Saturday, July 08, 2006

My little Old World: The Madness of Father Ranulf #2

... Oh, the madness!
The following evening the PC's found themselves in the Scholar's in the Freiburg. The night had barely begun when the same Bartomar who Berthold saw before came hurtling in. He breathlessly explained that Sister Delfholt needed their help. The PC's didn't need telling that something was happening with Father Ranulf, so they followed the messenger out into the dark streets of the city.

Sister Delfholt was waiting for the PC's by the Black Plague Memorial. Quickly she explained that the Temple had receieved the news about the fate of Odo's remains that day- no one could remember them being disposed of at all, certainly no one at the Morrspark. On hearing the news Ranulf went absolutely berserk and ran out into the streets. Staff from the Temple of Shallya gave chase and purused him as far as the Temple of Ulric, at which point they tried in vain to persuade Ranulf to return to the Temple with them. He ran off back the way he'd come instead, and was last seen heading into the Morrspark. Sister Delfholt decided to rely on the PC's because Ranulf seems to trust them.

With Sister Delfholt in tow the PC's headed into the Morrspark. The stench of burnt human flesh from the great pyres of the dead from the siege still hung in the air, and the Morrspark ravens took wing as they were disturbed and circled above, cawing. Father Ranulf was quickly found, near the eastern edge just a few yards south of the shrine to Morr. He was beside himself with agitation and was digging frantically in the soft earth with his bare hands.

The PC's tried persuade Father Ranulf to return to the Temple and the priest began to calm down. Then Sister Delfholt shouted a warning. Looking round to where she was pointing the PC's could see beady yellow eyes watching them from the direction of where the party entered the sewers some 3 months ago. Before anyone had had time to digest this discovery 2 Skaven charged out from among the headstones in the opposite direction and launched attacks against Alane and Berthold.

The pair survived the surprise attacks, and melee was engaged. As Siegfreid prepared to engage he felt something swoosh past his head in the darkness. Fearing missile attacks he tried to force Father Ranulf into cover. Sister Delfholt soon came to his aid, and he moved in to attack as 3 more Skaven came charging out of the night.

Having come straight from his researches at the Collegium Theologica Berthold was armed with nothing more than his knife, so he quickly broke off from the Skaven that had attacked him and moved to Seigfreid's side for support. Meanwhile Alane cast a light spell on her quarterstaff so that her companions could fight the ratmen on equal terms in the darkness. By this time enraged animal shrieks could be heard from where the eyes had been seen before the surprise attack had been launched.

The fight raged on. More of the blowpipe darts that had narrowly missed Seigfried flew around. Two of them hit Sister Delfholt, to no apparent ill-effect. The Skaven pressed their attacks home with some vigour, dealing out serious wounds to Berthold and the Shallyan sister, who was forced to defend herself. The combination of Seigfried's vicious attacks and Alane's magic darts quickly began to tell. The benefits of surprise and the darkness lost and their numbers dwindling, the Skaven faltered, but commanding shrieks from behind kept the survivors from flight. All the same barely a minute after the attack had been launched the last Skaven's nerve gave and it turned and fled into the night.

Leaving Sister Delfholt to attend to her own and Berthold's wounds, Seigfried ran straight for the edge of the Morrspark. Scrambling over the railings he made straight for the sewer entrance he remembered from his previous encounter with the vile ratmen. Crouching down to peer in he heard the scrape of a claw on stone behind him, and was able to twist out of the way of a Skaven sword at the last moment.

Meanwhile Alane too was clambering over the Morrspark railings and hastening to Siegfried's assistance.

Turning to face his attacker Seigfried saw a strangely familiar Skaven bearing down on him in sheer and utter rage. He was the leader who had escaped from the party when they had attacked the Skaven lair months before. The vengeful Skaven was at least as fast and skillful with its blade as was Seigfried with his, but the fight was short and brutal. Almost before the Skaven knew what had hit him, he was wounded, then Siegfried finished him off with a thrust to the arm that opened an artery and emptied the creature of much as half of its blood before it could blink.

