Ex Marienburg ad Wolfenburg
Middenheim Post Road
Greetings Master Silverforge
The morning after we repelled the Dark Elf attack, we continued our journey up the River Reik, stopping in Aldorf to restock and sell off most of our loot. Later we realized that the Dark Elf breastplates that we had sold could have fetched a much higher price than what we received. As the son of a merchant, that loss stung a bit, but we still made quite the high ransom for our battle loot. Gottri and myself were equipped with enough weapons and plate armor to join up with a regiment of Ironbreakers if needed. Wertha found a book to “aid her studies of magic.” I really have no idea what that means but considering what she was willing to pay for it she at least must know what that means. Haleon locked her gold away in her sea-chest and Rudi….well I really don’t want to know either way. I made a note to check out the Navigational School of Marienburg later….
Two weeks later we arrived in Marienburg. When we pulled into port a sailor looked at us and whistled. Our own sailors were about to say goodbye when we asked them to stay onboard. We knew little of what a ship needed in port and since we were outside of the Empire proper, having people who would know how to handle a ship and make sure it did not get impounded seemed like a smart idea.
Gottri was the first to propose that we go to a tavern and start drinking. With enough ale, a proper course of action would come to us. Although I know Dwarves don’t do magic, the thought of divining a plan at the bottom of empty beer mugs did seem very Dwarven — or at the very least a good excuse to get blitzed. We found lodgings in a reputable inn called the Dragon’s Head. Wertha was fearful of being robbed and didn’t want to get private rooms for each of us. Rudi offered to share a room… actually he said Wertha could sleep with him but the look of shock made him change it to just sharing a room and seeing “where the evenin’ takes us.” Haleon chided the Halfling saying that his crass behavior to a friend and fellow combatant was uncalled for. She added that Wertha would be sharing a room with her. Looking from Rudi to Haleon and back again, Wertha finally said the rooms would be divided between the adults in one room and the horny adolescents in another.
We bought a few rounds to wet lips and loosen tongues in the tavern and chatted up the regulars. We picked up a number of conflicting rumors about the Crusade of the Child, but learned that it had begun in the Winklemarkt. We also heard that a Witch posing as a priest of Shallya and her companions tried to denounce Karl but Helmut, a priest of Sigmar, saw through their trick, slaying the Chaos cultists and imprisoning the Witch as a warning to others that would speak ill of the boy. We were also told that Karl had bested twelve men that tried to kidnap him, smiting them all with a warhammer! Sometimes the storyteller would have young Karl best upwards of 20 men with his bare hands.
Before we left to investigate these rumors, Wertha wanted to gamble in the tavern, which surprised us. She found someone to play her in a game of darts. As she asked him to explain the rules, nodded several times pacing out the distance and inspected the darts. Eventually they had their contest and she walked away 10 gold richer, either through use of luck or her intelligence I know not which. As the man tried to call foulplay Haleon asked if she could try her hand at the dart game. Already embarrassed once for the day the man explained he’d give her two to one odds. He paled a little after Haleon thought about it and put up 50 gold which meant he needed to come up with 25. I don’t know in the end which was worst the look on the man after handing over his 25 gold or the pathetic look he had after each miss when Haleon would coach him on how to do better.
We located the Old Temple of Sigmar in a district called Templewijk. It was close to Winklmarkt so we decided to visit the market on the way. Rudi had to be constantly watched: he had money and the Market was a bazaar of new and interesting foods. Rudi plus interesting food could cause problems. The Winklmarkt had seen better days, and there were broken cobblestones along the paths, buildings were in disrepair and the houses piled tightly together, newer additions built hodgepodge on top of old structures. Nothing could move down the narrow streets except hand carts and foot traffic.
We saw several shop owners cleaning up, resetting glass panes, shutters, and even doors. Folks told us that it was the overexcited mobs that formed around the Cult of the Child. A peddler by the name of Josef Peek tried to sell us memorabilia of the child Karl: small wisps of hair and various oddities, toenails, toys he had played with as a child, etc. Wertha snapped at the man: a shilling for information on the boy, everything he knew. If the information was useful he would get his shilling. To this the man pulled out of his box from a secret compartment explaining it was the shirt Karl had worn himself when he fought off his kidnappers and even pointed out the small bit of blood on one sleeve from one of the chaos cultist. Ursala whispered to me to take the shirt and that it had the mark of Shallya on it. The man refused for less than three gold until Wertha pulled out fifteen silver and reminded him that Karl was the reincarnated Sigmar and that having one’s tongue removed was a light sentence for blasphemy. The man grudgingly took the money and we took the shirt. We made a note to visit the Shallyan orphanage later.
