Sibillia wakes up groggy. She recalls her encounter with Smiler at the temple. He had drugged her, waving something under her nose that overpowered her senses. She collapsed into his arms, and that was that… It was done in broad daylight surrounded by many priests, but Smiler was no fool. “O my good lady! You have fainted! You are clearly overworked, best get you to the temple of Shallya…” he had declared. It was enough to escape suspicion. Smiler was an agent of the Purple Hand who had tried to kill her once before, and now he had taken her.
Sibillia found herself tied to a chair. Her arms are free, yet a rope is tied around her waist to the chair, and her legs are also tied. She finds herself at in a small rundown hovel, trash and rubbish lay scattered about. A small rodent darts across the room and disappears beneath the clutter. On the table in front of her, a set of instruments lay. Barber surgeon tools.
She spots something else.
Strange altar piece, set atop a stand. Dried blood seemed to pool around the indentation of it. Even stranger was the odd looking stone sat atop it; it had a rough texture, and glowed an eerie sickly green tint. Just looking at it made Sibillia want to vomit. Whatever it was, it can’t be good, she figured…
There was no sign of Smiler however. Now as her chance to escape. She tried to reach for the instruments that lay on the table, but they were purposefully kept out of her reach. Instead, she maneuvered as best as she can around the table, using the leverage of her feet to do most of the work. She didn’t get far when she heard a familiar voice from behind speak,
“Trying to leave? But you just got here…”
Smiler walked around into view with that sick grin of his.
“What do you want from me you fiend!”
“I want a great many things, but I only want you to listen…”
Smiler sat down opposite her.
“You murdered her…” Sibillia remarked, referring to the priestess of Shallya that he had murdered.
“No, you did. It was by my hand, but I promised you I would if you didn’t do as you were told. I keep my word…”
Sibillia cursed at him in Tilea, and then asked in common tongue, “What do you plan on doing with me?”
“I need your help…” he said, ever smiling.
“I’ll not help you!”
“I think you will… tell me of your Shallyan oaths. Indulge me.”
After first reluctant to do so, she spoke of her strictures and how her goddess teaches compassion above all else.
“Exactly. Compassion. I want to show you something,” Smiler had said as he laid his arm on the table and tore his sleeve apart with a knife.
A dozen tiny little arms had protruded from the upper side of his left arm. They wiggled about, with even one pair slapping each other, as if they had their own independent motion.
Sibillia was horrified.
“There is more…” he remarked.
He showed her weeping sores, pimples that covered his chest, which appear to be ‘weeping’ green tears.
On his back, he showed her the most remarkable mutation yet – his entire back was like a mirror, a reflection. It was also translucent; she could see his heart, his lungs… yet there was something else. Her own reflection. Its image twisted and changed. Sibillia saw her greatest fear unfold in front of her, as the reflection showed her the death of the priestess that Smiler had killed, and how she contributed to that death…
Smiler turned and sat back down as Sibillia burst into tears.
“What did you see?” he asks her.
“Your a monster!” she replied.
“Yes, yes I am… and I want your help in making me less monstrous.
“I brought you here for this. To remove my gifts that was given to me, gifts that I no longer want. I have the tools, and you…”- “I cannot do this! This is beyond what I can do,” Sibillia had said. She continued, remarking that such mutations were beyond her, the taint would remain.
Smiler grew with anger, “What? You lie! You can help me! Your oath demands it!”
Sibillia shook her head, and her tone was one of sympathy.
Smiler got up, marching up and down in his small decrepit hovel as he muttered to himself, as if talking to someone else.
“She lies! She lies! My Lord forgive me! I sought false redemption! I sought salvation in false hope! What? Yes my Lord. Yes. I shall do it. I will seek your forgiveness. I will do it in your name, like last time.”
Smiler gazed towards the dagger on the table, and Sib knew…
He darted for the dagger, picking it up, and slowly moving around the table towards her as he pointed it at her.
“Don’t do this! This isn’t you! Fight whatever has taken hold of you!” Sibillia pleaded with him.
