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Thursday, June 29, 2006

My little Old World: Terror Roams in Front, Treachery Stalks Behind #1

A long day hard on Liebnitz's heels
Confronted with a city in the throes of open insurrection, and driven by suspicions they themselves no longer quite believed to follow a trail that seemed to lead nowhere, our PC's were at their wits' end. A simple desire for revenge was all that motivated the party at this point, and even that dish looked likely to be served very cold, since charging blindly through the strife-torn streets of Middenheim did not look like a wise course to even the rashest PC.

It wasn't long before someone came up with the bright idea that the party might as well head for the Collegium Theologica to see Professor Zweistein. With no better suggestions, everyone agreed that it was better late than never. It took a mere few minutes to reach the Collegium through the deserted streets of the prosperous northern districts of Middenheim.

At the Collegium the PC's were able to talk their way past the beadle on duty, and they soon found their way to Professor Zweistein's room. To the party's relief the Professor turned out to be friendly and helpful. He listened to the PC's tale and examined with interest the chest they had brought along. Unfortunately he could tell the PC's nothing of the Brass Skull, other than that he was sure that Father Ranulf's faith in his ability to find some way of dealing with the cursed icon wouldn't've proved misplaced. Asked if he knew the whereabouts of Father Ranulf, the Professor suggested the Temple of Shallya, in the Northern Westgate.

While the Professor busied himself examining the chest, Berthold stared around his room in a degree of awe at the impressive amount of books Zweistein had at his disposal. The young scribe spied a small pamphlet entitled 'The Innovator, 2521' lying inconspicuously near a pile of books. Berthold couldn't resist the tempation- he furtively grabbed the pamphlet and stuffed it into his backpack.

Soon thereafter the party's business with the Professor was done. Zweistein agreed to research the chest and the Brass Skull on the PC's behalf. Satisfied, the party decided to head off to the Temple of Shallya.

On their way they encountered a company of battle-weary watchmen resting around the Black Plague Memorial. Their old companion Otwin from Untergard- now a member of the Middenheim Watch- was there. Unfortunately so also was Captain Bart Gebauer against whom Siegfried had formed a grudge he longed to exercise. This put paid to any idea of getting some serious information from Gebauer about events in the city. In fact, it was all the party could do to drag Siegfreid away from the scene before he started a fight with Gebauer. The young protagonist was still able to make sure that the Captain was well aware of his hostility.

Reaching the Temple of Shallya the PC's were taken to see Father Ranulf. The priest was resting in a spartan monastic cell too small for everyone to enter. Alane, Berthold and Seigfried went in to talk to him. The unfortunate Ranulf was plainly very disturbed, if not quite mad, but he was able to reassure the PC's that the rune-covered chest was a relic. Realising that the priest could offer them no more useful information, the party left him to his tormented thoughts.

With no information on Liebnitz and still pretty clueless, the party decided to head to the Wolf's Teeth tavern in the Southgate to see Siegfried's mum Ingrid. They managed to make their way through the streets without getting into trouble, but to no avail- Ingrid could no more offer them news of Liebnitz than those who had hitherto been close to him.

So the dwarfs decided it was time to visit the Chapel of Grungni, which wasn't far away. Arriving in the vicinity, the PC's found that the dwarfs had barricaded the area. The party was ordered to halt and were held under the aim of loaded crossbows until their intentions were made clear. Grundi and Mordrin were allowed to proceed into the dwarfen neighbourhood of the Wynd. Berthold, Siegfried and Alane had to wait under guard in an alleyway behind the dwarfs' barricades. Alane felt uncomfortably conspicuous.

Meeting with Chief Priest Hargund in the Chapel of Grungni, the 2 dwarfs explained their fears about Liebnitz. The old dwarf was also ignorant of the rebellious Deputy High Priest's whereabouts. But something in Grundi and Mordrin's tale struck a chord in the dwarfen Priest. He told the PC's about the heavy fighting that was going on at the former site of Fleischer's Slaughterhouse in the Altmarket. The slaughterhouse had been hit by a Chaos Dwarf Hellcannon during the siege and nothing remained but a crater, in which strange plants were known to grow. For some reason, this corner of the city was the one to which the insurrectionists seemed to be clinging the most tenaciously.

His tale told, before Mordrin and Grundi left the Chapel, High Priest Hargund cautioned the pair not to talk about the Chaos dwarfs because their very existence- not to mention their presence among Archaon's forces during the terrible siege of Middenheim- was a slur on dwarfen honour. The 2 PC's didn't need to be told twice. They rejoined their friends, and the party was escorted safely on their way.

Shortly thereafter our intrepid PC's found themselves amid several companies of loyalist troops who were preparing to launch an assault on the insurrectionists holding out across the street. Brazenly taking advantage of a nearby building the party found themselves a vantage point overlooking the crater that had been Fleischer's Slaughterhouse. In the crater, behind the insurrrectionists preparing to meet the impending attack, they could see strange, unnatural looking plants that swayed as if alive in the still air, and which emitted an eerie keening.

A couple of men in hooded cloaks were harvesting the plants and collecting them in a sack. Nobody could tell the PC's why this was happening. As the PC's watched the 2 men finished their task and disappeared out of sight into the alleyways of the Altmarket. Sensing that they had had their foe in their sights for the first time that day, our intrepid party realised that they had to risk crossing the road under cover of the imminent assault if they were to catch up with the harvesters of the strange plants.

