When we last left the part, they were in a dire situation.
Blocked from escaping, they had the unbearable task of facing more daemons that wanted to tear their flesh apart. Pink Horrors, summoned by the Bird-Woman of Marienburg, had descended down the well and attacked the party. Only Ser Gado, Michel and Siegfried represented any form of resistance against the three horrors, while Gerhard and Sibillia would be defenseless against these monstrosities.
As they jumped down, they had caught Gerhard by surprise, who was nearer to the well than anyone else. Frozen with fear, they pounced on him, all three of the Horrors.
Gerhard did not stand a chance and was sent crashing to the floor in pain as the Horrors ravaged him.
Ser Gado bravely stepped in at this point, charging as he invoked the blessing of his lady. His sword glowed with holy light as the Horrors looked up in distraction as Ser Gado came in swinging, striking true, but the Horrors were strong and tough.
Ser Siegfried, Knight Eternal, comes to Gado’s aid bearing the quarterstaff of Sibillia. He swings at a nearby Horror, hitting it on the head with the staff, only to annoy it even more. Another swing leaves heavy bruising upon the daemon. It cackles at him, taunting as it returns the favour, slashing at Siegfried with claws and teeth, raking flesh from his body as he winches back in pain.
Michel shoots from behind, but his bolt misses, unable to get a good shot.
Then, fire erupts around the party; magical fire of chaos, screeching as it hits Siegfried and Ser Gado, but also the two Horrors nearby. The fire originated from a Horror at the back, casting magic gleefully.
Gerhard was also caught in the blast (and decides to use a fate point to stay alive) as he’s sent flying back towards the end of the chamber, his body tumbling and rolling along. Gerhard is unable to feel his legs… his spine has been pulverized. (The player opted to roll for a toughness check to see whether or not he’d be paralyzed, a result from an earlier crit that was no longer in effect. He failed the check, which was optional and of his own decision.)
Sibillia rushes to his aid but there is little she can do other than to offer comfort. Seeing that the front is not going too well, she runs to Siegfried, blessing him with her healing prowess. Its enough for him to stay on his feet for just a bit longer.
Ser Gado is now struggling to hold the line as the two Pink Horrors that they were facing exploded as a result of the magical fire; now there is four Blue Horrors to contend with!
Ser Gado is barely standing as he tries to smite the Horrors with his sword. One gets snuffed out, then another in quick succession! These blue ones don’t have the toughness of their larger pink brethren, but as Siegfried will find out, they can still be deadly. The two remaining blue ones pounce on Siegfried, one takes a bite out of his side as a big chunk of flesh is ripped apart from his stomach. The other jumps for his throat and cuts it with its claws.
Ser Gado cries out for Siegfried as he tries to fend them off. The Pink Horror that was at the back joins the fray; it gets a bolt in its side from Michel, but it doesn’t phase it much as it proceeds to attack Ser Gado.
Gado has trouble dispatching the remaining two Blue Horrors, but his efforts are not in vain as his strikes, blessed with the might of the Lady, aids him as he snuffs the Blue Horrors out of existence. But now he has to contend with the big one. Severely wounded, he knows if he goes down, only Michel will stand in their way; and while Michel is pretty handy with a crossbow, he lacks Gado’s skill with the sword.
The Horror, on its own now, claws out at Gado, raking him on the leg. Gado returns with a swipe from his sword, cutting straight into the Horror, and then another cutting strike, deadlier than before. It pounces at him, but as it does, it snuffs out into the void. Nothing left, no evidence left behind of them ever being here.
Sibillia rushes to Ser Prunkvolle, who lays gasping at his throat, his life draining away. She utters a prayer for him, as Ser Gado turns around to also pray to the Lady for him. Then, Sib mercy kills him as painless as she can, for there was no hope for the Knight Eternal after the wounds he suffered.
The party count the dead and wounded. Hans Riklof, Siegfried Prunkvolle and Luigi Pavarotti; all dead. Helnacht remains seriously wounded, Gerhard Kramer may be a cripple for the rest of his life, and both Sibillia and Gado suffered horrendous wounds at the hands of those daemons.
Then they hear it. The sounds of horses above the cave. Ser Gado heads towards the well and listens. Then he hears a voice shout out a command; it sounded a lot like Captain Marius of the Knights Panther.
“We are down here!” Gado shouts out. “Bretonnian? Where are you!” a reply is heard.
After more shouting, the captain realizes where they are and climbs down the well using some rope, accompanied by two of his fellow Knights. Weapons are drawn.
“Explain yourselves! What has transpired here!” he demands.
Gado tries to explain that they were attacked by strange creatures that vanished upon being killed. Then Marius spots the big hulking mutated form of a bear.
“How did… that get down here,” Marius asks, puzzled.
They explain to him that is actually Hans Riklof.
“I believe you…” he says, to the surprise of Gado and everyone else.
