Friday, 26 February 2010

Their Fated Travels...(Chapter Four)

This time the team gets in way over their heads, forced to fight or die.

Their Fated Travels…

By Robert James Freemantle

Plot Events by Lory Cozens

Chapter Four

Blind Justice – The Discovery

They had arrived at the Temple of Verena and stayed outside to discuss their next move. Though the afternoon had crept on, the sun was persistently shining through the clouds, like a piercing eye of justice of some God looking down upon the world, awaiting divine retribution…

Dieter squinted his eyes cautiously, as if straining his peripheral vision to the limits, the sun wasn’t helping. Rissandrea saw this and enquired, “What is wrong? You’ve been doing that since we first set off for the nameless tavern”.

Before the man could answer, Tordrad shouted enthusiastically, “Drinking?” before Maestro dashed his high hopes.

“No Tordrad, we need clear minds for this.”

Tordrad grumbled quietly, saying a few words that no one else understood.

Dieter finally replied, “Yes, I have felt suspicions ever since we started this investigation. Something making the hairs on my arms stand up.”

“And what do you suspect?” Tobias asked.

“That we are being followed.” He replied. “Two of them, I believe it is the witch hunter’s men. Shadowing us. One on the rooftops, one on the ground.”

Maestro looked around blatantly, searching for any sign of something suspicious.

Dieter scowled, “They won’t give themselves away that easy. They have probably been following us to make sure we do not try to run from the city.”

“It is perhaps a good thing” started Rissandrea, “after all, they are on our side. If things turn bad, perhaps they would help.”

Dieter frowned at this suggestion, “No, that is not likely at all I’m afraid. They would let us die so as to view the power of their enemy. It is what I would do were I them.”

The others stared at Dieter with a little concern before he himself broke their thoughts with, “But the minutes hand of the clock still moves ever onwards, perhaps pointing towards our fate tonight if we do not hurry along and solve this case.”

There were certainly no arguments with that.

Maestro was straining, an attempt to scout the witch hunters positions from the scrying technique of mage sight. He couldn’t manage it. Tobias could tell as he stared at the wizard’s embarrassed expression.

Comments were privately made in the notebook, the halfling enjoyed writing this particular piece Maestro noticed, as his tongue was stuck out a little to the side in his concentration.

Maestro couldn’t shake off the anxious feeling that was building up in his stomach. He wasn’t experienced enough to know if this was his magic senses speaking or just the usual butterflies in the stomach he would get before a college test, which would be invariably failed of course.

Maestro was a little too old to still be an apprentice wizard, after all, he had now studied for quite a number of years. Everyone else seemed concerned about this fact, everyone except Maestro himself. He didn’t see what all the fuss was about. He liked his life. It was safe. Tame. He already hated adventure and he hadn’t even started yet.

The others who were in Maestro’s first apprentice classes which he attended when he wasn’t studying privately with his master, were all ahead of him now. Every single pupil had advanced to at least journeyman level of wizadry. Some had advanced even further. He didn’t care about that either. It was a case of motivation, being that he had none. Even his master, the great Magnamus despaired at what to do, but never once did he ever seem to give up on Maestro. Never once did he suggest ending their tuition. He didn’t understand that. Why?

Rissandrea spoke out, “Verena is the Goddess of learning and justice. My order have close ties with them in our procedural arrangements for city wide protocols. Were the city invaded for example, our orders would work together to swiftly set up a coalition of local preparedness.”

Tobias shook his head in some distress, “There surely cannot be something wrong with the Temple of justice itself! That would be ridiculous.”

Dieter smiled darkly, “Malvanius would disagree with you there...”

Rissandrea and Maestro looked around worriedly, as if the merest mention of the witch hunter captain’s name might make him materialize somehow.

Rissandrea continued her train of thought, “I will go in first. You should remain out here. I will talk to them, in my official capacity and learn what I can. If I do not return within thirty minutes, assume something is wrong and go on without me.”

Maestro replied, “Right you are.”

Tobias almost hit the wizard in the arm, and then reckoned his leg would be an easier target, then realised he’d taken too long to decide and the moment had passed but he did say, “You would let this girl walk into potential danger alone?”

Maestro was about to reply with something that would have perhaps gotten him into even more trouble with the halfling, but Rissandrea smiled and spared him with, “It is alright. They would not harm me. I will have come to them on official church business. The front area is a public place as well. I shall remain only there.”