(After a successful roll on her part) – Smiler put the dagger down, shaking his head. “No my lord, she is not like the others! I’ll not do it! No I’ll not do it not again!” he shouted, as he ran to the altar that sit in the corner and toppled it over.
It crashed to the floor, and the green stone rolled onto the floor away from the altar. Smiler looked helpless, “What have I done! He will be angry with me! He will be furious! You got to help me!” he turned to Sibillia.
Grabbing the dagger, Smiler cut her bonds, freeing her from the chair. Sib stood up and backed away from him at once. Smiler, to show he meant her no harm, put the dagger down on the table.
“Please… do something. Isn’t there anything you can do?”
Sibillia shook her head, “There is nothing I can do for you. You need to fight this. You need help, but it is not help I can provide.”
Smiler got on his knees, glancing at the dagger… “Then do it. Kill me! I demand the mercy of your goddess! Please do it! My lord will be furious! I can hear him now, in my mind… craving for control! Please, you got to help me!”
Sibillia refused, “I cannot kill you. My oath forbids it. I cannot give you the mercy you desire. I am… I am sorry. Truly am.”
Smiler slowly stood up, the anger starting to creep through again… but he held it back.
“Then perhaps one thing you can do… my sister. You … you remind me of her. I need you to write her a letter for me.”
“Of course…” Sibillia replied.
“I… I cannot write, you will have to do it. I do not have the words. But I trust you… Wait, we need something.”
Smiler rooted in the clutter, as Sibillia watched on cautiously. She could easily run now, as he had his back to her, but she chose not too. “I found it…”
He took out a small cracked inkpot, at least it looked like an inkpot. It had blood in it… and he produced a dirty piece of parchment.
“You will have to use your finger…” he said.
Sibillia had figured that Smiler had truly lost his mind.
“She is with Morr, you understand? Morr won’t let me see her. So you will have to talk to him. Can you do that?”
Something about that statement made Sibillia uneasy, but she complied… “I’ll.. I’ll do it, I promise. Not here, but I will do it.”
Smiler shook his head again, as if to shake out an unpleasant thought. He made his way over to where the toppled altar had fallen, and bent down to pick up the small piece of green stone.
“You should go… now…” he had said to her.
Sib stood there, looking over at him, “I hope that…” but before she could continue, she saw Smiler begin to violently change, his body shaking violently. Sib ran, ran as fast as she could.
*Cortez, who played Sibillia, would later roll for the mutations for Smiler, with my permission. Lets just say it produced some… interesting results.
What follows is the summary of the events that would take place after that:
Sibillia flees to the Knights Panther. Marius is not there, but she alerts his second-in-command. She makes no mention of any mutations oddly enough; instead she remarks that the man has been stalking her for quite sometime and that he took her against her will. The Panther ignores her, remarking that it sounds like a lovers quarrel and that its a watch matter, not a problem for the Knights Panther.
She soon finds Gado, and falls into his arm. She tells Gado about Smiler and that he needs to be dealt with before someone else gets hurt. Gado regroups up with the party with Sib in tow and informs them. Jurgen suggests that maybe the Denfather could help.
Jurgen meets with the Denfather alone with exception to Sibillia, at the temple quarters in the library section. He explains the situation. The word ‘mutant’ is mentioned. The Denfather says that they are stretched thin, and the White Wolves are busy, but he will send two of his best men currently available to deal with this mutant.
With that, they leave, figuring it was no longer their problem. Making their way back to the temple of shallya as escort for Sibillia, they hear something wail across the city. A bestial screech of terror that for a moment, they thought might’ve been the bird-woman, but this was different… and it came from the Altquarter, the slums. Sib remarks that’s where Smiler kept her…
Sib insists on finding out whats going on. Gado tries to deter them but they make their way south. A frustrated Gado runs to fetch his horse which is opposite the temple of Shallya.
Michel, Jurgen, Gerhard and Sib make their way south.
What they see are peasants running for their lives as they approach the Altquarter. Mutants, at half a dozen strong, emerge, chasing those fleeing. And something else further in the slums… something big.