We finally made our way to the old Temple of Sigmar and saw two black hats standing guard next to an iron egg shaped cage. As we got closer we saw the small frail figure of a woman inside the cage. The guards barred us from getting too close.
“I’m ‘ere ta spit on dat Heretic Witch” Rudi said winking at us.
The guards moved aside and Rudi walked up to the cage,
“You can spit from there.” They explained.
Rudi looked at us and the caged women and spit and apologized under his breath before running back.
“’ese here Black ‘ats are quite rough really. We can’t charm our way through this one.” Rudi admitted.
We charmed them but not with words. The offer of five gold crowns bought us some time to talk with the Witch. We found out she was not a witch but an actual priestess of Shallya named Maida Widmann. She told us that a Witch Hunter named Osric Falkenheim had brought the boy to the Orphanage seven years ago. The boy was beautiful and a priestess named Gerda Lutzen had hidden him away and raised him herself. According to her, the tell-tale birthmark had not been on the boy as a babe. Several days ago she and Falkenheim were about to denounce the boy as a fraud, Gerda denounced us and a crowd attacked us, nearly killing Osric. I was left to die in this cage. The guards came and ushered us off.
Haleon said that she didn’t think it was right to cage the woman if she had done nothing wrong. Though we argued a bit we opted to break her out and stash her on the boat. That night we did just that and Gottri even stayed on the boat with Ursula as she nursed her fellow sister of Shallya back to health. The next morning we made inquiries and discovered that Osric was in a place called the Golden Lotus down in the Suiddocks three penny bridge. Not knowing our way around town we asked where the Suiddocks were and eventually we found a faded sign in a back alley of some kind of yellow flower.
“Is this it?” I asked doubtfully.
“I don’t know let me read the sign… Yep it is.” Wertha said.
Gottri and Haleon knocked on the door and before we could say anything, Rudi moved the two aside and called them ametuers. I had no idea when and how he got them but it looked like he had a bag of sausages, but they were funny looking. Rudi saw me looking and clutched his prize closer explaining he wasn’t sharing his ‘Deep Fried, Beer battered Sausages with a cheese center’. We waved some coin and the door swung open a foreigner I hadn’t seen the likes of before grabbed the coins. We entered the smoky room and saw men on bunks sleeping or smoking pipes. The mist of blueish grey smoke was everywhere like an infestation of snake clouds. Thicker then gunpowder smoke it was, and I felt slightly lightheaded by the time we located Osric Falkenheim, who lay on a cot, wrapped in bandages. The old Witch Hunter had a pipe in hand his eyes were glazed. At first he didn’t want to talk to us about what had happened with the boy or leave this place. I starting laughing and tried to slap the man—and I knew not what inclined me to do so. As he wobbled around from the blow, Gottri finished pouring the flask of ale on the man he grabbed him and shook him. I seem to remember trying instigate a fight between the two —and I again knew not what inclined me to do so.
Osric told us that he and some companions were investigating rumors of a Chaos cult in the swamps close to Marienburg. Few people knew the area so he enlisted the assistance of Swamper named Jekil Stumpfmund to take him to the Old Ruins where the rumors had said the cultist to be. He said they found a dozen cultists surrounding two figures, who were were holding a baby over a well of water. Shocked that a ritual of chaos would entail drowning a new born baby he and his men rushed in. Oddly, instead of fleeing outright, they posited themselves between him and the baby. Osric and his men slaughtered most of them and at the end, he found himself cradling the child, whom he brought to the temple of Shallya in Marienburg. Osric thought the baby might be tainted: it was odd that even after the slaughter around him, the boy did not cry. This was all seven years ago. When he heard rumor of a boy that was the reincarnation of Sigmar he went to the Winklmarkt with Maida to see for himself. Just as Maida was about to denounce the boy as a false prophet, we were attacked and beaten by the mob. We decided it would be cruel to leave him there and so brought him back to Brandied Sausage. We then went to the Shallyan orphanage.
