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  1. - Top - End - #361
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Bloody Crown X

    Elsa Only

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    The image in the mirror rippled and swirled like quicksilver, responding far more strongly to the Dark Tongue than it had to her simple Reikspiel before. When the ripples settled, however, it was still reflecting her own face.
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  2. - Top - End - #362
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    Quote Originally Posted by LCP View Post
    "They're doing alright," said Ingwald. "Most of the boys you brought in from the countryside don't know the business end of a crossbow from the bottom of their boot, but they're honest lads. Not like the city folk the Commander drummed up. Got a few chancers there I think." Hanna frowned, but didn't contradict him. "We going to be needing them soon? I haven't heard any marching orders on the grapevine."

    "We'll need people looking after the carts once we start sending goods back and forth from Ravenskird, and from Putbad north."
    Ludo said. "The southern leg should be nice and easy, so we'll have a few sensible sorts and some of the new lads on that, but I'd like people we trust for Bunthafen itself. Either of you want either of those, or shall I keep both of you here for training the rest of them?"
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    “I should stay here,” Hanna said, very very quickly. “The commander hasn’t been doing too well drumming up recruits in the city,” she added by way of hasty explanation. “I can help.”

    “Great,” muttered Ingwald, “back to bloody Bunthafen. I hope the Captain’s paying for all the boots we’re wearing out.”




    Konigstag, 15th Vorgeheim

    The following day, Ludo rose at daybreak to head up the rock to the Dwimmulhold. He had agreed to meet the others at the Great Hospital at midday, to speak with the Shallyans, but there was a question nagging at the back of his mind that he couldn’t put off any longer. And at Skorgrund’s age, surely the dwarf was an early riser.

    The road up the Rock was largely empty, the High Market being held only on Marktag. Though the sturdy gates of the hold stood open, two dwarf guards stood outside them, watching Ludo approach from under beetling brows. The sun was yet to rise high above the horizon, but when it did they would surely be sweltering in their layers of leather and mail.

    “State your business,” came the gruff demand. When he said he had come to speak with Elder Skorgrund, the dwarf grunted and conferred with his fellow gate-guard in Khazalid. After a short exchange, in which Ludo was pretty sure he heard himself referred to as “thieving grombolgi”, the second dwarf escorted him inside.

    The interior of the Dwimmulhold was impressive, though not quite as impressive as Ludo had imagined. Though the craft that had gone into the sturdy stonework around him was undeniable, the ceilings were low, the spaces narrow and cramped. He didn’t get to see much of it - he was led into a guard-room near the gates and told to wait while a messenger brought word to the elder.

    After a wait of perhaps twenty minutes, Skorgrund appeared, followed by a dwarf in a fine shirt and waistcoat, rather at odds with his own weather-beaten appearance. Heavily tanned, with a short copper-coloured beard and a forehead full of scars, Ludo did not remember his face from his previous meeting with Skorgrund at the inn. He looked as if he was recovering from a nasty case of sunburn.

    “Master Stubbs,” said Skorgrund, lowering himself creakily into a chair drawn up by the guard. “I expect you’ve come to hear news of Thrunrik’s expedition.” The way he spoke didn’t make it sound like he had good news, but Ludo half-suspected that Skorgrund always sounded like that. “This is Urgrim Jotunnsson, of Barak Varr. He accompanied our rangers. He can tell you what they found.”
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  4. - Top - End - #364
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    Konigstag, 15th Vorgeheim

    Urgrim


    From the moment he entered the guard-room, the sunburnt dwarf fixed his big blue on Ludo. His gaze was not unfriendly, but there was strength in its persistence: as if this ranger needed to drink in every detail of the halfling in the next few seconds, to know the measure of him and act accordingly.

    Urgrim nodded, slowly and formally, as Skorgrund introduced him, and did not let the silence linger when the elder ceased speaking.

    "Seven of us set out for the Red Pyramid," he said, extending as many digits across both hands. He snapped his left into a fist, leaving only thumb and forefinger erect on his right. "Only two returned.

