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The Enemy Within: Death on the Reik (S2E12)

 

Captain's Log, 24th of Summerzeit, 2512.

I woke up early on the 1st of Summerzeit. I was going to rest for another hour, Unterbaum seemed like the safest place in the whole Empire at that moment, but I heard the families singing outside. I know what you are thinking right now: "Happy families Johann? Sigmar forbid, that's even worse than mutants and daemons!" However, it was much worse than it first seemed. Also yes, Harbull and I have been spelling "daemon" wrong. We always forget the "a". Wanda told us this and she didn't mince words either. If I had a shilling every time she called me a fool...

So the singing. I peered outside and the children were dancing and singing around that large central oak, clutching colourful strands that decorated the tree. They were joined in the song by their parents, who lovingly helped them if they stumbled over their words. It all seemed pleasant. Then, their words became clear. Songs of nature and its cycle, the act of lovemaking and the seed, the children growing like trees... NO MENTION OF SIGMAR, HAMMERS AND HIS DIVINE PROTECTION! We bought supplies, thanked Corobreth for his help and wisdom, and sailed away as fast as possible. No matter how far you travel, or how much you may feel at ease, heresy and sin are always creeping behind.

The River Stir seemed a welcome change after that horror. The first day sailing it was never going to be easy but by the end I had adapted to its flow and sailed safely. In Kemperbad we made sure not to tarry. Herzen was still ahead of us and the hunt was on. We were going to purchase chain coifs, more rations and a helmet for Harbull. That ambush by the rat men was the kick we needed to start thinking more about donning proper battle-gear. Renate pointed out that we have two coifs already. They were, ah this is quite embarrassing actually, right underneath the spare chain shirts. She told us that we never noticed it because we've never bothered to tidy the place. However, erm, that's... true. I'll clean the place once we've dealt with this Chaos conspiracy. We bought Harbull a shiny new helmet with a purple plume for a reasonable price and sailed onward.

Boats, boats, boats and boats were all that greeted us along our way to the signal tower. No hidden mutants below the deck, sudden reveals of mutilated corpses, or barely concealed cult members pursuing us. It was peculiar. It didn't make our travels any less tense. I always feel that at least one of the Chaos gods has an eye on us. It was about the 12th when we made it there. Great progress had been made on that tower since we last left it. It's a shame I haven't seen more naval constructions by dwarfs. I reckon that their ships and crews are magnificent. The foreman was never the most lively talker but he understood well enough that we had to explore underneath the tower. We assured him that it would bring no harm to the foundations and, if more living carcasses emerge, that we would deal quickly with any monsters.

We were on our guard as we descended into the observatory. Thankfully, the dead remained dead this time. The key worked and the circular floor in the middle opened up to reveal a great library below. Thank Sigmar we were too paranoid to stand on that floor, that fall would have shattered anyone like a glass of Marienburg Pale! It was a vast library, an absolute delight for Wanda. I just sat down at the desk and looked at a few of the old tomes left there. No pictures. Damn. After a few hours, Wanda gave us a full report of her findings. Firstly, she found several spells that she added to her collection. Secondly, she then found a book on astrology that was opened on a page regarding the Chaos moon and the Barren Hills. This made perfect sense, we knew Dagmar von Wittgenstein found the warpstone there, but it wasn't anything that we didn't already know. Finally, the man's journal. It was about a hundred years old. He said he was going to take the stone, lock it in a lead box and then hide it within his castle.

It was in Castle Wittgenstein! That was the only possible explanation for all the filthy bloated bodies and rampant mutants around that accursed place. I remember when we used to be more surprised by these things. We took the books, "locked" the floor to delay Herzen, and made our way outside. Outside, we saw a young woman talking to the foreman. She had a black cat on her shoulder and following her reverently was a skinny young man with peculiar hair. I honestly thought it was a helmet at first. Oh, and she reeked of expensive perfume. Those holy hunters of Solkan should send me a messenger, for I could smell a witch! We hid and, as soon as Herzen and her lackey went into the tower, we would climb down the scaffolding at the back and sneak off. This plan went well except for one thing: her follower was still talking to the dwarf near our ship. Oh well, we just sent Werner to push him into the water. Our marine towered over the fellow so there was no resistance.

The foreman seemed furious (I think?) at this rude interruption. I told him something about Herzen that all dwarfs understood deeply, a unifying grudge that drives them forward and gives them purpose.

"She commands goblins in Grissenwold!"

"... goblins?"

I had never seem him display an emotion before but what an emotion it was! His eyebrows lowered, fists clenched... in his eyes was the former fire of forges in mountain homes, now lost to greenskin hordes. He bid me farewell and was resolute that he and his fellow dwarfs would "sort this all out". That witch is going to need more than magic to get out of that one. Helmet hair struggled in the water, not knowing how to swim. We quickly got on deck and fished out our new prisoner. I saw Wanda preparing a spell and aiming at the horses. I objected to cooking the horses so she just aimed at a nearby bush and scared them off. Wolfgang and Renate were startled by this sudden wizardry but I feel that they always knew something was off with our crew. We set off towards Castle Wittgenstein and left Etelka Herzen to her fate.

Wanda interrogated Herzen's companion. He was a student from Altdorf and her personal physician. He also confirmed our theories and documents regarding the cults, specifically naming one called the Red Crown. After he started working for her, he figured out what was going on but was scared of what would happen if he tried to leave. He also had her coin purse. Nearly eight hundred crowns. We confiscated it with no further questions. We didn't tell him where we were going but we did say that we'd let him go as he seemed genuine enough. We put the coin purse to good use in Kemperbad and completed two sets of plate armour. Werner pointed out that we'd look ridiculous on deck with plate armour but the plan was to store both sets in the armoury until we needed them on land. The rest of the student's equipment, his sword, vials of medicine and writing equipment, we let him keep as we released him near Kemperbad. Sure it was near a forest but civilization was only a short walk away.

We reached the port of the village near the castle. Wittgendorf or something similar. It was the most wretched piece of the Empire I have ever seen on our travels. Ruined houses contained sorrowful and famished villagers. Those not within houses were even worse off, fighting with scrawny dogs for whatever bits of food they could find. Their church of Sigmar to the north seemed out of place. Think of a window built to allow sunlight but it is blocked by grimy dirt. Southward, Castle Wittgenstein loomed past the forest.

I hope to ask the villagers here a few questions. Then, we are going to don ourselves with suits of armour and delve into that castle. Sigmar protect us.

- Johann Dasbuut.

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