Mere minutes later the loyalist troops opened their attack with a thunder of gunfire and a hail of arrows and crossbow bolts. After a few fusilades of fire, the assault went in. The PC's waited until they could see a gap opening up in the insurrectionists' barricades, and began their dash. The bitter clash of full battle was much more shocking than the bloodiest melee the PC's had yet encountered, but, momentary confusion here and there notwithstanding, the party made it safely through the insurrectionists' lines and sought cover in the alleyways of the Altmarket district.

Pausing to wonder what next, the party soon realised that they weren't far south of the Sword and Flail, known to be a lair of the Crimson Skull cult of which Liebnitz was a presumed member. The Sword and Flail would also make a decent hideout, since it would be presumed to be empty after the party's recent exploits. Pressing on the PC's soon found themselves near the Blazing Hearth, a famous halfling hostelry at the heart of the Little Moot in the Altmarket district. They could see insurrectionist troops ahead, still holding the northern perimeter of their stronghold.

The question of how the party were to get through to the Sword and Flail in the Neumarket was soon answered: the sewers. Siegfried led everyone to a sewer grating near the Blazing Hearth. Grundi gave a heave at the rusty bars, and they were in. Nobody bothered trying to stay out of the ordure this time, and the PC's soon emerged not far from the Sword and Flail.

With the layout of the tavern known to them, the PC's acted fast. Siegfried quickly climbed his rope up to the window to the junk room he'd broken into before. As he levered away at the shutters, the wood unexpectedly gave way with a resounding creak. Hoping for the best, he climbed through the window into the tavern. Grundi began to follow up the rope while the others waited down below.

Upstairs Seigfried snuck forward and peeked carefully out of the door. The coast seemed clear. Grundi was had joined the protagonist by now. The next thing the PC's knew, combat was joined with cultists ready and waiting having been alerted by Siegfried's breaking open of the shutters.

As ever, events became confusing at this point, and my account isn't helped by the fact that I've forgotten what some of the PC's got up to. The upshot of it all was that Siegfried got involved in a wrestling match to get past a cultist holding the top of the stairs down into the bar. Meanwhile the sound of an axe hacking through wood and plaster could be heard from the stairwell at the back of the building.

Down below, Alane could hear footsteps approaching from round the front of the building. Aware of the threat, and unable to join in the fight for the door to the stairs, Grundi considered jumping out of the 1st story window because Mordrin (or was it Berthold?) was busy climbing up the rope, thus leaving the dwarf effectively stranded upstairs as the melee developed.

The next thing, 2 cultists appeared round the corner. A manic gleam flashed across Grundi's eyes and, nothing daunted he jumped. The plummeting dwarf took the advancing cultists completely by surprise and he landed fair and square on top of one of them, leaving the cultist utterly flattened, and himself quite unscathed. This gave the PC's on the ground an upper hand they never lost, and they soon had the situation completely under their control.

At about this moment the sounds of the axe from the back of the building ceased. Mordrin promptly set off to see what was happening. He arrived round the back just in time to see Liebnitz disappearing off up an alleyway with the sack of mutant plants over his shoulder. One of Liebnitz's Brothers of the Axe in full plate armour stood ready to cut off any pursuit. On the first floor Siegfried (and Berthold?) finally cleared the stairs. Running down the stairs Seigfried was able to get out of the hole in the stairwell to see Mordrin standing watching as the mighty looking warrior casually hefted his 2-handed axe as if daring the dwarf to attack.

The stand-off continued for long moments. Eventually, grinning maliciously, the traitorous Ulrican warrior started to back off up the alleyway down which Liebnitz had made his escape. As soon as the warrior was in the narrow alley Siegfried charged. Sure enough, the confines of the alley prevented the Brother of the Axe from making proper use of his great axe, and he was forced to swing it with a short grip. All the same, he might well have been able to lay Siegfreid low had it not been for Mordrin's quick thinking.

The dwarf ran off up another alleyway and had soon worked his way round behind the Ulrican warrior. Intent on the foe to his front, the Brother of the Axe didn't hear the dwarf coming. Mordrin's first blow split the man's skull in two.

Round the front, one of the cultists had survived to be taken prisoner. The melee over, Siegfried and Mordrin promptly fell into gleefully gruesome descriptions of the sufferings they would inflict on the man if he was to refuse to answer their questions. So convincing were the pair in their adopted roles that their friends were shocked at the thought of the horrors they were about to behold.

The prisoner, on the other hand, decided that he was a dead man anyway. So he piped up to ask why it was worth his while saying anything given the fate he could expect. The offer of a quicker and more painless death hardly loosened his tounge. A gentler approach did elicit from the prisoner his ignorance of Liebnitz's larger plans, and the claim that he didn't know that the Crimson Skull was a chaos cult. He said he was just a baker who had joined a secret society when his stock of flour had been ruined. He was just in it to save his business he said. Eventually the other PC's realised that Siegfried and Mordrin's little act had proved largely counter-productive.

By this time the combination of the haphazard- even half-hearted- nature of the insurrection, coupled with Liebnitz's peculiar actions, had led the PC's to begin wondering what purpose the uprising served. They began to get the idea that it might some kind of diversion. But to what end they still didn't know.

Related@RD/KA!
Terror Roams in Front, Treachery Stalks Behind
- #2 Long days hard on the party's nerves
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim
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