25th Ulriczeit 2511 (from late evening): Good intentions; A place to rest
They stood staring at the book in the snow as the dark ashes of the urn dissipated on the wind. Gunnar looked up at Ferdinand. “Start talking”, he instructed. Ferdinand’s head was swimming… simply being free of the urn and having Liber Mortis away from his presence let the reality of the world flood back in. “I… I… I couldn’t have just left it for someone else to discover”, he stuttered, glancing to where the axe had sundered the urn. “All this time, you’ve been carrying that thing and one swing of my axe could have ended it? (Ed: GM here. Nope… it was only that it had been temporarily weakened by the destruction of Rojas that provided the opening for it to be destroyed!)”, Gunnar stated more than asked. “What about the book?”, Salundra asked. Ferdinand had composed himself a little, “Same reason. I wanted to keep it out of the wrong hands.” “What happens when the right hands become the wrong hands?”, she asked, looking straight into his eyes. Ferdinand couldn’t hold her stare. “I just want to figure out how to destroy it”, was his somewhat muted response.
The daylight was fading and the need to set up camp was pressing. They were only four or five miles shy of Veloren, but they wouldn’t reach it tonight, certainly not in the remaining light. Salundra quickly found a dell not too far from the road, but it was enough of a depression to hide a fire and their tend from anyone who happened to travel the road at night. She set up the tent they had ‘secured’ from the Estalians, while Ferdinand set a fire. They heated provisions, making them quite palatable. They returned to the subject of the book. Gunnar wanted to try to destroy it there and then, but Ferdinand argued that they did not know what evil might be released in doing so. They agreed he should hold on to it for now, but they needed to seek a way to be rid of it. The could were low, but there was no snow and the wind had abated somewhat. They set a watch rota, Ferdinand, Gunnar and then Salundra. The first watch passed without incident.
26th Ulriczeit 2511: Mirrors; Camp Rumig; Nosey Burgomeister; The Kids; The argument
About half way through his watch Gunnar noticed how unsettled Ferdinand’s sleep was, his head flicking from side to side while his feet kicked. Gunnar poked him awake with the haft of Shadowsplitter. Ferdinand was dragged from his dream to the reality of the tent, his eyes slowly focussing. Gunnar thought he noticed something in those eyes, his keen vision catching a purple tint fading from the mage’s eyes as they opened.
Ferdinand’s dream had been unsettling, unsettling enough for him not to want to share its content. He had been moving through a world of mirrors, everywhere he turned he saw himself reflected from a variety of angles. He couldn’t get through them… everywhere he turned there were more. As he struggled he saw himself age, year by year, his youthful face drooping to an aged pallor and then to something worse. He screamed… shattering all of the mirrors… living him in an infinite plane of darkness. Well, not quite. There was something illuminated in the distance. He moved towards it. It was another mirror. As he came to it he looked into it, but the face he saw was not his own, but he knew with certainty it was him! He turned and ran… that’s when he was awoken by an insistent jabbing at his side.
Salundra’s sleep hadn’t been disturbed by the fitful dreamer or him being awoken. Gunnar got her up for her watch and he fall asleep quickly. She knew the Slayer was haunted by something, but she envied his ability to fall into a slumber any time he needed to. Her watch was incident free and she got the others up as the pre-dawn light seeped into the new day. After a bite to eat, they got on the road north again. Salundra thought something was up with Gunnar, but put it down to the happenings of the evening before.
They weren’t on the road long before they came upon another roadblock. They walked confidently to it, a young sergeant stopping them. When Salundra explained that they were mercenaries seeking to join the Graf’s forces, he let them pass. As they walked on he, called to them, “Have you seen any Estalians? It just that we had one come through here yesterday at speed, all shook up, but of course we didn’t understand a word he said.” Salundra said they’d passed a small camp yesterday, but she didn’t know what had disturbed the Estalian.
About an hour later Veloren came into view, two large camps evident in its environs, as well as a palisade that had been built in the six years since she’d last seen the hamlet… though it looked quite recent. The first camp, to the east of the road and village held a large body mercenaries. Several banners could be seen, even from the road. Salundra wanted to assess how many the cop might hold, but reasoned a reconnaissance might bring attention to them.