Michel shoots at one, but is hurt in the process. Jurgen is heavily wounded but tries to help as best as he can. A pregnant woman who bears fresh injuries flees into their arms, crying for help. Sib tries to help her but notices something odd in her wound. A strange black liquid pours from her wound, and powerful ‘kicks’ can be felt from her womb. Sibillia falls to her knees, realizing what this means. She cries and prays to Shallya as Gerhard appraoches from behind, and notices what Sib saw. Suspecting that this woman may be transforming into a mutant, Gerhard cut her throat as quickly as he can. Her stomach begins to bulge, only to be seen by Gerhard who stabs it repeatedly. Michel helps him…
Gerhard is particularly distraught after doing what he just did.
Gado emerges on horseback. He alerts the party that he saw Captain Marius and alerted him to the possibility of danger.
Jurgen suggests back to form a defensive line, to which they agree.
Then it emerges… an abomination only a nightmare could produce. It would be laughable to look upon if it was not for the terror that it inflicted.
It came out on a wobble, a mass of leathery flesh covered in scales; a small oval-shaped blob of flesh which was moving by the use of four arms as legs. Attached to this blob was two 12 foot long necks covered in scales. They separated half-way up. Both necks were topped with identical bat-like cyclops heads with weasel like mouths. A sharp bony sword-arm protruded near the bottom of both of the necks, tipped with fresh blood from its victims.
If that wasn’t bad enough, three mutants emerged near it. One had rodent like qualities, the other had feathers on his chest, and his face was bestial in nature, snarling with hunger. The third one looked the most dangerous. It swung a flail, constantly screaming in agony; possibly to do with the flaming skull-face. The ‘man’ had no flesh on his face; his entire head was engulfed in flames and spared of any flesh. He was swinging his flail at anything that come near him, and he appeared to be in constant pain.
“Run!” was the general consensus from the party. They could not fight this, and they knew it. But the mutants had not made their escape easy as two of them charged. One went for Michel, the other for Gerhard. Jurgen backed off with Sibillia, she did not resist as she was led away under his protection.
Gado tried to hold them off; that horrific abomination was thankfully very slow, and wobbling its way towards them. The mutants were the most direct threat at the moment. Michel managed to deflect a blow and escape, running for the main street. Gerhard was in trouble however; Gado galloped towards him and picked him up, putting him on horseback as they flee for safety.
It was not their fight, and they were wise to flee.
The party saw a contingent of White Wolves and Knight Panthers riding into the Altquarter as they made their way out. The Grandmaster led the charge, along with Captain Marius leading his own men and the party could only hope that they would be successful.
Later that day, it became apparent that the Panthers and the Wolves were successful. Although much needless death that could have been avoided, had occurred. Middenheim was facing one tragedy after another.
The party are checked for ‘infected’ wounds and are given the all clear; but Captain Marius, upon his return, and bloodied from battle, wished an ‘urgent’ word with Sibillia.
He orders that she accompany him back to the chapter house. Gado is reluctant to let her go, but Sibillia says she will be ok.
Marius, along with two of his fellow knights, accompany her back to the chapter house.
There, Sibillia is stripped and checked for any signs of mutations, but Marius appears unconvinced as he orders her to get dressed and accompany him into the back courtyard.
There, he questions her as to her ordeal.
“My man tells me that you came to him seeking aid. That this… this Smiler, had taken you captive. I’ll need details.”
Sibillia is honest in her recount. But the questioning takes a dark turn when the captain asks, “Sister, what I’m about to describe to you… its very important that you tell the truth and be sure. During your, during you captivity… did you see a small green stone that glowed? Were you in proximity of this stone?”
She tearfully acknowledged seeing such a stone and described the altar that it lay upon it. “Captain… I know what you must do,” she said, suspecting what was going to happen.
“I have seen the effects before sister. I have seen what one lump of that dreaded stone can do, and now I have witnessed it again. I cannot allow uncertainty in these matters fester. You may not like my methods. You may consider them harsh and cruel. But they are methods that work. They are one of the principles of my order in routing out chaos wherever it may lay. And as I have seen today, it can spread among the faithful, the innocence and the pure of hearts, such as yourself. You may not feel it now, for it is insidious in nature. The taint does not reveal itself until it is ready to do so. It grows and spreads within you, until you are truly doomed and beyond saving.”
