Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Chapter: How to Kill a Thousand People

Cast: Mandan Bansl, Gryff Galan, and Velimir Tito; as NPCs: Master Arachnidus, Adeptus Marius, and the Raven King.

The following takes place between 15 and 20 Decanum, YE 1022.

After van Zaar's departure, Velimir finds himself on the Dark Continent and reaches out to his new neighbour; later, back in Geistwald, the cabal looks to the future and strengthens their position, then they go back to bury a few previously closeted skeletons.

Master Tito made it back to the Citrus Grove, but without help, his journey back to Eria promised to be both slow and dangerous. As has been done before when the members of the Pius Cabal is in need of help, he decided to contact Mr. Godfree. And as before, a deal was made. With a letter of passage in hand, Tito headed North towards the City of Stars, previously Victoria. The countryside bears witness to the wars fought over the land in the last generation, and to the massacres and deportations that followed. New ruins have been added to those of ages past, and where peasants used to till the fields in happier times, slaves now labour.

Victoria was razed by the Host of Man twelve months ago, and in the ruins of that proud city an ugly metropolis has sprung up. Caravans and troops come from all the lands under the hegemony of the Eternal Queen, and here they are loaded onto ships to support the Siege of Cora. Tito had been told to seek out one Madame de Lys, and as he made his way through the chaotic streets of the City of Stars, he saw many strange and disconcerting sights.

Madame de Lys owned a large house not far from the harbour, and here Tito presented his letter, and before long he was escorted down stairs leading into the ancient catacombs, and into the Underworld. Here he and his guide boarded a waiting gondola, and propelled by the slow, strong strokes of its Ferryman Tito left the Dark Continent. During the journey, Tito noticed that the Ferryman's feet were bound in heavy iron shackles. When he tried to approach his guide about this, he received no response.

Back in Geistwald, Galan had been busy coordinating the reinforcements, and talking to other members of the Enlightened Alliance. He had also found time to look at the moon. The OUT had already begun repairing Tower Helreginn, and cranes, scaffolding, machines and slaves were clearly visible. When he sought to find out what lay below ground, he got a sense of danger as his senses travelled down the claustrophobic tunnels. He chose discretion over valour at this fork in the road, and broke his spell.

When Tito landed on the banks of the river Leiche, he found that Master Arachnidus wished to found a Hermetic chantry in Geistwald. Over the next three days a deal was negotiated, and Master Bansl and the Hermetics built a fortified tower on a hill North-West in the forest. The cabal also spent some time discussing the state of affairs, and what course of events to pursue.  Tito also did some research into the workings of the Underworld, and the history of the world.

After the Hermetic outpost had been set up, the cabal decided that a visit to their neighbour, the Raven King, was in order. The three Masters travelled East accompanied by the Rubayan princess. As they entered the Redlands they saw that courts of ravens sat in trees watching most cross-roads, bridges and villages, and the black birds were ever visible in the skies above. As they made their way towards the king, Master Galan also scryed the ruins of Zalburg. He discovered that the blight had grown by almost a full yard for each day that had passed since the battle, and that there were still zombies roaming throughout the area. Further he found that there were still about a thousand souls living under the ruins, behind the broken barricades of Sanctum. While these people looked to be native to this land, some carried weapons of Thulist manufacture. These discoveries would come to play a role in what happened after.

As the Pius Cabal came to Alte Ring, the circle of stone monoliths erected by a forgotten people in times long gone, where the Raven King now held his Court, they were well received. From the woods hemming in the low hill upon which the ring sat, countless birds of all the houses of the crow family took flight in a parade of black wings. The King himself sat in his white splendour on the altar-stone, with all his lords perched on the surrounding stones. Behind and to his left stood the ever gloomy figure of Dr. Drake -- within the circle, the King's hold over his servant was strong enough that Galan could only make brief contact him. In the meeting that followed, little was said and less was decided, but the diplomatic relations between the Pius Cabal and the Court of Ravens was improved.

After the summit, the heroes turned to Zalburg. As they had recently discovered, there was indeed something rotten in that town still, something that needed tending to. After some further research, they decided that for Creation to heal the blight, the area had to be fully cleansed of Abyssal influence. The remaining zombies had to be eradicated, and the survivors of Sanctum had to be freed. To aid in this they sought to enlist the Hermetic Disciples who now roamed the region in the Zombie-killing machine Bansl had created before the Battle of the Blight. They found the party outside the city of Arben. Marius, now wearing the robes of an Adeptus, commanded almost two dozen armed men, including a detachment of Proxima. His younger colleague had been reassigned to more sheltered duties in the Order State, but Marius now looked very much the wizard of war.

The Hermetic could provide much information on the state of affairs in the Redlands. He told of people returning to their old homes, and of zombies preying on those who were caught by them in the open. This was the case in northern Diemed in particular, and it was here that the Treskwerk Model 1 now patrolled the road between Arben and Angard. Deeper South the country was wilder, and while some humans had returned, more had died during the Red Death. Marius knew little of this region. He did however shed some light on the denizens of Sanctum. As far as he knew, these cultists worshipped an entity called the Yellow King, and they turned their worship to the Sarcophagus -- this massive, dark structure was erected by Mandan Bansl to encapsule the OUT's massive Caerncraft reactor.

The problem now was how to kill a thousand people. At first fire was considered to be the best way, but two problems presented themselves here. First one of metaphysical nature. None of the Masters could come up with a way to ensure certain success without a tremendous cost in Mana. The second was of a more pragmatic type, namely that if they managed to eradicate the entire cult, the Erian population might come to remember the reason for their fear of magicians -- and that Sanctum would come to cast a dark shadow over the Pius Cabal. After contemplating this for a time, one solution stood out: the Nightmare Demon N'gartl, Hound of Morfeus.

The good Dr. Drake, now in servitude to the Raven King for a year and a day, had on his first day at court been ordered to put a leash on the dog. Therefore the Masters again went to Alte Ring, this time with a defined errand. When Bansl promised the King a thousand human eyes for his help (these eyes to be collected from the corpses of the dead cultists) the entire court flew into a rapture, only to be outdone when Tito doubled the bid. The King was pleased, and he readily allowed his servant to aid the cabal in this venture.

And so it was that on the afternoon of the twentieth day of Decanum, Santum was purged. On the ground above the cult's nest, Grey Knights, Wezellian cavalry, and thousands of ravens awaited. Then Dr. Drake sent the demon of blood and flesh and steel and broken bones into the tunnels. Few, if any, survived.

The only drawback was that once it was all over, the Pius Cabal still owed the Raven King 736 eyes.

Storyteller's note: Only three players met this time, so the cabal was somewhat light. Still, as this is the first chapter in a new Story this was a good thing. The guys got to do some housekeeping, and as Eirik said, "we're too few to deal with the big problems, so instead we'll eat [red] herrings."

[Picture source: Wikimedia Commons]

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