This seemed to calm the halfling down again.

Tordrad chuckled at how funny he thought the small man looked. He didn’t meet many of The Moot folk in his country. This was quite a novelty for him.

It was decided then. Rissandrea opened the great doors and disappeared inside. All they could do was wait patiently.

Dieter remained in a constant frown. Tordrad saw this too, laughed and pointed. The Kislevite thought his attempt at a frowning face made him look more comical than anything. Dieter was suitably offended of course, internally.

The initiate of Shallya had been gone for only eight minutes when she returned again, putting her hand up to block the sun that shone into her eyes. The daylight beamed against her glasses making her seem like she had two glowing white balls of energy where her eyes should be.

Maestro was the only one to notice the effect. He made sure to not let his imagination wander into something inventive that would work in a story he might one day write and forced himself to hear what she had to say instead.

Rissandrea looked glum, “I spoke to them. They were convinced that I was there on official business to talk to the Magistrate. They told me he was busy. I did not like it. There was something in the woman’s tone that suggested to me that she did not believe her own words.”

Tobias frowned suspiciously as Rissandrea continued, “They said that the temple was now closing to the public for the day…That isn’t right. They think because I am just an initiate that I am simple, that I will think nothing more of the word of superiors. There’s more too. As I left, I curtsied and took the attendant’s hand in my own respectfully. As soon as I touched her skin a wave of emotion, her emotion struck me. It made me sweat with panic. She was scared - too scared to even tell me.”

Tordrad could tell where this conversation was going by the tone and expression on everyone’s faces. He knew a fight would not be far away. Good, he thought, his muscular limbs were feeling stiff and could use a workout.

Dieter began, “We can not barge through the front door and push everyone aside until we find something to incriminate them, even though I am sure Tordrad here would quite enjoy that.”

The Kislevite looked suspiciously at the man as he continued, “So what do we do?”

His attention was caught by Maestro who was stood wavering on his feet. He then blinked his eyes and kept them open, wider than normal.

Dieter followed the wizard’s gaze. It led down towards the ground in front of them.

Rissandrea noticed and asked, “Maestro? What can you see there?”

The wizard looked nervous, as if he was on the brink of a breakthrough. To his eyes he saw a faint trail beginning to appear before him, growing stronger by the moment as it ran along the ground. It was a purple to pink hue with wisps of black running through it. Every time he thought his eyes could perceive the colour exactly, it appeared to shift out of understanding again. Even its texture looked like an ever shifting elongated snake of smooth shapes, then rough, then spiky then cloudy. It made him start to feel queasy trying to focus too hard on the specifics of its surface so he instead tried to follow where it went.

He spoke, “I, am seeing in witch sight now. I believe it is…a dhar manifestation of one of the daemonic elements.”

Tobias raised his eyebrows impressed. Maestro noticed that the halfling hadn’t written it into the notebook however. Typical, he thought.

Dieter lied and asked, “In plain Reikspiel please Maestro.”

“Of course, I’m sorry” came the wizard’s reply. “I am seeing a residual effect from the presence of chaos power. I believe it is… Slaanesh.”

At the mention of that name, Rissandrea marked her finger through the air, signing the sigil of several different holy orders into the space in front of her just to be on the safe side.

Maestro squinted through his spectacles until he saw the trail open up further in the distance too. He pointed at it, remarking, “The magical trail, it goes towards the Temple and in through the front door but it is fading weaker there.” He briefly wondered if perhaps Rissandrea was the cause of it, if she was the killer. She was a woman after all. Then he saw that the trail led a different way additionally.

He continued, “My witch sight shows me that the trail continues strongest and thickest down the side of the building itself, past those bushes there.”

“Perhaps there is a side door somewhere there.” suggested Rissandrea.

Maestro dearly didn’t want to have to follow it. However, he didn’t want to be tortured by Malvanius either, for a crime he did not commit. That settled it. Malvanius to him at that moment in time was far scarier than any chaos cultist could possibly be. He pressed on, following the trail like a blood hound on a scent. The others shrugged and followed.

Soon they had gone around the outside edge of the building and still no door was to be seen, aside from the servants’ entrance, but Maestro had steered the group away from that as the trail clearly led this other way…straight to…a wall.

The wizard looked a little embarrassed by this.