“We have wounded captain, we need to get out of here and see to their needs at once,” said Sibillia and Ser Gado, jointly.
“We are clearing the passage way now, it won’t be safe trying to ferry you up out of the well. In the meantime, line up against that wall, and drop your weapons, all of them.”
The party do as commanded with no protest as they drop their weapons and line up against the wall.
“Now strip,” commanded Captain Marius.
“Excuse me?” the party are puzzled.
“Strip. It wasn’t a request.”
When asked by Sibillia the meaning of this, the captain replied, “I need to check for signs of taint. Now strip!”
The party proceed to strip down, with Sib helping Gerhard undress. The only one who appears resistant to the idea is Helnacht.
“You got a problem Sigmarite? Not bashful are you?”
Helnacht refuses to strip out of his clothing.
“You’ll strip or else. Don’t make me ask again.”
Reluctantly, Helnacht slowly starts to strip down as the captain inspects them. They are cold and shivering as the captain starts with Sibillia. One by one, they are cleared and asked to get dressed. Although the captain appears to be concerned at their many wounds, and whether or not taint may be present, he sees no sign of it.
Then he gets to Helnacht… and asks the Sigmarite to turn around. Helnacht does indeed turn, albeit reluctantly; the party react in horror.
A giant pulsating eye protrudes from his ass-cheek! Marius steps back in horror as it blinks at him, looking at him directly.
“Is there nothing that can be done?” asks Sibillia. But she doesn’t get a reply as the captain readies his sword, and without hesitation, drives it into the back of the neck of Helnacht. As if to be sure, he then beheads the Sigmarite. The mutated eye closes, bearing no signs of life.
After recovering from their shock, the captain orders them to get dressed, get their things and make their way topside. Captain Marius is asked what will happen to the dead, and his reply confirms their suspicions. “They’ll be burnt. All of them. Now make your way topside. The way is clear. We’ll escort you back to our Chapter House in Middenheim where your wounds will be treated, and we’ll get to the bottom of what happened here.”
Sibillia tells the captain that it was Law Lord Karl Wasmeier who arranged this meeting at the farm. “Noted,” was all the captain said in reply.
The party make their way up and are assisted in mounting up as they prepare to ride on the back of the Knight’s mounts.
Jurgen wakes up to find himself in a winters forest.
Looking around, he can hear movement in the trees. He then spies packs of wolves of all sizes roaming through, as if chasing some invisible prey.
“Welcome brother,” a familiar voice cries out from behind.
He turns to see his old friend, Wolfgar… But Wolfgar died, of poison.
– Wolfgar, friend of Jurgen.
Jurgen reminisces over his failures; how he failed to stop Brunner, how he died. He tells Wolfgar that he should not be, that he doesn’t deserve to be here.
“Its not how you die brother, its how you live. You stood up against Brunner when no one else would, and that’s all that matters. But now you’ve got to make a choice.
“You are here now, but this isn’t the end of the road for you. You get a choice that many of us don’t. You can come with me now, and we can hunt together as a pack and partake in the feast before our souls find residence in Morrs Garden. Or you can turn back, and finish what you started.
“Brunner will be the death of our ways. He’s no Ulrican, he was always far too ambitious to be one. He thinks he’s acting with Ulrics blessing, but the man is deluded and he will destroy our faith if he gets his way.
“It is up to you brother but know this; if Brunner succeeds, what you see here will not exist. There will be no turning back.”
Jurgen nods, saying that he will find Brunner and he will try to insure he does not succeed, and that maybe one day he will return to fight alongside Wolfgar.
Wolfgar smiles, and says, “Ulric isn’t finished with you yet. Sometimes we have to travel to the edge of ourselves to find the center. Go now with his courage and my blessing, and rip Brunners throat out if you can, for all of us.”
Jurgen finds himself slipping into a void as the forest around him disappears, and the large image of Wolfgar fades.
(GM Note – As was previously discussed with the player, he agreed the use of ALL of his Fate Points to survive. Which means Jurgen did die, but a miracle of Ulric had taken place and while he is alive once again, he has no fate points or fortune points. He is very much on deaths door.)
Jurgen opens his eyes; he coughs up copious amounts of water from his lungs. As he recovers, he sees Lupos, her head resting upon him. Bloodied and tired, her eyes stare out towards him, before they close one last time.
Jurgen lifts her gently to one side. Then he notices Fang at the foot of the fountain. But Fang doesn’t twitch or react. Like Lupos, his time has also come.
There is no sign of Brunner.
Jurgen crawls to his belongings which have been left in the snow where he stripped down. Still wounded from before, but now with renewed strength and courage, he puts on his priestly vestments and picking up his quarterstaff, he makes his way out of the gardens and towards the main temple.