He took a deep breath, as he added, “But I can save you. I can give you the mercy of avoiding such a fate. It will be painless. I can promise you that.”
Sibillia, tearfully accepted her fate. “Can you give me a moment to pray?” she asks him. Her request is granted.
Sibillia gets on her knees, and prays to Shallya. *The gm forgets what the prayer contained*
Finishing, she stands back up and calls for Marius.
Marius comes out, a dagger in hand. “Are you ready sister? Close your eyes. You will not feel a thing. I promise.”
Sibillia indeed did close her eyes. Her final sensation was that of cold steel penetrating her heart.
*It was at this point that I had asked whether or not the player wanted to use a fate point. A fate point was used.*
Sibillia lay on a table, wrapped in a cloth in the rear courtyard of the chapter house. For awhile, she had no visitors. Not until Captain Marius had given the news to the party. Before such news was departed, he ordered for Ser Gado to disarm himself. Ser Gado reluctantly did so, passing his weapon to Jurgen.
It was then that the news was given. The party was not happy, but Gado was perhaps the most emotional out of them, displaying hatred towards Marius for what he did. Marius offered them one last moment with her before he and his men escort her body out of the city to be burnt.
Sibillia would have her visitors, as the came into the rear courtyard to pay their final respects. Marius gave them privacy as Ser Gado knelt beside her body, and the rest of the party looked on.
He prayed to the Lady to watch over her, and hoped that her soul will find its way to its final resting place.
Then… the strangest thing occurred. An eerie glow of light emanuated from nearby the body of Sibillia. There, stood the shade of a woman draped in a white cloak. A dove stood on her shoulder, crying tears of blood… the sight did not last long, and quickly past, leaving wonderment and a strange sensation of whether or not that really happened.
Gado stood up, reflecting on what he just saw. The party were silent…
Then a cough. A faint cough could be heard.
Heads turned, only then to realize it was coming from the body of Sibillia. They rushed over to unwrap the bandages, and there she was… Sister Sibillia opened her eyes. Looking down at her breast where the dagger had penetrated her heart, there was only a scar.
The party were in disbelief as Sibillia rose to her feet. “Michel! Fetch Marius at once! He’ll want to see this!”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea…” remarked Gerhard. Michel went anyhow to fetch Marius as Sibillia tried to recollect what just happened.
She remembered having a dream.. of sorts… she was floating in a void, yet it was not unpleasant. Above her, she could see a hundred, perhaps thousands, of doves flying over. Each one was crying tears of blood, flooding her with their tears.
Then she awoke…
Marius had stepped into the courtyard. He immediately unsheathed his sword, “What witchery is this!” he shouted.
Gado stood in front of Sibillia, protecting her. Sibillia tried shouting and asserting control over the situation, but Marius was having none of it as he called for his knights. Two other panthers stepped in, their blades now drawn.
“Step away from her! She’s a mutant!”
“She’s not a mutant! She’s herself! A miracle has just happened, don’t you see that! Her goddess spared her!” Gado shouted.
Jurgen called for calm, but it was falling on deaf ears.
“Step away now or I will cut through you to get to her! That’s not the woman you knew!”
Gado readied his sword, shouting that there was no need for this to happen. Sibillia tried to show proof that she still retained the blessings of her goddess by casting a prayer, but that didn’t go too well…
“Stand aside now or I will cut you down, all of you! This is what we do! She is a mutant! I killed her! I stabbed her through the heart! What stands there is an abomination!”
Gado shouted back at Marius, and noticed something strange… small droplets of blood had been raining down on his right shoulder. Marius did not notice it. Gado looked up, to see a white dove perched above on the roof, droplets of blood raining down from its one eye. He pointed his sword up, “Look! There is your proof!”
Marius glanced up, see the white dove. It fluttered down to land on the shoulder of Sibillia.
Its eyes gazed into hers, its head turning to one side. The moment only lasted a second, before it flew off…
Gado turned to beam at Marius, who was genuinely taken back by what he saw. Sibillia confidently stepped forward, approaching Marius.