    "Thrunrik, the gods rest him, planned for us to rest and take on water at the village of Turnpike Hollow, on the desert road. But the village is no more. The humans are gone, the sand is swallowing their edifices, and their people's graves have been defiled.

    "We went west. The sands stormed fiercely. We were two days to ground, in the dead waste. Then we found the Pyramid.

    "The ancestral seals on the gate stood firm."
    The way he exhaled did not seem celebratory. "Would that that put paid to our troubles. The structure had been breached, high up one face, by ... mhornaduraz." His ruined brow distorted even further. For the first time, his gaze dissolved from Ludo, as he thought. "Shadow-stone. But I think it doesn't translate directly." He shook his head, dismissing the idle idea, and sighed. "Lokri touched it. Damn fool.

    "Five of us went in. There were many dead humans. Thrunrik saw a pendant on one that marked them as from Turnpike Hollow. Their deaths had been violent - that was clear even after the months they had lain there.

    "We found burial chambers. An antechamber, with chests full of gold. Skargan and Vardin delved into them. The way to the next chamber was collapsed. There were more dead villagers. But a path had been cleared through the rubble."


    He paused, looking to Skorgrund, as if expecting to be interrupted. When he was not, he turned back to Ludo. Again he paused for a moment, as if sizing the halfling up. Then he continued.

    "The chamber was disturbed. There was a sarcophagus, in the shape of a human with a jackal's head. But it was open, and empty, and surrounded by chalk markings. And above the coffin ...

    "There was a human, bound and hanging in rope. Her throat had been cut, but there was no blood to be seen anywhere."


    Urgrim's face took on a faraway look. "We did not have time to linger. The shadow-stone had corrupted Lokri. He suffered fierce mutations without warning, and attacked us. We put him down - Vardin paying his life in the attempt. Thrunrik led us out.

    "The sandstorms rose again nearly as soon as we were beneath the sky. We lost all our bearings, and soon drank near all our water, and left Vardin's body to the desert. The cursed gold poisoned Skargan's mind, and he fled us into the waste. Baragril died of thirst first. Thrunrik stopped drinking - he gave Berki and I his remaining water, knowing three would never make it out alive on what we had left. He died next. Berki lost consciousness but lived still. I carried him, for how long I don't know. But at last I found that we were out of the Waste."


    Urgrim's eyes fell, and for a few moments there was silence. He sighed, deeply.

    "If that truly was the tomb of the old enemy, the Jackal Priest, Varag Kol - well, it is empty now. These ... worshippers of his foul memory have profaned it. Beyond that, there is only guesswork. But I take it you will believe as well as we do that there is some horror afoot."

    The ranger stopped talking. He had not been imposing to begin with, in his sharp outfit, and yet he still seemed to have deflated in the past minutes. Recounting his memories had clearly taken something out of him.
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    Skorgrund had sat in silence while Urgrim told his story. When the younger dwarf had finished, he turned his attention back to Ludo.

    "You asked us before whether we believed the priests' omens. I think we do now. Either some manling sorcerer has robbed his tomb for their own ends, or the old enemy has returned." He watched Ludo with hard, calculating eyes. "When you first came to us with this question, you mentioned a man you believed had ventured into the desert before the new year. We would dearly like to find him."

    Five Dwimmulson rangers were dead. Looking at the expression on Skorgrund's face, Ludo was fairly confident that Klammenberg had already earned himself an entry in the book.
    Last edited by LCP; 2019-03-20 at 11:36 AM.
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  6. - Top - End - #366
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    Ludo had sat quiet through the tale, his face firm but still betraying the growing alarm he felt. There was a pause at the end before he replied. "I'm... I'm very sorry to hear that. I'm sorry for you and your companions, I didn't mean-"

    He paused. "Shadowstone. Is that... warpstone? It's sort of, um, green?" Given the circumstances, he restrained himself from using the word "Glittery".

    "The man was named Johannes Klammenberg. He was travelling through Savonne last year, and we met him while investigating Nahorek the first time. He stole a book on the subject from the savonne library and left in a hurry. We've encountered him directly once since - shortly before Hexensnacht, he travelled through Rivermouth, taking a young boy from there. We sent a message to the guard in Caerfort to intercept him, but his coachman, named Udolf, killed one and they escaped."