Tobias asked, “You are sure it leads here? Truly?”

Maestro responded, “That or my magic is on the blink.”

“Don’t count that option out” added Tobias who made a note in his book.

Dieter tapped his walking stave to the brickwork. It sounded solid enough.

“Perhaps a secret door?” asked Maestro.

“You don’t say?” Dieter replied, sarcasm dripping venomously as if from the fangs of a cobra. It was lost on Maestro.

The wizard instead looked at the ground for possible scratch marks from where a door might open there. The ground was clear, but bending down as he had, brought something else interesting to his attention – a large gap under this particular section of wall. It had to be a door!

Dieter tapped another section and this part sounded hollow instead. He nodded smugly to the others as Maestro began yanking at the gap, his fingers underneath it trying to find a suitable purchase.

He strained and pulled with all his might, which was considerably less than perhaps anyone else in the group. Or that’s what Tordrad thought. He considered that this weak man could probably lose an arm wrestling competition to the holy woman here as he bent down and pushed Maestro out of the way, almost knocking him over with his sudden strength at the man’s shoulder.

Tordrad slotted his large calloused fingers under the gap and stared at the section of wall above it, top to bottom for a good few moments. Then removed his hands from underneath and pressed very deliberately at a certain point of the wall, about a third up from the bottom. The stone began to push inwards and a door shaped opening suddenly revealed itself in the wall.

Tordrad considered that this door reminded him of the secret escape passages the Tzarina used in her palace back in Kislev…

Tordrad pushed on the door and it began to move. Maestro helped, believing that his strength was contributing something.

It certainly disturbed many of them that this door was so heavy, making Tordrad strain to push it open.

Whoever frequented this secret area would have to be very strong indeed, thought Dieter. He smiled knowing that a terrible evil must lie inside, ready to be vanquished.

Once they were inside they turned around to a heavy grating sound behind them.

The door spring had activated, drawing it slowly towards a closed position again. Rissandrea allowed fear to spill over and asked, “Do you think we should get out again?”

“Too late for that” said Dieter, “What was the point in opening the thing otherwise?”

Reluctantly she accepted this as the last of the outside light was snatched away. They were in total darkness now.

Several group members breathing heavily attested to the trauma of the situation.

Tobias asked, “Did any of you think to bring a lantern with you perchance?” with a voice that was too smug this time, for everyone’s liking, all except Tordrad who wasn’t bothered in the slightest.

No one had a lantern or torch at hand.

Rissandrea tried to calm her breathing, keeping it forcefully deep and even.

Maestro whispered a few arcane lines of a well rehearsed spell and nothing happened. Then, as if strained by another presence nearby, the end of his staff gradually illuminated until there was a bright light to see by.

A passage stretched on as far as the light could shine.

“There we go” said Maestro.

Tobias responded, “Yes, very good. First grade college students are taught that one Maestro. But did you notice anything strange about it?”

“Well it worked” replied the wizard.

“Yes, I’m sure that might be strange to you, but anything else? Like perhaps the fact that it struggled to illuminate? There is another power here perhaps, inside the place where the wind of azyr does not blow so strongly. Concentrate, what do you see ahead down this passage? Use the witch sight.”

Maestro concentrated with every ounce of his mind, staring into the gloom. The faint purple trail began to appear again.

“Found it!” he attested in an enthusiastically loud tone.

“Shhhhh” came the reply from everyone else.

“Oh.” Said Maestro, a little frustrated that this one annoyance to everyone would overshadow his accomplishment of finding the trail again.

Meanwhile outside, the two witch hunters who had been following the group came together at the secret entrance.

One looked at the wall grimly and commented to the other, “I will wait here to see them come out, if they come out.”

The other nodded quickly and spoke, “Good, I will get the captain at once. He will want to see this.”

The second man sprinted away and didn’t find that he needed to part the busy crowds. They recognized his uniform and parted themselves…

As the group proceeded down the rough passageway, it became obvious that it was much longer than they had realised. They were also sloping down at a constant rate.

Wooden plank supports were to be found all the way along both walls, looking very much like a mine shaft in some respects.

An ominous dripping sound could be heard, plip plopping constantly, somewhere out of sight, perhaps through the walls in another section somewhere.

The party’s mood for the first time had become unanimously sombre and serious. They were silent as they quickly but quietly made their way along the passage.

