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The Enemy Within: Death on the Reik (S2E11)

 

Captain's Log: 33rd, the last day of Sigmarzeit, 2512.

We got what we needed from the Devil May Care's armoury before setting off for the Devil's Bowl. I specifically wanted to retrieve two boarding axes. Those things were a blessing even outside of naval work: well balanced, light enough to carry alongside a sword, and chucking one to herald a brawl is always a fun surprise. Carrowbr- Corobred, no, Corrow- the druid of Unterbaum had proven his immense knowledge of the land so despite our skepticism we brought him as a guide. We took three canoes, each one had enough space for two rowers, and began to traverse the river.

It took us four days to get there, as we were against the current. We followed his lead without exception. I myself was just happy to be rowing again. The first day was slow but felt oddly pleasant and safe. My mind was allowed to drift along with the stream for a while. I know it sounds a bit foolish when you consider what lurks in the Empire's wilds but I felt ready for anything. I think I was getting that same feeling from when my father taught me what he knew about the rivers. I was still very young but he made me row frequently to make sure I could handle the currents. I had grumbled about it but when I had to flee my family's killers down the tributaries, you can be sure I was thankful.

The second day kicked me back into focus. Our guide had pointed out the dying trees and bushes infected with blight. The decay got worse and worse. By the end of the journey the land was warped into blackened crags and any remaining vegetation had suffered all sorts of mutations. One in particular stuck out to me. It was an isolated patch of grass, no more than an inn's room in size. The color was an extremely vibrant green, too bright and conspicuous if you get what I mean. There's was no real wind but still it swayed of its own accord. It was too alive, and seemed to be trying to allure animals to itself. Sigmar knows what would happen if you stepped on it. I still feel a damn shiver thinking about it. If Chaos is horrible enough to make me fear grass, then you know you're up against a truly terrible foe.

We finally made it to the Devil's Bowl and could only truly reach the site on foot. It was a crater filled with a lake and surrounded by the druid stones that kept its full power at bay. Morrslieb had reared its ugly head so we had decided it was time for a well earned rest. The other members of my crew did not for a minute trust the druid, and so I assured him that he should not take watch during the night. I claimed that "he had done more than enough for us" and made sure that he and his crow did not have one eye open. I slept surprisingly well. Until Harbull screamed. I looked up, and then joined him.

A green mist, in the shape of a young woman, approached our camp. Her "clothing" was torn and you did not need a monocular to notice the glaring stab wounds she had suffered. I raised a hand shakily and asked her what her business was. She introduced herself as Brunhilda and wailed about her bones. She begged us to follow her and then give her a proper burial. I was worried about being led into a den of ghosts but, as Werner pointed out, she had time enough to bother us repeatedly so we might as well follow her. Harbull asked her a plethora of questions along the way. She told us Dagmar Von Wittgenstein had brought her and several others to this cave and then murdered them in their sleep. Dagmar of course was the man behind the observatory under that signal tower. The less said about Wittgenstein, the better. We reached a cave and found her bones in a small chamber near the entrance. From the chamber, there were two narrow passageways to the northwest and northeast. To the south, behind us, we heard... squeaking?

I dropped the bones.

"RATS!"

Three rats, the size and shape of men, were fully armed and waited for us at the entrance. The rat boy rumours were true! Their leader, the tallest warrior with a mace on his tail and dried blood on his whiskers, began to speak in awful Reikspeil:

"STAND, STAND. WAIT, WAIT!"

"MOVE, MOVE!" I recommended the foul mutants.

"NO. STAND, STAND. ROCK ROCK?"

Werner and I were ready to spill vermin blood. Wanda warned us that they just wanted to parley and that charging in immediately was foolish. She explained to the rat man for several minutes that we had no rocks. Brunhilda told us later that the little bastards probably wanted a warpstone, a rock containing an unfathomable amount of Chaos power, but for now we were just baffled. Harbull picked up a stone and tossed it their way. He told them that there's a rock and that they were fully welcome to take it. They narrowed their eyes and squeaked among themselves furiously. I laughed about it for some time after all this and am still immensely proud of our doctor's keen humour. Their leader looked to the north west and north east and let out a shrill titter. Beady eyes could be seen in the two passages northward. I wished I had acted foolishly earlier.

Two scurried from the north east, one from the north west. We were trapped but I'll be damned if we weren't going to give them a fight! Werner and I, by now true battle-brothers, took our axes and charged into the fray. He held the leader and his two wretched followers in a bottleneck to the south while I took on the the two fiends to the north east. They were excitable opponents, slashing furiously with curved and jagged blades, but by Sigmar they had no idea what fury their insolence had brought! Werner weathered the leader's assault, whether it be by blade, tooth or tail. We delivered vicious blows but their armours had proved to be well wrought and saved their hides. Our druid summoned a mighty gale that forced their leader down like a felled tree.

Behind me, I could hear that same rat man shriek as something flew through the wind, climbed upon it and stabbed it repeatedly. I correctly guessed that was Harbull. The rat from the north west had rushed in and I could hear Wanda yell behind me. Let me tell you something: you hurt a warrior, he'll destroy your body. You hurt a powerful witch, you can kiss your soul goodbye. I heard the most vengeful words of witchery in my entire life and, after a bright flash, that rat was reduced to dust. The final thing I heard behind me was very similar to a butcher quickly and efficiently preparing meat for a noble's feast. I felt a large rat's paw slap against my back, leaving a bloody mark on my shirt. I had no doubt then that Werner made short work of their leader. Inspired, I hacked my first foe's leg clean off and left it to bleed. As for the second rat, Wanda helpfully described the result later as "an excellent demonstration of bifurcation". The rest had fled like cowards. I quickly noted that they must have gotten in via the cave streams to ambush us.

The rush I felt from the battle gave way to panic. Wanda had lost an eye to the rat man and I implored Harbull to quickly stop the bleeding. After making water upon a rat man's head, our doctor was willing to help but there was a quick argument as Wanda didn't want her eye socket to be handled by a piss-handed halfling. I quickly washed his hands with a water skin and ordered him and the druid to help her. Werner and I finally buried Brunhilda's bones. Corobreth, I'm pretty sure that's the right name, performed the burial rites. She thanked us and told us that to north east was where we'd find what we need. It brought us to another small chamber but with a rockfall to the east. Behind it we could hear scratching on the stones. Squeaks and scratches. Fan...tastic. Werner and I came up with a simple plan: we move the rockfall and then position ourselves on each side of a large stone, blocking direct access to both this chamber and our allies. We did just that. After a few moments, a skeleton wearing a rusty chain shirt and wielding a sword approached me.

"PLEASE... END MY... SUFFERING"

I was happy to oblige. I struck it against the side wall, smashing its arm and forcing it to drop its sword. I then swung through its spine and brought my boot down on its skull. It thanked me right before I put my foot down. That sounds much weirder now that I've said it out loud. Anyway. Werner rushed down the passage to clash with the next former adventurer. My yells to stay in formation were not heeded. Oh well. I followed him into the eastern chamber and flung a skeleton with my axe about three yards into the southern wall. These boarding axes were a fine investment. Despite their strikes, Werner made bone meal out of the remaining two warriors.

We checked their backpacks and found about two hundred gold crowns.
Dagmar had also forgotten to take one other thing from his crew... the six starred tube! We now had the final key and could access the entirety of his observatory. It only took us three days to return to Unterbaum. We plan to purchase more rations and then set sail for Kemperbad.

Oh, and I hope that city has fine suits of plate. Something tells me that our pursuit of the witch Herzen is going to be even deadlier than we thought...

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