    "Since you set off, we - my friend Adelbert Schreiber, a priest - has encountered him one more time, hiring the Norscan warriors and the hill-men that survived the battle of Arrow Heap to steal the book of Nagash from Manaan's Keep. We drove the norscans off - we killed two, but the book ...reanimated them. Brought their bodies back to life, like the skeletons in Kheneb-ptra-urush." He thought for a moment. "Could that be what happened to the people from Turnpike Hollow? If they died violently without blood..."


    It was unseemly to speculate in front of the dwarves. "We tried to trap him, but he had already moved on. We brought the book here to Savonne, where it can be safer: it's under the protection of the temple."

    "I think Nahorek - or, some part of his power, at least - is here in Savonne right now. There have been deaths in the city - deaths that don't seem to match the disease. And the Caballera Astoria - the bodyguard of Fraulein Holt - was found dead a few days ago, her throat torn out as if by a dog. She was a very capable fighter - she killed the Jarl Rorik, and the two reanimated norscans - and she was armed. I can't imagine she died so easily."
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    Urgrim did not respond to Ludo's sympathies. It was not that he didn't appreciate them, even on a purely formal level. But what was there to say?

    At the question about the shadow-stone, the ranger frowned, and shrugged. The wrinkling of his face and the exasperated posture of his arms were surprisingly emotive, lending the response a sudden bathos in contrast to the topic at hand. "It was gloss black. I don't know if this is the same thing." He looked to Skorgrund for input. "It undid Lokri's body. I don't think it matters what we call it."

    At the mention of Nagash, Urgrim raised his single eyebrow. His brow furrowed - as far as the mess of scar tissue could, anyway - and he looked for a moment as if he was about to dispute Ludo. But then he seemed to think better of doing so, under the circumstances, and remained silent until the comment on the Turnpike Hollow villagers.

    "It could be so," he allowed, speaking slowly. "But the woman above the sarcophagus, trussed up like cattle to the slaughter ..." His voice failed him momentarily. "That was a sacrifice, if you ask me."

    The tale of Astoria's death seemed to infuse the dwarf with more energy than he had displayed up to that point. His wide blue eyes again drank Ludo in. "You think he's here? In Zhufund? We- are you-"

    His chest was rising and falling too fast to get words out. Urgrim closed his eyes and balled his fists, and tried to control his breathing.
    Last edited by Thragka; 2019-03-20 at 05:37 PM. Reason: typo
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    Skorgrund held up one wrinkled hand for calm. He didn’t seem to approve of Urgrim’s agitation.

    “This book of yours - the book that raises the dead. You took it from the ruins of Zaraz Irkul? The fortress in the cliffs?” He fixed Ludo with a penetrating stare. “You have brought one of Varag Kol’s treasures to the city, one that this… grave robber, Klammenberg, has already tried to steal. And now you believe the Black Hound himself is here.” He paused, leaving time for Ludo to contradict or correct him. “How safe would you say it is in the umgi’s temple, exactly?”
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    "There are wards on it from both Fraulein Hildebrand and the temple's magic, and a round-the-clock guard of Sforza's men." Ludo began. "And no, I don't think that's enough. But I don't know what else we can do. If the lady Astoria had lived she could perhaps have petitioned her order for a significant armed escort north, but I can't imagine we could persuade any human lord to take it sufficiently seriously. I think the temple is the safest place we can put it for now."

    He thought for a moment. "When the lady astoria died... there was very little blood there. I wonder if she was killed in the same way as the woman you described. If there's the same magic involved."
    Last edited by LeSwordfish; 2019-03-24 at 10:09 AM.
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    "I don't know that human lords are capable of taking it seriously," said Urgrim. It was a dispassionate statement of fact. "Nor what makes one 'magic' like or not like another."

