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The Enemy Within: Death on the Reik (S2E14)

Captain's Log, 26th of Summerzeit, 2512.

I was doing my usual yawning and stretching in the ray of morning sunshine that had crept into the Shooting Star Inn. Although I was and still am regrettably in Wittgendorf, things seemed a, well, let's say a good shade of optimistic. The weather was fine, we we're going to get into Castle Wittgenstein without any murder, the beggars had dispersed for breakfast, and the bed bugs did not bite. I looked out my window and groggily peered at the captain of the guard and several of his men marching towards my ship.

"Oh, that's nice." I thought. "They're admiring our vessel." They walked on board, orders were quickly dictated, and they forcibly removed Wolfgang and Renate from the main deck... DEAR SIGMAR NO! I pulled up my pants, doffed my chain shirt, accidentally put my helmet on sideways, and frantically made my way there with my crew. They spoke of paying a tax for docking in their wharf. Claimed that the Devil May Care was "tainting their fine wharf". They're lucky I'm not their captain! That wharf is as pure as a goblin's arse! We agreed that we would pay the tax in that very instant and reminded them that we were later to be guests of the lady's castle. They laughed us off, cited some legal deviltry "unique" to Wittgendorf, and claimed that we could pay them and recover our fine, pure ship in the castle. Bastards. Utter, well armed, bastards.

A two headed sheep fled a horde of starving beggars. Nothing more, nothing less. It was a unique experience so I'm marking it down for uh, what's the word? Posterity! Thank you Harbull. I still maintain that it wasn't as impressive as a three legged goblin...

So we passed the time staring into cups and bits of mutant chicken back in the inn. There was no sign of the invitation yet, and the ship-thieves made their return. Only three of them this time. They were asking for anyone who had information about the bandits. The usual "speak up... or else." approach. Nobody seems to ask for anything politely around here. No one dared to make even a squeak. In their frustration, they seized an elderly man and called it a day. I wanted to strike them down there and then. I know that was rash but they took my ship! Think of it as being like cutting off a dwarf runner's legs and you'll get what I mean. Thankfully, I thought better of it and The One had a plan. She claimed to have seen a woman in red on the outskirts of the forest, near the mill. I dared not speak up and ruin the ruse. That time with the underground weirdos was a close call. They agreed to the let the old fellow go but wanted to see the exact area where the woman in red was sighted.

"Yes, right over there."

The One pointed towards the edge of the woods, near the mill, by a hill, and, crucially, away from the prying eyes of Wittgendorf's beggars. Ravenous for blood, they took the bait and brought their stench to the trees. The only red thing they found was a hurled ball of flame whistling their way. One was instantly cooked. Probably would've suited the beggars just fine if they found him.

"BANDITS, ATTACKING FROM ALL SIDES!" The One screamed.

The remaining two guards, singed and alarmed, looked to and fro for their imaginary assailants. Harbull yelled "LOOK OUT!" as he let loose a sling stone. CLONK, not even a helmet could save that guard from the halfling's aim! Werner and I seized our chance and rushed at the remaining thug. He must have seen us as two great Tilean bulls in a ferocious charge. His reaction reminded me of a startled hare but his speed wasn't enough. Our ship's doctor flung another stone and by Sigmar it landed true on the head again! A fitting medicine for minds diseased enough to kidnap another man's ship. A very young woman, I'd say barely an adult, urgently called us over to the mill. Now, it is true that we could have dragged in the bodies before removing their helmets. I, however, as an inquisitive and vengeful captain, needed to see the culprits right away!

It was just as I expected: horrible. Their faces were hideously decayed and no longer recognizable as human. The One and Harbull were utterly horrified and Werner rightfully damned my impulsive decision. We brought the bodies into the mill and doffed their armour. The young woman introduced herself as Hilda and asked us what our business was in Wittgendorf. We told her what we knew and that we were invited to the castle. She was astonished and told us of her allegiance to the bandits in the woods. A deal was quickly struck: we'd give them the suits of armour and Hilda in return would lead us to the camp and give us an audience with their leader.

She was true to her word. We were lead through the woods safely. Hilda paid no mind to the warped trees and advised us to do the same. I don't question her judgement exactly but those trees had faces. Pained faces that looked like they wanted to scream. I, ah, forget it. Harmless but potent fuel for nightmares, let's put it that way. We found the clearing and reached the camp after traversing the many snares around it. It felt like there were more traps than leaves in this place! The conversation with the chief, Sigrid I think, was very much to the point. There was no nonsense in her talk, she was clearly determined to overthrow the Wittgensteins. We told her of our plan to get inside, pretend to get sick and scout around the place. She said this was a good idea and to report our findings to her as soon as possible. Then we can siege the castle and get my ship back! Also end this reign of madness, tyranny and mutation. That too.

I wish I could say that the way back was uneventful. Hilda was an excellent scout, sure enough, but not even she could have foreseen several guards lead not only by their captain but also a loathsome PIG MAN! It was scaly, had bloodied tusks, clutched a spear and sniffed the ground like a bloodhound. We tried our damnedest to avoid that patrol but the Chaos gods gave that mutant a whiff of our scent and it squealed to the high heavens. I should not neglect to mention that most of the guard patrol had loaded crossbows. I charged towards the ungodly swine.

"YOUR KIND TOOK MY BOOOAAAT!"

It blinked and oinked in confusion. It was a fearsome fighter, and nearly gored my throat, but I wasn't ready to die just yet. Harbull and Hilda did their part in slaying the guards with stones and arrows. Hilda even cleanly shot their captain through his visor and let him bleed. Sadly, it was not enough to stop the volley of bolts. The One's holy blade in its scabbard barely parried the bolts. Harbull's helmet saved his skull and he was knocked flat on his back. My shield, and the walking ham in the way, saved my life. Werner was able to weather the storm of bolts and enter the fray. Sometimes I wonder if he is part Norscan...

With his help I was able to cleanly slice off a ham hock. The rest of the guards were busy loading their crossbows so we now had our chance. I lead The One into the battle with a few of the remaining guards. Our marine was happy to deal with the rest. Harbull's slung a few stones that missed the mark, he was still dizzy after that earlier bolt, but eventually his throws and Hilda's arrows sailed true. Werner did his routine of sending many heads and limbs flying and I was happy to assist him in his work. The remaining stragglers tried to flee but stones, arrows, and a running tackle from myself put a stop to that. Hilda told me afterwards that I was as fast as an elf. You had to be quick to work on a river barge or ship. Any tardy moves or disobedience and you were due some swift and severe punishment. Ask a sailor about keelhauling and watch him wince. All this battling has made me peckish...

Where in the name of the hammer is that Russo fellow with our invitations?!

- Johann Dasbuut.

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