Transcript of the game played on February 18th, 2012 at Giga-Bytes Cafe
The Chamberlain slumped into a chair, leaned forward with his elbows on the table, rubbing at his tired eyes. It was late into the night, and the old man was exhausted. He’d risen before dawn to oversee the Baron’s procession to the parade grounds with his troop of cavalry. And after the Baron had joined the Emperor’s crusade to liberate Talabheim, he’d return to the Estate only to discover the Baron’s heir missing. That crisis had been resolved by the only men he felt he could trust. But now, in the dark of a night when Morrslieb had made its unexpected and unwanted return to the rainy skies, there were new troubles.
Rumpolt raised his head, and once again looked at the stranger, Hans. The painfully thin alchemist had survived the fall of Wurzen and a harried journey to Altdorf, only to be given shelter by the priests of the dead god. And had been rescued by Rumpolt’s band.
“Tell me again.” Rumpolt said to the younger man.
Hans nodded. “The Purifiers and I had been surprised by the mercenaries. They questioned us over and over about Freddie, who we hadn’t seen, and the catacombs. We didn’t have the answers they wanted, so they tied us up and gagged us. They argued for a while, then the sergeant had four of us men take the Purifier’s robes and masks and sent them for help. Then the six others hurried down the stairs and into the catacombs where we couldn’t see them. And after a few minutes, couldn’t hear them either.”
“They didn’t come back?” Rumpolt asked.
Hans shook his head no. “Never saw the other four again either, until after everything was done and I saw their bodies in the passageway out.”
“It was the same men?”
“Yes, the same.”
“No idea who they were?”
“None. Never saw them before and they didn’t say anything to reveal their identities.”
“I’d never seen them before, either,” ventured Taltos, the Baron’s shadowy bodyguard, who sat to the left of Hans. “Later, they claimed to be Grey Company and seemed to know details and passwords.”
“Bella is a Whore!” the young wizard Balthazar said gleefully, which earned him a reproachful look from the stern Witch Hunter.
“Yes, that’s one of the passwords I know they’ve used,” Taltos agreed. “I’m not convinced they were Grey Company, but that’s easy enough to figure out with a few questions and some coin.”
Rumpolt nodded. “What of this altar you say you found?”
“I lit the braziers hung from the ceiling with a quick dart of fire,” Balthazar spoke up, “and it was right there in the center of the room.” The wizard had conjured a tiny ball of flames which danced along his fingertips.
“This room, as he calls it, was quite a chamber.” This was the dwarven Thane, Grum, the troll hunter who had somehow redeemed himself in the eyes of his people, and was a guest of the Baron’s.
“It was huge and decorated in a style I’ve never seen before,” Edwin the Witch Hunter said.
“Old work, long neglected,” Grum continued, obviously irritated at being interrupted. “Not very sturdy. Parts of the ceiling collapsed. Floor littered with stone and fallen earth, bits of rotting furniture.”
“There was a long trench in the floor, cutting the room in half,” said Taltos. “Three bridges crossed over this pit which was maybe twenty feet across and forty deep.”
“And the altar was next to the middle bridge, a bloody stone slab,“ Hans said. “There were knives, bowls with blood and urns with naptha.”
“Those would have burned so nicely,” the wizard said to no one in particular.
“Obviously, the work of an insidious cult of chaos,” said Edwin, his lip curling into a snarl.
“That, and the pile of bodies.”
“Thrice as tall as a dwarf,” said Grum.
“The bodies had been thrown into the pit. Stripped to the skin and punctured on both sides, presumably while still alive.”
“Something was moving in the pile,” Balthazar said, waving out the fire on his fingers.
“He set the whole thing on fire,” said Taltos.
“Singed my eyebrows off”, the wizard replied, “but it sure was a big fire!”
“Damned fool,” the dwarf grumbled. “Couldn’t see properly until it was almost too late.”
Rumpolt interrupted: “That’s when you were attacked?”
“They were husks,” said Edwin. “The bodies of the dead animated by dread necromantic energies.”
“They climbed up either side of the pit while we were focused on the middle.”
“One of them was on fire,” Balthazar remembered.
There was a pause as the five fighters remembered the battle.