    "If I may," he added, at a break in the conversation. "Who is Holt?" It was unclear whether he was asking Ludo or Skorgrund.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thragka
    "If I may," Urgrim added, at a break in the conversation. "Who is Holt?"
    "The umgi Captain's pet wizard," said Skorgrund, with a dismissive grunt. "Some kind of northern fire witch."

    Quote Originally Posted by LeSwordfish
    Ludo thought for a moment. "When the lady astoria died... there was very little blood there. I wonder if she was killed in the same way as the woman you described. If there's the same magic involved."
    "The same magic," said Skorgrund, darkly, "and perhaps the same mage. Your man Klammenberg may be easier to catch than ancient ghosts."

    Chewing his lip, the old dwarf took a while longer to collect his thoughts. "Our clan is only a shadow of what we were in the old days when we cast the uzkular down," he said at last, "but if the Black Hound really is back, he cannot yet have regained his old power either. If he had, the Reaches would already be drowning in blood. And while I wouldn't trust this princeling Sforza further than a grobi with a knife, we Dwimmulsons have always had fair dealings with the Stubbs of Last Water." He cracked his arthritic knuckles with an alarming pop. "I will speak with the Rinn. With her blessing, Clan Dwimmulson will do all it can to help. Proper, trustworthy dawi to guard this book of yours, to begin with. And perhaps together we can run this tomb-robbing dog to ground."
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    "The last we heard of him, he left a note for the norscans saying he was headed west: he claimed to have an appointment." Ludo said. "We didn't know if we should believe him or not. One other possibility is that the lady Astoria was a sacrifice, and the animal attack was to hide the cut throat. That doesn't add up, though: there must be a way to hide or bury the body instead."

    "Our next plan is to talk to the town's healers: apparently this "jackal" was seen in the streets during the plague, but nobody knows if it was real or not. After that... I'm not sure. We do have the Lady Sforza's support on this, though - she's very keen that we catch the killer, since she sees it as an attack on her husband's reputation. We might be able to leverage some resources from her, especially if we can link Herr Klammenberg to the book."
    Last edited by LeSwordfish; 2019-03-20 at 06:52 PM.
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Bloody Crown X

    Skorgrund gave a suspicious harrumph at the mention of Irene. "Clan Dwimmulson has resources of its own. In my experience, nothing motivates the umgi like the glitter of a little gold. Post a reward, and there are only so many places inside the walls for such a man to hide." With an effort, he got to his feet. "But as I said, I must take this to the Rinn. These promises are not mine to give on behalf of the clan."

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    This is an opportunity for Urgrim to offer his own assistance (=> join the party) if you want to play it that way, Thragka. Otherwise, unless Ludo has further questions or suggestions for Skorgrund, I'm ready to move on.
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    Urgrim nodded at Skorgrund's plan. "And I may not be a Dwimmulson, but you and your other comrades in this affair will I have my help too ... if you'll let me, Master Stubbs." He stood and faced Ludo earnestly. "If the Black Hound, or this Klammenberg, are in Zhufund, I will be hunting them also. I will happily do so at your side, if I might."

    "Elder," he said to Skorgrund, "I would also seek an audience with the Rinn. If Master Stubbs, and those he represents, are given to this quest, then my place will be with them. So I must tell her my intention, to sooner or later range without hold once more, and beg her leave to end my service to your clan when that time comes."
    Last edited by Thragka; 2019-03-21 at 04:33 AM.
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    Ludo was a little taken aback. "Of course... Any help would be very gratefully accepted. Having a liason with the clan, as well... We're building something here. A more important coalition than the squabbles between the lords."
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    Skorgrund made a rumbling sound at Ludo's description of Urgrim as a 'liaison'. "Young Jotunsson is not one of our clan," he said, testily. "But if he wishes to accompany you, he is a free dwarf. Come on then," he said, looking across to Urgrim. "Elmendrin is below."

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    Am thinking at this point we split dwarfs talking to the Rinn with Ludo rejoining the others for the hospital trip - does that work for you guys or would you rather have Urgrim come along to the hospital too?
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    The Lord of Lost Heart
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    WFRP 2E - The Bloody Crown
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    Urgrim proffered his hand to Ludo. "Where can I find you later, Master Stubbs?"