She remembered little of Veloren, but seemed to remember it having an inn, the White Ship, or something to that effect. She was determined to keep Gunnar away from hit. The entry to Veloren looked quite unwelcoming as they passed it… more Jungfreud troops manning a gate. They’d only gone on a couple of yards when a young soldier ran to catch up with them. Obviously acting under orders, he asked where they were going and said mercenaries were not allowed in Rumtown, seeming to refer to the refugee camp. They said they weren’t mercenaries and continued on their way, though the soldiers watched them go carefully. Rumtown, or Camp Rumig, named due to a misunderstanding over the name of the river it stood beside (Ed: A misremembering by the GM!), as it was more formally referred to, was less than a quarter of a mile from the town to its north west. It appeared to be a bustling community, surrounded by a simple fence and made up mostly of tents, though there were one or two permanent structures. Of those tents, not all were equal. Some appeared to be businesses, some very humble residences and some decidedly not humble abodes – mostly likely the latter were where displaced minor nobility from Ubersreik lived.
There was a small guard post at the entrance to the camp, but no-one interfered with them entering Rumtown. Several of the business tents had crude signs in front of them, indicating a bakery (which had a clay kiln outside the tent), an ‘inn’ (apparently called the Red Queen) and several other small establishments, well barely established establishments. Obviously all small commercial concerns hoping to meet the needs of the burgeoning refugee town. Gunnar, having spotted someone carrying what looked like a barrel of beer, was beelining for the inn where it was destined… Salundra and Ferdinand reluctantly in tow. They were the only ones in the tent apart from an apron-wearing woman, who appeared to own and run the ‘place’. She was a little surprised to see patrons, particularly such an odd group of patrons, this early in the day, but she didn’t complain and quickly served up three quite respectable tasting dunkelbraus. A portly man, balding with wispy white hair above his ears, came in and moved straight to the group. He introduced himself as Wagner Kreigrisch, the ‘unofficial’ Burgomeister of Camp Rumig. He asked if he might join them to bid them welcome. He called to Klara, the owner, for another beer and they chatted. He outlined his plans for the town and enquired if they were planning to stay, looking at the tent they had been carrying. They said they intended to stay a while, as much to avoid too many questions and Wagner suggested the south-west area of the camp as a nice area, though he claimed there were no bad areas!
As they spoke, they realised they were being watched! Three heads were lined up, one above the other, looking around the edge of the tent opening. “See… told ya!”….”Wow!”… “Whoa!”, three children stared at Gunnar. “Ah!”, said Wagner smiling, “We’ve no dwarfs resident in the camp yet, and certainly no-one as impressive as a Slayer!”. Gunnar looked to his young admirers and hefted his two-handed axe up and down like a muscleman lifting weights. The kids looked all around, pretending they hadn’t been spying and scarpered. “We’ve few children in the camp, well few that we see”, continued Wagner. “There are some living with the noble families, but they’re not allowed to mix with anyone… we rarely see them”, he mused. “Many of the people who were displaced here left their family with relatives, so, yes, there are really only those three seen playing around the camp. Pity really!”, he trailed off. “Right-o, I best be getting on”, he said and started tapping around his ample waist as though looking for something. “Karla! I left my coin purse… again!”, he shouted while moving to the exit, “I’ll settle up next time. See you good people around!”. And he was gone. “Sure you will”, shouted Karla after him, raising her eyes to the tent roof. Salundra decided to settle up for all four drinks and then went to where they might pitch their tent.