“Captain Marius,” she remarked.
Marius gave her a long look, before finally sheathing his blade, and ordering his men to do the same.
“It seems… it seems we are in short supply of miracles around here. Forgive me.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” Sibillia remarked, as she walked past him, with Gado following and the rest of the party making their leave. It was Michel, who was the last one to leave, had overheard Marius say to one of his men, “Keep an eye on her…”
Outside, deep breaths are taken after what just transpired.
“What now?” Gado asked, as he turned to Sibillia.
“Now, now we hunt the Purple Hand. There is more of them out there Gado. What happened today happened because of them. So much death… so much misery. I cannot allow that to happen again.”
Two Days Later
Gerhard Kramer gets his meeting with the Baron, and Ser Duvall is also requested.
They head to the palace. Ser Duvall meats first with the Baron on his own. Baron Heinrich is there at court, his father seemingly taking care of affairs elsewhere.
The throne room is empty, with exception to the palace guards, four in total.
“Ser Duvall, I’m glad you were able to come. Before I get to the matter at hand, there is something I wish to ask you concerning Franz Udolf. If you recall, he is the shadowmancer that you have had a run-in with. It appears he is missing, along with his captive, the witche’s daughter I believe as you mentioned. And information has come to light to suggest that the shadowmancer was behind the death of Foros Artfor. So there is a great many questions he needs to answer. You wouldn’t happen to know where he is, would you?”
Gado replied that he did not.
“No matter. The Black Cloaks have been informed, they’ll find him I’m sure. Now, as to the other matter… You made a request for possible information pertaining to this Ethelka Hearson. I can assure you, you are not the only one interested in her. We have our hunters out searching for this witch. Unfortunately we have had little success. We did discover that she operated a small herbal shop in the south-west part of the city, but it did not shed any light as to where she may be going.
“But… earlier today, a road warden came in from the north road. He was heavily injured and I’m afraid he did not survive. But he remained conscious enough to give details of his attack. It seems he came upon this witch and his suspicion and curiosity got the best of him. He gave a vivid account of her; clad black, beautiful and seductive, and a strange cat bearing a scar. She was also mounted on a white spotted stallion. If this is her, then by all accounts she is traveling on the north road. His account puts her at least a day ahead of you.”
Gado was delighted, but somewhat worried that she already had a day in advantage.
Gado thanked the baron, but Baron Todbringer mentioned he had another matter to discuss.
“You have done a great service to the city Ser Duvall. You must forgive my father in recognizing your accomplishment. He will not praise you out loud nor hold any official ceremonies; now is not the time, nor will it ever be. He is occupied right now with helping to rebuild what was destroyed. Yet you have my thanks, for you and your friends have averted a great tragedy, for who knows what Wasmeier had in store for my father. But unfortunately, a greater tragedy has befallen our city, and I do not speak of the recent mutant incidents; I refer to that of our temple.
“Ser Duval, we have a tradition that dates back to the founding of Middenheim. I speak of the Knight Eternal. Legend holds that should the Knight Eternal fall from grace, or suffer death in battle, then a great tragedy will befall our city. Indeed it has, for on the night that Siegfried Prunkvoll perished, our Great Temple came undone.
“I am not a suspicious man Ser Duval. I do not believe in such things, but even I cannot ignore the significance of that. The death of Siegfried is already passing through the city like wildfire. It will create an uneasy tension. The city is without a Knight Eternal, and right now the people of Middenheim need hope.
“And standing in front me right now is that hope. I offer you, Ser Duval, the position of Knight Eternal.
“This of course means you would be forbidden to leave the city, as the position commands for your presence to be within these walls at all times.”
Ser Gado is shocked… and taken back by the offer. “But… but sir, I am a foreigner to these lands. Your people surely would not accept a man such as myself as their knight eternal?”
