Wednesday, 23 October 2013
Chapter Two: We're only here for the book . . .
In which Captain Geheulitzer, Herr Kunzelzeger, and Ganda set out to retrieve a book from a preacher and get caught up in a delicate situation; in Rederhafen Onkel Engelbert tries out a new tool.
The following takes place on the night of the 15th day of Septium in YE 1053.
In Rederhafen a cargo of Umbral silk and Ogre's Hop beer bound for Pendrell is loaded onto the Goudende Ezel. The real job this time isn't delivering the cargo, but to acquire a certain Treatise on Entropie, by a Magister Donerlux, from its current owner, one Malachior Myrkbrooke, in the staunchly Presbyterian Northern Pendrell. As it is held to be common knowledge that the black-hats burn "their kind" on a regular basis, the plan is to sneak in and steal the book rather than risk an open confrontation.
Captain Geheulitzer takes the ship across the Inner Sea, and despite the onset of night he skillfully guides her to the village of Norton-on-Elan, believed to be the whereabouts of the book and its owner, a minister by the name of Malachior T. Myrkbrooke. From the air the village is easy to spot once they approach by watch-fires on its walls and a large number of light-sources at its centre. Ganda, the young northern shaman, also notices that the vast Aelvinwoode lying west of the village seems to be teeming with spirit activity now that night has fallen.
A location about a mile east of the settlement is chosen as thir landing site and the away team, consisting of the Captain, Herr Herr Kuntzelzeger, and Ganda, is put ashore. The plan had originally been for the ship to wait while the deathwalker and the two mages retrieved the treatise, but back in Rederhafen Onkel Engel, having kept an eye on the situation, orders the ship to continue to Ipwith with the cargo.
With the Ezel disappearing into the night sky, Her Kunzelzelger heads into the darkness to reconnoitre the area. He quickly notices that the walls are heavily guarded, as if expecting an attack. When he returns the three decide to utilise the almost non-existent Gauntlet rather than brave the well-manned fortification. They slip through the barrier and into the bleak Underworld where they quickly find a breach in the wall.
Well inside the village they step back on the Material Plane, only to find the streets completely abandoned.
A seeking spell points them towards the centre of the settlement.
When they approach the main square they find what must be the entire population gathered in front of the congregation house. The quiet, brooding mob stands there, torches in hand, seemingly waiting for something to happen.
While Geheulitzer and Kunzelzeger sneak closer, Ganda hunkers down behind a hedge to observe. As the two edge around the mob, Ganda notices a dark figure moving among the villagers. At first he cannot make out who it is or what its doing, but then he gets a second glance. Though it looks like a man, it is in fact a spirit. He also notices a smaller fire spirit, dancing from torch to torch.
By now the two burglars have made it around to the back of the congregation house and found the rear entrance. As it isn't guarded, Kunzelzeger picks the lock and Geheulitzer leads the way inside.
As they move around searching for a sign of the book, they hear voices from behind a door. Moving closer, they hear a muted conversation from inside.
". . . done all we can. I fear our only option now is the pyre."
"There might still be . . ."
Then a female voice, sounding darker and . . . somehow wrong, "PATHETIC MEN! Is this the best you can do?"
Herr Geheulitzer, having received instructions form Onkel Engel via his spellorb to rescue the witch, decides to tackle the problem head on. He knocks on the door.
It is opened by a decidedly confused looking gentleman. The room is set up like an interrogation room, with a coal brazier, an array of torture devices, a few books, and a naked bloodied woman chained to an iron chair. The exchange that follows doesn't really contribute to clearing up the situation to any meaningful degree, except for the gentleman's insistence that they've tried everything, and that burning is the only way to save the poor possessed woman's soul.
Before this can be explained further the woman screams in an alien voice and Herr Geheulitzer is swept by an avalanche of black rage. He grits his teeth, resisting the urge to kill everyone in the room as he grabs the man he's been talking to by the collar and attempt to reason with him. He manages to ask for Malachior Myrkbrooke. His prisoner is taken aback by this. "Sir, how do you know my father?"
Back in Rederhafen, Onkel Engelbert, scrying on his captain, tries to unweave whatever spell he is under.
Outside, Ganda spies the dark spirit again. It appears to be whispering in the ears of the increasingly agitated villagers. The one he whispered to last starts yelling out, "burn the witch!" This is quickly taken up by the rest, and soon the entire mob is chanting.
"Burn the witch! Burn the witch!"
This does little to calm the situation inside the congregation house. One of the men lounges at Herr Geheulitzer with a sword, while the last two loosen the woman from the chair and drags her towards a door leading outside.
And the killing begins. Geheulitzer tosses his man into the hallway to Herr Kunzelzeger, yelling for him to make sure the bastard doesn't move and draws his sword. Then he spears his assailant through the groin, dropping him to the floor.
The woman, having broken free from her guardians now rush towards the door to the square. Dodging blows from the last two, Geheulitzer manages to reach her as she kicks the door open. In front of them is a sea of torches, reflected in countless hateful eyes. He manages to manhandle the possessed woman inside and slams the door shut behind them just as a roar goes up from the mob.
Outside, the dark spirit appears to be revelling in the rage. Ganda, realising that it is feeding off the energy of the mob, decides to distract it. He gathers his courage and releases a command spell, hoping to drive it off. It is unsuccessful, but it does make the spirit aware of the young mage. It turns its hollow eyes towards Ganda and he's immediately struck by a deep and primordial fear. He runs.
Geheulitzer takes a pistol ball in his hip before bringing his blade down on the attacker's shoulder, severing muscles and tendons and breaking the clavicle. When he turns around he sees the last man drive his blade through the woman's abdomen. This doe not appear to phase her much as she reaches out with her hands, cupping his temples. Reality seems to shift between her palms and the man slumps to the ground. She then turns to face Herr Geheulitzer with a cruel smile.
"Now what, death-walker?" she asks while pulling the sword out of her body. The wound closes behind it.
Deciding that this is not what he came here for, Herr Geheulitzer retreats. As he leaves teh room, he sees the woman opening the door and being swallowed by the raging mob. When he meets up with Herr Kunzelzeger and the prisoner, he asks his associate to set the damn house on fire. Herr Geheulitzer then stick a pistol in the poor bastard's ear and order him to take them to the godsforsaken book.
Not long after, the three sneak out of the village, dodging vengeful groups of villagers looking for anyone resembling a witch. In his satchel Herr Geheulitzer has the Treatise on Entropie and about a dozen other books form the minister's collection.
The fire still rages at the main square.
The three hunker down in a copse of trees a few miles outside the village and wait for the Ezel to return.