Rumpolt shuddered. He had never seen a husk, but had heard stories of the unpurified bodies of villagers rising to attack a noble lord or merchant caravan. “But, you were able to put them down?” he asked.
They all nodded.
“We climbed down to investigate the bodies,” Taltos told the old man. “The body on top was a boy roughly Freddie’s size.”
“It wasn’t him,” Balthazar interjected quickly.
“The pile has taken some time to grow,” Hans said. “I’ve seen more than my share of the dead with the Priests of Morr. The ones on the bottom of the pile were badly decomposed. The smell was horrific. But, the ones higher up were still, um, fresh.”
The other four witnesses nodded.
“Inside of it, this trench was designed to look like a city street, carved into the sandstone block walls. There were passages into the dark to the north and south. We went north.”
“Bad idea,” said the Dwarf with a grunt. “Green monkeys. Stole my light rock.”
“I set him on fire as he ran away, but then another one jumped me and knocked me down,” said the wizard.
“Knocked me down, too, boy,” Edwin growled. “Nearly bit my face off,” he said pointing to the bloody linen wrappings covering his wound.
“Yeah, yeah,” the wizard responded. “I didn’t see that. The monkey jumped on my chest and would have gotten me good, but I got away. And set it on fire.”
Rumpolt looked first to Taltos, then Edwin. “Any idea what they were?”
Taltos shook his head. “Big as a man, gangly, green skin, wild grey fur on their heads,” he began.
“A mouth full of bloody sharp teeth and a mad laugh born of evil itself,” finished the Witch Hunter.
Rumpolt held his head in his hands and sighed. Husks. Green monkeys. Somewhere beneath this keep that he once thought secure.
“We turned around and went back the other way,” Taltos said after a moment. “That’s where we found the mercenaries.”
“They were cowering in the darkness,” said Grum. “The lot of them. Taltos here talked them out of hiding.”
“They were cut and bruised pretty badly,” Hans said.
“And had already lost two or three men to the husks and the monkeys,” continued Taltos.
“There will be a reckoning for them,” said Edwin sourly.
“Soon enough, friend Witch Hunter,” said Taltos. “They confirmed they’d been sent to kidnap Freddie. Hired by an anonymous woman, old they thought, who told them how to sneak into the Estate.”
“I have guards posted at the base of that shaft,” Rumpolt said, sitting up. He stifled a yawn before continuing. “Tomorrow, we’ll have the Engineering guild begin filling it with stone rubble. But, the end of your story, please, before I fall dead asleep where I sit.”
“Yes, of course. We could all use some sleep,” said Taltos. “To keep it short, we escorted the mercenaries out of the temple complex and then went to check something that we’d seen when we rescued the priests and Hans in the first place.”
“There was an archway, on the stage, that someone had blocked with a large, stone slab. Room enough for a small boy to squeeze through, “ the Witch Hunter said.
“We pushed it over onto its side,” said the Dwarf.
“It fell, and the noise was amazing,” said the Wizard.
Everyone look at the wizard for a moment.
“Well, it did,” he said defensively. “Anyway, there were a lot of hallways and little rooms inside and the floor was covered with all of these tendrils, like from a plant. It made me sneezy.”
“All of us were affected by something in the air, except the Lord Grum here,” Hans said.
“Men are not made of the stuff we are,” Grum said with a smile. “Regardless, we turned the corner and there was some great wheezy beast of a man dressed in dark robes and carrying a scythe like some bloody grim reaper.”
“It wasn’t completely corporeal, “ Taltos said, "but it did suffer our blows and we were able to disperse it.”
“And I set the black dog on fire,” Balthazar concluded happily. He’d conjured another wee bit of fire to play with.
Rumpolt asked: “And that’s where you found Freddie.”
Taltos nodded. “He’d climbed down a hole in the floor into some sort of cavern to hide from his kidnappers and the undead.”
“We pulled him out and brought him to you as requested,” said the dwarf. “Now, how about another round of ale, lads?”
Rumpolt nodded and signaled to one of the kitchen servants. “You’ve earned it my friends. But I’m afraid tomorrow will bring us only new troubles.
And the old Chamberlain wasn’t wrong.