They had given each other worried looks when they began to hear a distant pulsing sound. Something deep and powerful rhythmically pressed a pressure into their inner ears, echoing their own frightened heartbeats that involuntarily raced to match it.

With every step they took, they knew that they could be walking ever closer to their doom.

“It’s a door” noticed Maestro, as quietly as he could.

Tobias raised an eyebrow sarcastically.

The wizard pointed his staff this way and that and it looked like solid oak all over.

Dieter pressed his ear against the surface and listened. He kept his voice low as he commented, “Whatever is causing that sound is on the other side of the door.”

Everyone’s face was grim.

The pressure coming from the pulses was irritating their ears enough to be considered painful.

Dieter quite enjoyed the sensation though.

He grabbed the brass rounded doorknob and twisted it. The door was locked.

Tordrad barged forwards, becoming impatient with proceedings. He readied himself side on and charged the door with all of his strength. His shoulder and body impacted hard against it but still it did not open. The centre had momentarily bent inwards under the strain of the impact however and the Kislevite had seen it.

He charged at it a second time, this time with his axe blade positioned directly for the gap that had opened before. As his weight crushed against the mighty door, the gap presented itself again. He quickly thrust his axe into the space, partially splintering the wood in the process but, he had succeeded in creating a wedge now. The extreme edge of the blade was indeed lodged into the door’s gap.

He let go of the axe and it remained in place. He smiled with satisfaction and brought his foot in hard against the part of the axe that he could reach.

The kick drove it a little deeper into the wood again.

He kicked it once more. There was a heavy split inside the wood, hidden by the door frame. He braced himself and backed up once more.

With a prayer to Ursun, the father of bears he charged with all his might, looking every bit like a bear himself at that moment in time, Maestro observed.

As the Kislevite’s great body thudded against the door, the lock snapped and the axe clattered noisily to the floor.

It was a testament to the weight of the wood that it had not flown wide open, instead remaining ajar.

Dieter reached his stave forwards and pushed the door open.

Maestro raised his staff to aid in illuminating the room before them.

They stared in astonishment, their faces bathed green from the glow of the strange rough faceted emerald coloured chunk of stone that sat upon a pedestal in the centre of the large room.

It glowed with an eerie illumination to match the pulsing sound that came and went.

“Gentleman…and lady sorry” Maestro began, “what you see before you is a piece of Morrslieb itself - warpstone.”

It didn’t take him long to realise that his knowledgeable lecture meant nothing. He wasn’t looking at a text book somewhere. This was truly in front of him! Maestro had learnt well what powers warpstone contained and its link to the taint of chaos was famous amongst the intellectuals of society.

Tobias too knew of the substance, himself being a scholar and a scribe he had been with the Celestial College since before Maestro was even born.

It was impossible to tell how old the halfling was, but in human terms he would be considered around forty years old.

Warpstone was known to do terrible things to those exposed to it. It could mutate one’s cells, making them more chaotic as a result. It was believed among some of the highest scholars of note to be the cause of the skaven being what they were – what they still were even today, though considered mythical they surely did exist, those terrible rat like creatures that walked on two legs like cruel parodies of humanity’s grand design.

They looked at each other. There was no turning back.

Tobias took a deep breath and shouted, “Follow me”. He ran through the large rectangular room, trying his best to avoid the darkness around him, for the warpstone was the only illumination present, aside from Maestro’s glowing staff.

As soon as Tobias had entered the room, the pulsing began to speed up, as did the terrible glowing.

The pressure in their ears was now terrible. Blood began to trickle from Dieter’s ear a little.

The others followed close behind Tobias, through the thick and murky pools of darkness that looked like dread tendrils threatening to pull them to the ground between the glowing light source and their own shadows moving rapidly.

Keeping as close to the wall as they could, Tobias led them to a door which was locked! “No” he shouted with panic rife in his voice.

Tordrad was taking no chances this time. Be brought his axe out as he came to the door and brought the great blade against it, once, twice, three times, a fourth, five times.

The pulsing had become alarmingly fast now, with the vile defensive trap’s cut switch not activated, it was out of control.

To bring it under control, someone would need to utter a daemonic prayer in dark tongue. Only then would the enchantment upon the stone leave it as a relatively harmless glowing light, as long as one didn’t step too close that is.