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    Splitting as you say makes sense to me.
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    "Either at the castle, or at the barracks for the Thorns company." Ludo said. "There are some others who are similiarly dedicated to this - I'll make sure to introduce you later."

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    Splitting works for me.
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    "There you have it, then," said Skorgrund to Urgrim. He turned and bowed stiffly to Ludo. "At your service, Master Stubbs."

    The two dwarfs left together, heading deeper into the hold. Once they had gone, the guard who had brought Ludo in appeared again to escort him out.



    Urgrim

    The Dwimmulhold was arranged in descending deeps, the accommodations of the Dwimmulson elders occupying the lowest before the seams of gemstone-rich rock that gave the clan its wealth. Elmendrin met them in her chambers behind the hold's one and only feast hall. Space inside the Rock was limited: Urgrim had known timber merchants in Barak Varr with grander living quarters than Clan Dwimmulson could afford its thanes.

    Skorgrund spoke first, relaying the substance of the new intelligence they had gained from Ludo - Urgrim's story Elmendrin already knew. Listening to all he had to say with a serious expression - though perhaps a hint of frustration at the way the portentously pontificating elder was monopolising her time - the Rinn nodded. "It is the only right course," she said. "I will write to the human queen, offering our assistance. Gold, guards, whatever we can provide."

    Skorgrund made one of his many disapproving noises. "Their 'queen' is the wife of the oathbreaker Sforza," he said. "Not to be trusted. The halfling Stubbs - "

    "None of them are to be trusted," said Elmendrin, politely but firmly cutting him off. "But things must be done through the proper channels, all the same. We do not lose our honour just because those around us do."

    Skorgrund made a sound like gravel being sifted. "Jotunsson has something to ask you as well," he said, his mood clearly growing more cantankerous by the minute. "He wishes to end his contract with the clan."

    Elmendrin looked up at Urgrim. "Is this so?"



    Tall Folk (& Ludo)

    Making the long descent from the top of the Rock, Ludo hurried through the streets of the city back to where the others had agreed to meet, on the west side of the castle. The Shallyans did not keep their headquarters in the Old Town with the other priests; they had built their hospital in the slums of the west side, where their services were most in need.

    The Great Hospital of Armengild the Martyr rose high above the city around it, thick walls of whitewashed plaster blocking out the sounds and stinks of the Warren. Inside those walls, the cloistered courtyard of the Shallyans was quiet and serene, filled with the fragrance of the flowering shrubs that covered the grey stone statue of the maiden of mercy in its centre.

    The doors of the hospital were open to all, but the arrival of Sforza’s wizard alongside another order of the Temple quickly attracted the attention of the most senior among the Shallyans. Mother Constanza greeted them with a careful civility, running a wary eye over Sieghard and making a pointed comment about the needlessness of weapons in a place of peace.

    “You will be wanting to speak with Sister Ioana,” she said, when she learned why they had come. “She has been the most dedicated of our sisters in learning about this disease.”

    Ioana was in the hospital's infirmary hall, doing her best to comfort a screaming old woman with cracked, swollen lips near the north end of the hall. Though she greeted them politely enough, she looked bone-weary, with deep, dark circles under her eyes. Constanza relieved her from her duties, and sent her to speak with the newcomers in the cloister.

    “I can’t tell you much more than what I told you the first time you came,” Ioana said, when Sieghard had asked his questions about the symptoms of the disease. She sounded as weary as she looked. “There is so much about this sickness that doesn’t make sense, and the Lady Sforza’s quarantine has prevented us from observing it as closely as we should. I can’t even give it a name. The closest thing I can find was an outbreak of a similar pestilence in a village up in the Raven Hills, around four years ago. But that disease killed almost everyone who contracted it. What we have here has killed only a few.”

    Closing her eyes for a moment, she focused on the question. “In most people, it starts with a dry cough. Their throat becomes cracked and raw, and they find themselves always thirsty, no matter how much water they drink. Those who go untreated for too long become weak and wasted, as if they are genuinely dying of thirst. It drives them to distraction - they will drink even filthy water to find relief.”

