Friday, June 30, 2006

My little Old World: Terror Roams in Front, Treachery Stalks Behind #2

Long days hard on the party's nerves
Clues to Liebnitz's intentions began to emerge over the next few days, which were otherwise uneventful. As the loyalist forces continued mopping up the last pockets of insurrectionist resistance, the PC's began by making a trip to the warehouse in which they had found the Purple Hand poisoners. When they had left the place under arrest at the hands of Liebnitz and his Brothers of the Axe, the barrel of warpstone the PC's had found in the warehouse had been left behind under the guard of 2 of the Ulrican warriors. Sure enough, on the PC's return, there was no barrel to be found. So Liebnitz had perhaps the Brass Skull, the defiled icon of Sigmar, the mutant plants, and a barrel of warpstone.

Meanwhile Magisters from the Guild of Wizards and Alchemists were studying the omens to discover what the fates had in store. Alane was told that a long conjunction of Morrslieb was very likely in the next few days. She was warned to be careful with spellcasting during this time because Morrlieb's effect on the Winds of Magic would be quite unpredictable.

In the background during this time Father Greimold was in discussion with the loyal Brothers of the Axe. He provided the party with a letter of introduction to the loyal Ulrican warriors. The PC's met with a Brother Matthias, who was able to tell them about a Balthasar Ehrhard. Liebnitz and the rest had been normal until this man had arrived in the city. Afterwards an inner circle had slowly and subtly emerged within the Brothers of the Axe. Ehrhard had left some months ago the PC's were told.

Since the party's visit Professor Zweistein had been working to uncover information that might help understand the nature of the Brass Skull. Eventually he was able to give them 'good news' when they came to ask him how he was progressing. Based on his researches he was able to tell the PC's that the Brass Skull was probably used to bind a daemon. He was also pretty sure that the strange plants from the crater would have some sort of magical properties.

At long last the PC's knew what Liebnitz was up to: he was planning some kind of ritual under Morrslieb to summon a daemon. Relief at finally penetrating the man's schemes was tinged with horror and grim determination at the thought of what they might face. The idea of just leaving the city authorities to deal with Liebnitz's evil scheme was unthinkable: whatever the man was up to, this was still personal as far as the PC's were concerned.

The party set out to wait. Siegfried would spend his days pretending to be a devout Ulrican deep in prayer in the Great Hall. The rest of the party would hang out in the Scholar's in the Freiburg, and be ready for quick action. A couple of days passed in this way.

The weather had been closing in as these events unfolded. Snow was falling thick and heavy enough to lie by the time that Morrslieb could be seen for the first time, licking at Mannslieb from behind. The PC's were ready but the night proved uneventful.

The next day was the last of Kaldezeit, so that the night crossed into the first day of Ulriczeit. Morrslieb hung in plain view in the sky that night, purple hues flowing across its disc like oil on water while orange flames still licked around its rim. When Siegfried headed for his regular watch in the Temple of Ulric he was intercepted just inside the main doors by 2 Brothers of the Axe who told him he couldn't come in. They evaded any questions and firmly insisted that Siegfried leave. Siegfried didn't recognise them as any of the loyalist Brothers he'd met.

Siegfried took up a watch outside to wait for his friends. A couple of street urchins happened past, and he gave them some coin to take a message to the Scholar's. This didn't get through, so Seigfried's wait was longer than he'd've liked, especially given the harsh weather.

The party arrived eventually. The front door was quickly tested and found to be barred from the inside. Siegfried knew the back way in though. Sneaking through the accomodation block into the main tower the PC's realised that the temple was unnaturally quiet. Something was clearly afoot. These suspicions were confirmed when Siegfried nearly tripped over a foot sticking out of a doorway. The foot belonged to a member of the temple staff who had been murdered.

Soon enough the PC's were peeking through the archway between the main tower and the Great Hall. Two fullly armed and armoured Brothers of the Axe stood before them, ready and waiting. Beyond the 2 warriors could be seen 10 robed and chanting cultists arrayed in a arc around the Sacred Flame. And also Liebnitz, the Brass Skull in one hand and a dagger in the other.