Six times, seven times the axe bit into the wood, cutting the lock directly out of the door. The Kislevite turned his axe around and smashed the end of the handle straight into the vulnerable section of wood that his axe had disintegrated in several places. There was a clatter on the opposite side as the lock fell through.

Tordrad instinctively pushed the door open and hurriedly fell forwards out of the room.

The sound emitted from the stone was now pulsing at a speed that almost sounded like one long tone to the naked ear.

The others piled out of the room as fast as they could when the warpstone shard exploded with a terrible magically imbued explosion.

Pieces of the jagged substance flew in a multitude of directions. One struck Tobias in the back of the head, for he was the last one out. He had taken a portion of the explosion too which pushed his tiny frame forward and out of the door past the rest of the group, before landing face down on the floor beyond. He was not moving.

Normally all eyes would have been upon the halfling’s prone form but there was something a little more distracting for everyone to look at in this new room instead, everyone but Rissandrea that is, who ignored what the others were looking at and knelt down beside Tobias in an attempt at administering aid in any way she could.

The others stared in disbelief at the sight before them. Not even Tordrad could accept was his eyes were seeing.

They had emerged into a filth encrusted underground area, a large chamber that had at the other end of it a wide staging platform with a terrible circular metal ring upon it, large enough for something of gigantic size to step through.

The centre of the ring shaped construct was awash with a myriad of twisting energies in a foul vortex that gave them an uneasy feeling when they stared at it, as if something inside was staring back. However, this did not hold their attention for long compared to the four beings present in the room as well.

Four terrible champions of chaos stood before them, fully armoured and armed.

Nearest to the crackling gateway on the left side was a terrible man who went by the name of ‘Tcharzeye of Tzeentch’. His yellow eyes were terrible, in wide open concentration upon the portal before him, like two terrible torches in hell they glowed with a dark intelligent magnificence. His dark grey skin was mottled and rough in places. He seemingly wore a cloak of black feathers. He kept his glowing gem-tipped staff as his channelling focus on the portal. His clenched fist outstretched at arm’s length towards the intruders without any other part of him regarding their presence. The fingers of that hand opened to reveal a terrible yellow eye inside the palm of the man’s hand! It looked at them cruelly, assessing them as a threat.

To the right of the portal was another foul creature, this time a female.

‘Soulflayer of Slaanesh’ concentrated with all of her terrible mind focused on the portal. She was perhaps the most experienced of the four. Certainly she was the oldest. She was beautiful beyond compare. Even Rissandrea had to admit her splendour was on another level, like that of a Goddess, she thought, then realised her blasphemous thoughts and fought them off to continue treating the halfling.

She was divine in her terrible beauty. She too held a staff in one hand, using it to focus channelling energies on the portal. She had six arms in total. The others lay at her side peacefully for now.

Down on the floor closer to the group on the left side was an oversized monster of a man, a clear foot taller than the six foot five height of Tordrad! His muscles were so large that the blood vessels inside his skin could not handle the strain and had broken in several places. Here stood the mighty ‘Bonesaw of Khorne’, his grizzly name seemingly derived from the saw that hung from his belt, though it was not his weapon. It had another purpose.

The champion’s right arm, shoulder, neck and face on the right side were all effected similarly by the same mutation – accelerated bone growth! His arm was not a recognizable thing, in humanoid terms. Instead of having a hand and fingers, his entire arm area was one large lengthy block of bone that would continually grow, every single day. If he didn’t saw it down regularly, it would grow out of all manageable proportion and soon become too heavy to even lift!

What would have been a disability to most men was used as an advantage here. He knew how to make the most of Khorne’s dark gift that had been bestowed upon him so gloriously all those years ago.

He would use the saw on his crude limb and carve it into the shape of whatever weaponry he fancied wielding at that time! That is why no weapon could be found on his person. He was a weapon!

The bone rose up at the shoulder, into a jagged needle like point.

The bone of his jaw had grown out of control, bursting through his cheek on the one side. His teeth too had grown as a result, becoming large misshapen cracked stumps inside his mouth. He could barely speak. But again, he knew that lord Khorne did not need men for their silver tongues. No words were needed in his service - merely terrible slaughter, skulls in a trophy pile and blood by the river load.

He attempted to shout at the group, with his booming hard to understand speech impediment, “ZHOOO! AHGHH WREEEEL SHTAAKE YER SKEHOLLS!”