Jurgen is aware that some nightly feast has been unfolding within the temple, concluding with the bells he heard earlier. Yet only the senior priests were permitted to attend.
Stepping up to the main temple entrance leading into the grand hall, he sees two White Wolves keeping watch. One of them is busy devouring a chicken leg.
The other White Wolve steps in front, blocking Jurgens way.
“Business with Ar-Ulric, at his request I must see him.”
“The Ar-Ulric is in the crypts, meditating. He is not to be disturbed.”
Jurgen relents, telling him that he’s on an urgent mission at the behest of the Ar-Ulric and that he must see him at once.
The White Wolf states that if hes lying he’ll have his head for this, as he leads Jurgen to a side entrance and down the crypts.
“This is the sacred crypt of Ulricsmund. All past and future Ar-Ulrics are entombed here. You are not normally permitted, but you may enter this one time. It is easy to get lost, so you’ll have to go by the dates on the chambers. You’ll find the Ar-Ulric in the last chamber of this decade.”
Jurgen makes his way down the crypts, proceeding past the tombs of past heroes and Ar-Ulrics such as Wulcan, the founder and original builder of the Temple of Ulric.
Making his way through the labyrinth, he spots a dark silhouette further down a passageway. He calls out as he approaches, and the reply puts him at ease.
– Ar-Ulric, Emil Valgier
“Noffein, is that you? Approach. You wouldn’t be down here unless it was urgent.”
Jurgen approaches him and tells him in a rush of all that transpired.
“Noffein, slow down. What are you saying? That Brunner betrayed me?”
Jurgen tells him that Brunner betrayed his trust, that he has conspired against him and the cult, and that he seeks to perhaps blow up the temple. He mentions the powder he found in a secret passageway in the side of the temple.
“What you say can’t be true. Brunner is like family to me. He would never betray my trust. Why would Brunner turn against me, what reason or motive could he have?”
Jurgen tries to explain that Brunner views his attempts to seek peace with the Sigmarites as a threat. That he sees the Ar-Ulric as weak.
“You mean to tell me that in my moment of weakness, when I let my guard down, that my brother who I have fought together on the battlefield and forged a kinship with, has decided to go behind my back and resort to such treachery? I’ll not believe it, lies is what you are feeding me!”
He grabs Jurgen by the throat and shoves him against the wall. Jurgen doesn’t resist as he tries to reason with the Ar-Ulric.
“If you were really in the Winters Garden, if you really did fight Brunner there, then you would know what lays in the center.”
“Ulrics statue,” Jurgen responds.
“And is his head bowed or raised!”
Jurgen tries to recollect, seeing the statue as he first entered the garden.
“Bowed…” he answers, for it is a garden of reflection and quiet contemplation.
The Ar-Ulric releases his grip slightly, “How do I know you didn’t slay Lupos, or that Brunner may be dead already?”
Jurgen answers that he would have chance against Lupos, and even less chance against Brunner, as he had already lost that fight, and Brunner left him for dead.
The Ar-Ulric relaxes a little, and ponders for a moment. He then turns to the tomb that he was standing by, and asks Jurgen if he knows who that is.
“Your predecessor perhaps?” he answers.
“Yes. Ar-Ulric Bartil Mathius. He died two winters ago. He was weak. And he too gave into his carnal desires, with a wolf-bitch from Nordland. And it was I that drove him out of the cult for his weakness. I have been down here considering my own. Thinking how I could be so blind to give in. That woman, Noffein… I spurned her advances day after day. She relented yet I continue to send her away. Then, just like that, she showed up in the middle of the night in the garden. I could not resist her in the moonlight, my knees grew weak and I found myself lusting after her. After that, I wanted nothing but her flesh.”
Jurgen grows suspicious at that, “Ar-Ulric, you sure it wasn’t magic that bewitched you? That sounds odd.”
“I do know know. All I know it was a desire I could not resist. And it was Brunner who reminded me of my duty. It was Brunner who steered me back onto the path. And now you say it is Brunner who seeks to betray me. I believe you. I believe you because of Bartil Mathius. Cause when the pack discovered his weakness, his desires, they pounced. His friends turned against him. Those who he considered family betrayed him. Ironic. I’m now facing his enemies.
“But Brunner… What he is planning… This isn’t a challenge to my authority. Its madness. Does he truly believe in what he’s doing is right?”
Jurgen nods, telling him that Brunner truly believes what he is doing is right.
The Ar-Ulric shakes head, saying, “There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes Brunner dangerous. He must be stopped.
“We don’t have much time then. Whatever Brunner is going to do, he’s going to do it shortly. I’ll make my way to Volkmars chambers, you see to it that your brothers are safely led out of the temple. Take this, you’ll need it to convince anyone you speak with my voice.”
He hands over his signet ring, bearing his holy crest, to Jurgen. “If anyone gives you trouble, show them that. We must hurry. Brunner must not succeed.”