At the Orphanage, we saw some of the members and the children building a platform. When we tried to walk into the orphanage we were stopped and told to wait for the abbot. This worked for us since that’s who were here to see. The Abbot came out, a stern looking woman, and led us to her office. She explained Sister Kuhn would take our weapons since the temple was a place of mercy and peace such things were unneeded. Haleon asked why the sister was not speaking to us. The abbot explained that she was being punished. Other inquires onto the subject were dismissed.
The Abbot’s account took up where Osric’s had left off. She explained how Karl had been brought into the orphanage a beautiful babe, and how he had to be separated away from the others who would have teased and harmed him. When he had come to the orphanage a twin-tailed comet was seen in the sky. Weeks after Karl was delivered to them, two men kidnaped Karl. However, Karl slew his kidnappers in public sight with a warhammer! She then said that Maida, the ‘Witch,’ had once been a Shallyan priestess, but had forsaken her god and the boy. We left or were rather dismissed from her office. We watched as the children and the sisters constructed something. One of the children grumbled about having to erect a shrine to ‘dumb old Karl’ which got a smack to the head. One child ran up to us and stuck a note in Haleon’s before running out.
The note stated that things are not as they seem and the real abbot could be found outside the temple of Sigmar. Obviously, the Abbess was the lady we had rescued the night before.
“When the temple of Shallya is erecting a temple for Karl not Sigmar inside their Orphanage they’ve been brainwashed or tricked… They aren’t sisters of Shallya anymore…” I commented,
“We need to find out what we can in the swamp from where this boy came. No one in town is going to really tell us the whole story.”
I have gotten quite good at telling when people are telling false statements and half truths. The hard ones are when people really believe something that’s fictitious.
We tracked down the Swamper, Jekil Sumpfmund, who was a very peculiar man. He wore a motley assortment of colorful, faded clothing and blathered on non-stop about the many virtues of the swamps. He sold us a pamphlet on Flora and Fauna of the Cursed Swamp. It was useful it gave us even a few tips on what to do to survive out there. He told us that we would need to travel three days by boat through the swamps to reach the temple.
On the first day, Jekil did not stop talking about the swamp. Mid-afternoon, we felt something large bump the boat and then a massive snake burst through the surface of the water. The snake was the length of four grown men. Unfortunately, we were slow to react, and before we knew it, the snake lunged at Rudi. At the moment this happened I couldn’t help thinking that maybe it was attracted by Rudi’deep fried beer battered sausages. Rudi screamed out as the snake’s fangs dug down into the flesh of his shoulder and the snake reeled back to take its prize somewhere quiet to finish its meal . Haleon reacted first, loosing an arrow into the snake’s throat, nearly hitting Rudi himself. A greenish energy swirled around Wertha and she shouted “Occumbo!” and Rudi suddenly dropped out of the snake’s mouth and fell into the water and began to sink beneath the muck.
I loosed my net at Rudi and Gottri slammed his ax into the side of the giant snake its blade slicing through its thick hide making it hiss in pain. I reeled in Rudi and saw the snake rush off as quickly as it had come. Gottri helped me pull in Rudi before Ursala worked her magic to remove the poison and heal him. For the most part after spells and first aid replied he still looked slightly haggard. I handed him a small vial and told him to drink. Sticking out his tongue he realized it was not alcohol at all.
“Feeling better now?” I inquired.
“Yes… Actually I do.” He said somewhat surprised.
“Good you owe me 5 gold.” I explained pointing at the vial. For once he didn’t try and haggle or debate the issue.
We found a place to rest for the night and the following day went without a hitch for the most part. Apart from seeing a fish with two faces on its head that looked like small children whispering before it was eaten: a Whisperfish our guide had explained we camped again with nothing amiss happening. The third day we saw an odd yellow cloud which our guide quickly steered us away from. Supposedly breathing it in would have killed us instantaneously, fortunately that time he was actually looking around for dangers.