Lastly, equidistant to the group from Bonesaw, but on the right side stood another terrible monster of a man: The champion known as ‘Blackrot of Nurgle’.

His skin was a terrible deathly colour of whitish grey. His nearly bald head had six blonde locks of long hair that ran down from the back of it, each an equal distance along the back of his head. His skin was a thick leathery looking mess all over. This was all the more horrific at his face, with his mouth and lips even covered by the same substance. His rheumy bloodshot eyes dripped a dreadful mucus-like dark green substance that ran down his face casting his features off like a sickening mascara of snot encrusted filth. It seemed that nearly every vein in his body was at the surface, bulging up close but not able to push past the hardened skin of his body. Every vein was pure black in colour, contrasting frightfully against his pale skin tone, especially across his exposed bald head.

Tordrad drew his great axe, raising it in defiance of the taint before him, pointing the weapon at the Khornite champion while screaming a battle cry of, “Do Tor!”

As if in reaction to this, his scimitar seemed to crackle with lightning for but a brief moment. Some part of him that wasn’t consumed with battle rage in the face of his most hated of all enemies, must have known that this was strange. He knew that the weapon was not magical in nature.

The Khorne champion, recognizing the challenge roared back a terrible curse in his own language that even the other champions wouldn’t understand.

Both men charged each other, looking like two stampeding rhinos about to meet somewhere in the middle.

They clashed. Tordrad’s axe lashed out and was parried aside easily time and time again. The Kislevite brought his shield round in time, forgoing his axe to block a powerful counter attack. Tordrad then shield bashed the champion to push off his second counter attack but the impact did nothing to stop the hulking brute this time. It flurried a series of attacks back at Tordrad which quickly overwhelmed the man so that all he could do was raise a shield and concentrate on blocking each impact of solid sharp bone as it tested Kislevite workmanship to the limit.

Then a massive foot came up and kicked Tordrad’s shield centre on, with a strength that notched it from the creature’s toenails that also grew unstably, out of his armour clad boots.

Even though the shield absorbed the blow, the sheer strength of it pushed the man backwards. He found himself skidding along the ground and almost off of his feet. He kept his balance with a stagger, shaken up at this, the most powerful foe he had ever faced.

If his shield hadn’t been there, in all probability that blow would have shattered his entire ribcage, he knew.

He would die in this battle. He knew that too but faced the champion, looking him in the eye with the dignity of a warrior born.

Before he could charge again, this time to his death, he saw that Tobias was quickly standing to his feet once more. He had armed a sling shot with the largest stone in his collection and fired it at Soulflayer.

It hit her in the side of the face, breaking her concentration for a moment.

Her eyes desperately wanted to turn angrily towards the halfling for daring to mark her sensuous skin, but she could not afford to do it. She had to keep channelling the spell.

She screamed something in a high pitched wail and the Nurgle champion Blackrot grunted in understanding. He began to walk towards the halfling, his overweight mass and hideous mouth looking every bit like he could swallow Tobias whole!

Tordrad saw this and was torn between attacking the Khorne champion or Nurgle’s one. Bonesaw made the decision easy because he too began stepping towards the group.

Tobias looked on in terror, his little legs were trembling, his sling shot hung feebly by his side, looking about as useful as a child’s toy right now.

Dieter had begun moving backwards into the room that had contained the warpstone. He wanted no part of this fight. They had found the chaos champions that the witch hunters would want to see. It did not mean that they had to die to prove their innocence, he thought.

He waited though, to see who would die first at least.

Rissandrea looked around at the situation about them. She saw her allies in trouble.

Her terrified voice pleaded to Maestro, “Do something! Stop them!”

Maestro up until now had frozen to the spot, confronted with true champions of chaos like this. He had never been witness to the real thing before. They were only stories in a book to him – someone else’s problem. But now he was that someone else, he and the people around him who he had began to enjoy the company of. He didn’t want to see them die. He didn’t want to die either. He’d convinced himself that his pause was simply an attempt at preparing his mind to channel a spell. In truth though, he knew that his petty magic lore training would not be enough to stop the threat that lay before him now.

He then accepted that it was him standing in these shoes, truly him. He knew that he had to step up and take this seriously. He had never wanted to be a wizard. He had fought his training at every step. Now more than anything though, he wished he had tried harder and become more powerful. It was too late for that now, he told himself, far too late.