    “A few people are struck much worse than others. Those are the most dangerous cases. They become sluggish, pale, their breathing becomes laboured. They suffer from night terrors and fever dreams. Sometimes they sleepwalk or scratch themselves in their sleep, strongly enough to break the skin.” She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. “Even those people, though, recovered when brought to the infirmary in time. We only lost those who were left alone too long, or who wouldn’t leave their homes. Or who were trapped inside when the quarantine began.”

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    "Night terrors - bad dreams of a Jackal?"

    "And there are no other cases - even before the quarantine, it was all in the same place? Or, no, wait, the disease was in Alvarran last year, and then... is it still there? And when they were brought to the hospital, they recovered?"
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    Adelbert

    Adelbert stroked his beard. 'Is there any possibility this was a clever case of poisoning disguised to look like a plague rather than and actual illness?'
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    "Does the quarantined area all get their water from the same well?"
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    The Great Hospital

    "Night terrors - bad dreams of a Jackal?"
    "It varies," said Ioana. "I've been re-visiting the quarantined quarter since the cordon was lifted, trying to put together a more complete record. Some people do say they saw the Jackal. Others dreamed of old men and lepers, or Morr himself standing by them in the aspect of the reaper."

    "And there are no other cases - even before the quarantine, it was all in the same place? Or, no, wait, the disease was in Alvarran last year, and then... is it still there? And when they were brought to the hospital, they recovered?"
    "We had a couple of cases outside the Old Town before the cordon went up," said Ioana. "I think that was what provoked the Lady to action, the fear that it could spread to the castle. From what I hear though the outbreak in Alvarran died down shortly before the one here began. Around the time of the spring storms."

    Removing a small dove amulet from the pockets of her robe, she began to turn it over in her fingers. "Everyone who was not already too far gone to save began to recover as soon as we brought them here. As long as they had rest and plenty of water, it didn't matter what other treatments we gave them. Some helped more than others, but they all got better."

    Adelbert stroked his beard. 'Is there any possibility this was a clever case of poisoning disguised to look like a plague rather than and actual illness?'
    Ioana looked shocked at the suggestion. "Who would do a thing like that?" she asked. "I mean... it's been a great many people. Most of them have nothing in common except the neighbourhoods where they live."

    "Does the quarantined area all get their water from the same well?"
    "There's a well in Red Square," said Ioana, "and an old pump in Mehmet's Lane. I think both were inside the barricades."
    Last edited by LCP; 2019-03-21 at 09:50 AM.
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    From what I hear though the outbreak in Alvarran died down shortly before the one here began.
    Ludo shot the others a significant look at this. "Is that normal for diseases?"

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    Ioana spread her palms and shrugged. "Different sicknesses work differently. Some burn out quickly, others linger. But nothing about this disease seems normal to me."

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    Adelbert

    'I admit a mass poisoning is a terrifyingly notion, but it reflects a certain mindset. By striking seemingly random people the actual target can be hidden.' Adelbert says. 'The fact that people recovered once brought here regardless of their treatments may also suggest they had been parted from a substance that was slowly being introduced and perhaps ingested.'

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    "Or simply that they recovered through the grace of the goddess," said Ioana, pushing back a little against Adelbert's implication that her ministrations had been besides the point. "The Book of Sufferings says that all sickness is the work of the Fly Lord. This is one place in Savonne he cannot enter."

    The number of sick and injured people they had seen in the infirmary seemed to say otherwise.
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    Adelbert

    'My apologies Sister Ioana, I did not mean to cast doubt on your skills and your faith. I can see the noble work you do. Still, I follow a goddess too and she would not have me rule out anything just yet.' He smiled ruefully and touched the pendant around his own neck.

    'Did the hospital keep a record of the deceased for this... sickness?'

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    "Particularly those who fell sick outside the quarantine area."
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    "Our records aren't complete," said Ioana. "As I said, the Lady's quarantine prevented us from going where we were needed most. But I can show you what records we have."
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