We walked for several hours on day three until we saw the remains of some kind of ruins, covered in vegetation we couldn’t tell if it was a temple, a small keep, or a fortified outpost. As we walked forward we noticed the swamp guide stayed at the boat. He explained he wasn’t getting anywhere near the ruins since they were cursed. We shrugged it off and went to explore the ruins. I spotted a figure in the mists and I let the rest of the group know. We gave chase and found an opening in the wall of the ruins big enough to get through.
“We should scout it out since it might be a trap.”
We didn’t scout though and we walked through the opening to find the misty fog covering the ground outside was the same as inside. As we trekked forward we found ourselves within a few feet of several men, if I could call them that. We had walked into an ambush. Several of the figures were Chaos-tainted mutants. They charged us and we entered battle. The battle that ensued was chaotic at best. I remember frantically trying to get off a shot with my crossbow before drawing my sword and shield. I remember getting attacked from all sides, thankful for my new armor I felt primitive clubs bash my side still and knock me around as I lunged and stumbled through a hellish attempt to kill as many of the freaks around me as possible.
As Gottri and I made our way through enemies I heard the sounds of agony behind me. Giving a telltale look to Gottri he rushed straight for the leader of the men I turned to assist the rest. Although I had been enjoying the feeling of not dying from the heavy armor I had one the rest of the group did not have that luxury. Haleon had her back to the wall and was fighting two foes at once. Rudi, Wertha, and Ursala were against the back wall from where we entered and were surrounded. Rudi oddly enough looked quite gallant even though he looked like he was getting tossed around by his combatants. He still beckoned them forward standing between them and the girls. I stabbed the man in front of me, and two others stepped forward to attack me. My attackers had just figured out my ploy to rush them had instead been a feint to assist my teammates and were now upon me. Now I was the one surrounded. I saw Ursala going to help Haleon by healing her wounds. Rudi ran around us to fight from a distance but one of the cultist following him must have had too long of a stride since he ended up kicking Rudi in the groin from behind. Breaking the ranks of my attackers I did the same to the agressor, a plate boot squarely hitting him from behind in the groin as well.
“Now, now. Fight fair.”
I chided him as I made my way to Gottri and the leader. I yelled for Ursula to help Rudi since he was hurt pretty bad. That’s when I actually got a good look at the leader of the cultist for the first time; his head was that of a shark. As he traded blows with Gottri and attempted to bite him he didn’t see my sword blade coming until the tip tore through his mid section. Gottri was mightily irked that I had killed “his” opponent. I assured him that there were still plenty left for everyone and that if we were counting, he was well ahead of me. He rushed another combatant and dropped the cultist with one swing of his ax, splitting the man from his shoulder to his hip.
Ursula didn’t know much of how to react to Rudi hopping up and down while cupping his groin with his hands while yelling ‘Heal it!’ The fact he was thrusting his hips at her as a single tear rolled down his cheek didn’t help. We soon finished off the cultists and searched their bodies before we started on the ruins. We found a gold tooth in the leader’s mouth, I somewhat wondered if a charm for Manann could be made from the tooth. We found their food pantry, but considering the body parts of people hanging up with sausage and other such items we quickly left their ‘food’. Even Rudi didn’t have an appetite for such things. We eventually found a journal after searching the entire ruins, which Wertha read to us.
The Cultists were of Stromfels, the Chaos god of the sea. Seven years ago when the cult was larger in number and power one of the female cultists had birthed a child. The child was also touched by Chaos, giving it an aura that made everyone seeing him want to follow and protect him. A gang of Witch Hunters had come and taken the baby when they were having a ritual to get a blessing from Stormfel upon the boy. This did make my head spin with possibilities. We knew the boy was not Sigmar now….he probably didn’t know about his aura and where he was from or that he was touched by Chaos. My mind spun because someone probably did know about his aura. Someone had branded him with the mark of Sigmar to create a following. Helmut might not have been his personal bodyguard and protector… He might be his handler or worse, perhaps someone as yet unknown to us was pulling the strings for some nefarious purpose. One thing I couldn’t understand: how was any of this related to vampires? We’d need to tell the Cult of Manan about the ruins and the Stromfels ‘disbanded’ cult. Taking a sample of the oddly enough clear water from the well in the ruins I looked to see who needed help nursing their wounds as the others got patched up.