man… a familiar face. He appears to be focusing on some kind of object, a crystal perhaps or some artifact? The face of the man gets into focus. Gerhard knows that face…
– Karl Wasmeier
He appears to be concentrating, possibly using magic of some kind. But he looks up and straight into the eyes of Gerhard, as if he can see him. Suddenly Gerhard goes flying against a wall away from the gem.
The gem stops pulsating, and the blood that was oozing down the fingers ceases.
During all of this, Sibillia had been comforting Pavarotti. But her concern grew greatly when she spied strange blisters forming underneath his chin and around his neck. The man pleaded with her to go, and all hope for him was lost. Sibillia suspected he was right, and that she could not allow him to continue like this. Knowing there was nothing she could do for him, she aided his passage by giving him a painless death.
The fight at the front is not going well… Hanz has dealt a killing blow to another horror, but this time it doesn’t divide. Instead, it explodes violently as a cloud of pink mist forms over the party. Gado is able to resist as is Helnacht but Hanz is not. Mutation! (I roll on a table of mutations for Tzeentch).
Hanz starts to transform right in front of everyone; hairs grow on his arms and back, his nose and jaw begin to take shape as a snout and a long jaw-line protrude out. His legs snap back, his knees crack as his legs turn and twist. His joint bones snap out of place and become something else entirely. The party look on horror at what has happened; Hanz has mutated into a were-bear!
In a frenzy he attacks Helnacht; Helnacht is dealt a mortal wound and is forced to roll out of the way in retreat. Ser Gado cries out for Hanz to find his resolve and stay true. Gerhard runs up, bravely finding his courage as he takes his dagger and strikes the bear. The horrors see this as an opportunity and are not taking chances with the bear, they pounce on Hanz, scratching and eating away at his face. The bear, already wounded from before, falls as the horrors pounce on it. Hanz is no more. Ser Gado, despite never getting on or liking the Norscan, mourns his passing as he strikes out at the horrors.
One is dispatched, yet it divides into another pair of blue horrors. Thankfully the blue horrors are much weaker, but still a threat.
Meanwhile up above… Liliana the Bird-woman of Marienburg has not retreated… she has been busy preparing another spell, and has now successfully cast it. Another pack of Daemons, this time three of them. She commands the horrors to jump down the well to assist their kin.
Something though gives her cause for concern; looking out across the field, she can see torches, lots of them, being carried by mounted riders. They are coming and they’ll be here shortly.
Then a voice calls out from below, suddenly grabbing her attention.
She looks down. Somewhere inside her, she recognizes that voice.
– Ernst Steurmann
Ernst shoots out a bolt towards her, upon which a net is attached. It strikes, hitting her fiercely, but the net has little effect. Fearing that her existence may be put at risk and seeing the riders that were approaching, she flees to the north, leaving her minions to clean up after her.
Down below, the party have dispatched the remaining horrors, with the exception of the new batch that is dropping down. Sibillia heals Gado as quickly as they can, but there is no rest for the wicked…
Once again they must defend their position, but now its looking grim. Helnacht cannot fight, his wounds too severe. Hanz is dead, and only Ser Gado, Siegfried with his stick, and Michel remain that could potentially put up a fight.
O… And there is no forgetting Gerhard Kramer, fierce accountant extraordinaire…
and a gibbering mess.