Salundra’s experienced hand made sure the tent was going up quickly. Ferdinand pretended to help, but he and she knew he wasn’t even making a good show of it. Gunnar didn’t even pretend. The kids shuffled back into view, the older two pushing the younger forward. He wandered up to Gunnar. “We was wonderin’ what yer called”, he said, hands behind his back and a leg waggling with nerves. He glanced back at the others and they nodded encouragement. “First, tell me what you’re all called”, was Gunnar’s response. “Oh! I’m… eh… Schneck. Dat’s Perle… da girl… and the other one… da boy… is Kal”, he said, not quite expecting conversation from the burly dwarf. “I’m Gunnar”, responded the Slayer lowering himself down and offering to tell them a tale. They all closed in and he told them of the slaying of the giant Bog Octopus in the sewers of Ubersreik, pointing to Shadowsplitter and the role it had played. They were entranced. “So… tell me something of yourselves. What’s it like living here? Are there many other children to play with?”, he asked. Perle piped up focussing on the second question, probably forgetting the first, “Oh no… there are no other kids here… well, there was a girl in a pretty dress, but she wouldn’t even speak with us… probably thought she was better than us.” She dusted off her dress as if to make a point. “Oh really! It’s a pity there aren’t more children for you to play with. When was the last time you saw that girl?”, Gunnar continued, trying not to seem too interested. “Oh dunno… maybe a day or two”, she said. “Tell ya what, “ Gunnar continued, “how would you like to be Honorary Manling Slayers? That’s little manlings, like yourselves, who happen to be Slayers… not Slayers of Manlings!” He chuckled, but they didn’t get it. That didn’t dampen their enthusiasm and they nodded vigorously. “Okay – good. I’ve a mission for you to prove yourselves. Let’s pick something silly…. oh say, if you see that girl again come and tell me!”, he said with a nod. They grinned widely and made to leave. “Oh yeah – keep it a secret – don’t want the older manliness finding out!”, he said before they ran off. Salundra glared at Gunnar. Subtle he wasn’t!
Soon after the party heard excited voices – Estalian voices – coming from the entrance to the camp. They decided to hide in the tent. It wasn’t long before they heard the footsteps of several people and one voice in Reikspiel exclaiming, “Okay, that’s enough. Hoosh – out – be gone! We can’t have troops wandering around the camp… get going!”. There was a disgruntled response in Estalian and en masse the footsteps moved away.
They party waited, in order to ensure the coast was clear. While waiting they heard the clipped tones of two people arguing – that quiet type of argument that isn’t quite quiet enough. Definitely a man and a woman, but they couldn’t make out what was being said. They were near, maybe a tent row or two over. Salundra popped her head out to see if she could spot anything, but Gunnar reasoned it made more sense for him to remain in the tent, in case the Estalians had left a spy behind. He reasoned he could take them all, but that wouldn’t help Salundra find Janna. Salundra spotted someone come out of a tent from the direction of the arguing, which stopped as soon as the woman emerged. While Salundra could only see her back, the woman was clearly armed and wore light armour. She strode purposefully away. Salundra… and Ferdinand… followed. The strange made straight for the ‘inn’, not even breaking stride as she pushed through the flaps. It was around lunchtime now and the Red Queen was doing a good trade when Salundra and Ferdinand entered. The woman had taken a seat on a bench removed from others. She snapped her fingers, calling for a drink… something strong. Klara served her and came over to Salundra and Ferdinand. She was pleased to see them back, glibly asking if they wanted, “they’re usual”. They nodded and tried to appear as though they weren’t watching the woman. She called for drink after drink, turning the small glasses over and placing them in front of her as she downed one and another and another. Salundra and Ferdinand drank slowly, but try to form the beer was going straight to Ferdinand’s head.
Back at the tent Gunnar heard a raised whisper, “Mr. Slayer? Mr. Slayer?”. He looked out – it was the two boys. “We’re still on our mission, but we were wondering something… is your, you know, your big axe thing … is it called Shadesplitter or Shadowsplitter?”, Schneck said. A little disappointed it wasn’t some intelligence (of either kind!), Gunnar said, “Shadowsplitter… now get on with your ‘mission’”. They scampered off.
In the inn, the woman was about seven shots in when a man entered and walked straight to her. Similarly armoured and armed, he planted both of his meaty hands on the table and they exchanged harsh words, but Salundra and Ferdinand couldn’t discern what was being said other than the man hissing, “Well fuck off, Anke!”, as he turned and left. They watched her down two more drinks, before putting money on the table and leaving. Salundra did likewise, though Ferdinand nearly tripped out of the bench and decided to stay put.
As earlier, the woman, Anke, didn’t seem to be aware of them following. She strode straight to the tent she’d come out of before. Just before entering she drew a dagger. Then she disappeared through the flap.
Until next time,