Alane arrived just in time to see the Skaven fall. Together the elf and the human peered down into the sewer. Thankfully there were no Skaven in sight. They could see something though, a fleshly lump the size of a large dog. As they stared down wondering what it was, they could hear the sound of claws scraping on stone and a pathetic mewling from the lump. Noting the lump's utter stillness they decided to investigate.

Reaching the thing in the sewer the PC's were horrified to realise that it was a portion of the twisted remains of what had once been Father Odo. The mewling came from a giant rat lying behind the hideous carcass. The rat had a puny tentacle sticking out of its distended stomach. As the PC's looked closer the giant rat's tentacle was reaching out feebly towards the horribly warped remains of the blind priest, which, they saw, had been gnawed away here and there. Some of the bites were fresh enough still to be oozing too. The sight was too much for Seigfried who felt something give way in the depths of his mind.

Utterly unwilling to leave this grotesque... thing in Skaven hands, Alane and Seigfried formed a quick plan. Alane headed off to collect some equipment from the Gilded Swallow while Seigfried stayed to keep watch.

While all this had been happening Berthold had accompanied Sister Delfholt and Father Ranulf back to the Temple of Shallya. This done he too headed to the Gilded Swallow to collect some of his own equipment. He and Alane met up at the inn and together they made their way to back to the Ulricsmund to rejoin Seigfried. They arrived to discover that 2 Skaven had crept up the sewer and- despite Seigfried's best efforts throwing his daggers- had begun slowly to drag the chaos-spawned carcass away.

Our PC's took one look at each other, and headed into the sewer. Unfortunately they had forgotten the lessons of their previous descent into the filthly underworld, and neglected to prepare themselves against the stench. This was to have deadly consequences.

Siegfried went first, closely followed by Alane then Berthold. As our heroes made their way down the narrow ledge they could see that there were 2 more Skaven positioned back down the tunnel, and what turned out to be several giant rats further back. Siegfried charged in against one of the Skaven dragging the carcass away, while Berthold jumped into the sewer channel and waded-in against the other.

As ever, Siegfried had little difficulty in despatching his foe. Berthold too was doing fairly well, eventually forcing it to retreat after crippling its arm. Unfortunately the Skaven were as well prepared and well led as our PC's had been hasty and rash. Another Skaven way back down the sewer tunnel shouted out, and the 5 giant rats- some of them strangely malformed- scurried forward. Meanwhile the 2 Skaven further back down the tunnel kept up a regular slingfire.

This combination of giant rats and slingshots proved deadly in the confined spaces of the sewers. Siegfried went down on top of a giant rat which, pushing its way out from under him, toppled him into the effluent channel. Regaining his feet and hacking into a giant rat, Seigfried was felled by a slingshot. Berthold was preparing to grab his companion and haul him to safety in a prompt retreat, when he too was felled by a slingshot to the temple.

By this time the Skaven Packmaster commanding the rats had moved forward, had used his Things-Catcher to secure the carcass, and was preparing to haul it away. Alone down the sewers and confronted by 2 uncannily accurate Skaven slingers, 5 mutated giant rats, and unknown other Skaven, Alane did the sensible thing- she turned and fled.

Four days later, Seigfried and Berthold's battered bodies having been retrieved by the Watch and tended back to health by the Sisters of Shallya, the PC's were summoned before Commander Schutzmann. Questioned in minute detail by the Middenmarshal about the events in which they had become involved, they left the Watch headquarters realising they had foiled another serious plot. A Skaven plan to undermine Middenheim by infesting the Temple of Shallya with mutated giant rats might not have threatened the unity of the entire Empire as had Liebnitz's scheme, but Schutzmann was certainly relieved to know that the plan had failed, even if only for the moment.

Our PC's, on the other hand- anonymous heroes yet again- no longer felt quite so divinely blessed by the hand of Ulric as they had only scant days before. They had also learned that Liebnitz's evil acts could reach out to haunt them even after his death.

And- to cap it all, Siegfried had missed his romantic assignation!

The Madness of Father Ranulf
- #2 The madness...
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim
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