As the PC's watched, one of the cultists put his hands to his mouth. He could be seen to eat something that looked like plant matter tinged with glints of green. Then he held his hand out for Liebnitz to slice his palm open with the dagger, leaving the blood to drip onto the Brass Skull.

(Sadly once again the vagaries of memory mean that my account of this climactic battle will be sketchier than normal.)

The 2 Brothers of the Axe moved forward to cut off any attacks on Liebnitz. Grundi, Mordrin and Seigfried stepped up to engage the 2 warriors in a brutal exchange of blows. Berthold darted forward to try to get at Liebnitz. Meanwhile Alane reached out with her Witchsense to assess the Winds of Magic. She found that they were blowing stronger under Morrslieb, and felt uncommon power flow around and through her.

Liebnitz stepped up to the next cultist to repeat the blood ritual. The rest of the cultists continued to chant, oblivious to all around them as if entranced.

Mordrin, Grundi and Seigfried continued to trade blows with the Brothers of the Axe. The PC's had the advantage of numbers, but the Ulrican warriors were much more experienced and deadly. All it would take was one solid blow and any of them would be lying on the floor in a growing puddle of their own blood.

Liebnitz tried to continue with the blood ritual but Berthold landed a blow sufficient to distract him. Howling with rage the evil servant of Chaos turned his attention on the young scribe. Unfortunately for Berthold so did several cultists who'd snapped out of their trance. He was in trouble. Alane launched a bolt of fire at Liebnitz to little effect.

The Brothers of the Axe landed blows solid enough to put more than one PC in fear of their lives. Then the first turning point came: a PC cleaved the side of one of the warrior's heads off. As his brains and blood filled the air the dying Brother turned a baleful eye on his killer, then fell to the ground.

More cultists awoke from their inactivity and turned their attentions to the hapless Berthold. Telling blows were landed and the scribe felt his life pass before his eyes, only to realise in amazement that he had only lost the sleeves of his leather jerkin and not his arms themselves. Still, one more blow like that and he would be a goner.

Then Alane blew Liebnitz's foot off with a single deadly magic missile. The former Deputy High Priest screamed and fell to the floor, where his body thrashed and writhed before falling still.

With one Brother of the Axe down, one PC was free to come to Berthold's assistance, so the scribe was able safely to fall back towards his companion, then to make a dash for safety by the doors to the Grand Gallery. Outside he could hear the gratifying solid thump of a battering ram on the doors.

As Grundi, Mordrin, Seigfried and Alane continued to suffer the attentions of the cultists and the remaining Brother of the Axe, Berthold noticed that the blood from Liebnitz's shattered leg was pooling unnaturally and flowing towards the Brass Skull, whose eyes were beginning to glow crimson. He dashed over and grabbed the Skull. The fight continuing around him and the sound of the battering ram continuing to resound throughout the Great Hall, the red glow of the Brass Skull's eyes began to flow out and coalesce into a daemonic form. Hazy at first, the form was rapidly becoming ever more solid as it flowed out from within the skull.

With the party already hard pressed by the cultists and the remaining Brother of the Axe the situation was desperate and in danger of becoming terminal. So Berthold did the only thing he could think of- he threw the Brass Skull into the Sacred Flame of Ulric. No sooner had the skull hit the Flame than a blinding white flame filled the Great Hall, bathing all present in its holy fire.

The 5 PC's felt a voice resounding deep in their bones- none other than Ulric himself praising them for their heroic efforts, and marking them as his own. Each PC felt a searing cold on their right hand. The doors finally crashed open under the impact of the battering ram. Ulrich Schutzmann's voice was heard taking control of the situation.

When the PC's had recovered from their shock, they found that the cleansing holy flame had removed all trace of Liebnitz and his followers. And it had left the PC's marked with the symbol of a white wolf rampant bearing a great hammer in its forepaws- a holy symbol of the unity of the Empire.

Middenheim was saved. The Empire was secure for a while longer. And the PC's had been marked out as the bearers of a great destiny. Would they prove adequate to it?

Terror Roams in Front, Treachery Stalks Behind
- #1 A long day hard on Liebnitz's heels
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim
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