The baron smiled, “You are correct. You are a foreigner. But you are wrong about everything else. The people need a hero. They need one now more than ever. Tragedy after tragedy has befallen our city. What was once a mere traditional position that has fallen out of favour is being talked about again. We need the Knight Eternal, they cry out. We need someone to guard us in these dark times, they shout. There is no Knight Eternal, and that does not ease the minds of my people. I could choose someone more local. But I choose you. For I have already been hearing about your good name. I heard what happened outside the temple compound, how you persuaded near two dozen men to follow you to help you with the temple, and how you rode valiantly to through the city streets towards the crisis in the Altquarter. You are the right man for the position. After what you did for my father… I can think of no one better for it. Do not worry about the people. They will accept you.”
Ser Gado takes a moment, before saying, “I will need time my lord. Time to… to,”- “Take all the time you need Ser Duvall. A week at most I wager. I dare not leave such a position vacant for long. I bid you good-day.”
Ser Gado left in deep thought as he considered this rare and once in a lifetime opportunity. Yet it would mean great sacrifice on his part… “to never leave these walls,” is what the baron had said.
Gerhard was next to see the baron.
“Ah, Herr Kramer. I see that you are on the mend. You wanted to speak to me?”
Gerhard Kramer explained to him that he had a delicate matter concerning ‘family’ that he wished to speak to him about. He showed him the book that he had taken back from the captain of the watch.
“This is the ledger and personal accounts of Lord Hattendorf. How did you come in possession of this?”
Gerhard explains that it was given to him originally before the watch took it. He shows the baron a particular page in the book.
“Ah yes… I see Lord Hattendorf has declared you his heir, although rather indirectly. You got proof of your family lineage?”
Gerhard had taken out a family genealogy scroll from his satchel, depicting his entire family tree and his connection to the Hattendorf family.
“I’m afraid I’m not a student of such matters. You’ll have to point out your connection.”
Gerhard points to a 3rd cousin in the family tree, his finger following the trail to the Hattendorf line.
“Ah yes. It seems you may indeed be the last living relative of Lord Hattendorf. The tragedy that unfolded was unfortunate, and the matter of the estate was going to be settled. You are quite fortunate to come to me with this. I take it you wish to take ownership of the Hattendorf family estate?”
Gerhard did not shy away from declaring his intention, which is to claim the estate.
“Well, that settles it. I grant your request. Although you will have to bring this to the legalists guild. They will write up a new tittle deed and go through the process with you. I would recommend you adopt a new family crest… The Hattendorf family ties with the Purple Hand are now known to us. It would not do you any good to adopt their crest, lest the White Wolves or the Black Hunters take an interest in your affairs, which they may do anyhow.”
Gerhard took his scroll back and thanked the baron for his time.
He may have left the court with a slightly chirpier attitude and a spring in his step.
*And so concludes the Power Behind The Throne. It was a lot of fun, full of intrigue, suspense and screw-ups by the party, of which there was many! But screw-ups, in this case, made the campaign all the more fun. It was also an interesting chapter for it sets the pace for the next part. The players actions and consequences carry a lot of weight going into the next chapter of the Enemy Within campaign.
The party failed in stopping the Purple Hand in achieving the destruction of the Temple of Ulric, but they succeeded in minimizing the damage to a degree. The Ar-Ulric is dead; but Volkmar lives. That very consequence will play out throughout the campaign as religious tensions continue to boil between Sigmar and Ulric. A new Ar-Ulric will have to be chosen. Who that is, and what that person brings to the table, may be a positive or a negative influence for the current religious tensions. But regardless of who rises to the challenge, that person will surely be better suited than Wolf Lord Wolfram Brunner.
The reveal of Wasmeier as a member of the cult, and along with it, names of fellow agents and cult connections within Middenheim is a serious deathblow to their operations in the north. But it is not the end of the Purple Hand; there was mention in Wasmeier’s documents and references to a ‘Arch-Lumen’ who seemed to be giving Wasmeier his funding and orders. Regardless, the Hand have been brought out into the limelight, which is a severe problem for a cult that relies on secrecy.
What is important now is what the party decide to do. Do they hunt for Ethelka, who has ensnared the soul of Gado’s sister. Gado will, of course. But will the others? What of the bird-woman of Marienburg? She still haunts the northern forests and towns.
Whatever the party decide to do, it should be a fun grim adventure!