His face became grim. His eyes focused. The purple ring around the grey of his eyes seemed to ignite and swirl. Suddenly the winds of azyr were drawing towards him. His face remained an unchanging mask as confidence took over.

He shouted at the champions at the top of his voice, <”WAIT!”>.

The nearest two champions stopped where they were and looked at the wizard in surprise. He had spoken their language. He had spoken in the dark tongue!

Of the four languages he knew relatively well, that was one of them.

Maestro continued, <“You may individually be the champions of your own daemonic gods…”>.

This got the attention of all four of them, looking at him in doubt that what they were hearing was even true.

The wizard continued, “But we men of the Empire are UNDIVIDED!”

The devout of Tzeentch looked suddenly worried by this statement. Then perhaps as if reading some insight into Maestro’s aura shouted, “NOOOO!”

Maestro spoke the arcane words of a spell, directed towards Tcharzeye, champion of Tzeentch. His magical safeguards were in place to protect his body from harm were it to come to that, but there was nothing to protect his staff from a drop spell!

The champion’s crackling gemmed staff was suddenly torn out of his hands. It fell downwards and impacted against the floor with an echoing clatter that was replaced in a half second by the shattering sound of glass! The impact had shattered the energy filled gem on the end of it.

There was a huge surge of magical backlash that swept up and swirled into the vortex of the portal itself.

A huge silhouette of a winged beast could be seen taking shape inside the great magical opening, but as soon as the exterior energy struck the portal’s centre point it exploded, ripping the ring apart in three places, sending twisted white hot metal flying across the room, followed by an explosion that engulfed the entire chamber, including the four champions.

The party were pushed back by the massive explosion and magical backdraft that knocked them all off their feet into the other room.

Once the smoke had cleared, there was no sign of the champions at all.

Quickly they stood up. Those who were stood up first helped the others to their feet.

Tordrad helped Dieter to his feet who quietly thanked him. He had after all fallen into him to knock him down in the first place.

Dieter was internally surprised. Somehow the wizard had done it. Had done something anyway. He couldn’t believe this group had actually won the fight.

He was just glad that this “adventure” was almost over so that he could get rid of them. He worked better solo and being heroes like this attracted too much attention from the higher powers. As it was he had been forced to restrain himself, with the witch hunters being around as they were.

Very little was said as they returned back up the passage as quickly as they could.

Once they hit daylight from the secret door’s exit, an entire squad of witch hunters led by Malvanius came into view.

Maestro noticed for the first time that the witch hunter captain wore a particularly eye catching signet ring. Upon it a crossed sword and hammer were depicted across a background design of the twin tailed comet of Sigmar, with the letters O and F inscribed upon it. He was sure he had seen this design somewhere else before…

Quickly the group explained what had happened and half of the witch hunters ran down the passage in a sprint.

Malvanius nodded his head very slightly, clenching his jaw in consideration. Yes, he thought, there was something special about this group...

Two hours later they were finally free from questioning. The witch hunters had gathered the proof they had needed to corroborate the group’s story, but there had been no sign at all of the chaos champions themselves, save for the broken remnants of the golden staff that Maestro had spelled out of the Tzeentch champion’s grip.

It was even decided by someone in the higher ups of Altdorf that a reward of gold crowns would be bestowed upon them, for saving the city from, by all accounts daemonic outbreak.

From their statements, it sounded to Malvanius like the first daemon to step through would have been a greater daemon, perhaps the avatar of Tzeentch to help summon more, quickly.

Decisions were being made as to what everyone would do next.

Tobias had taken his leave from the party first, heading back to some official place or another to deliver a report about Maestro.

Maestro himself knew that he would have to leave the city by the quickest means possible to avoid getting into any more trouble. He vowed that he would not make the same mistake again and spend just “one more night” in the city.

This city had stunted his growth as a wizard. He had become too fond of safety, of comfort. The tutors and his own master held the same opinion, that he would flourish better out there exposed to real danger, where he would be forced to cast spells and need to get them right to save himself, rather than the placid threat of yet another test failure. He had become all too used to them over the years.

Tordrad of course would have to go with him, he knew. The Kislevite knew that he was worth more money than the wizard was paying him, but when he had arrived in Altdorf seeking work as a hired sword, he had been demoted to the lower brand of payees simply because he couldn’t speak Reikspiel. Maestro should have ended up with someone less skilled than he, he knew. The wizard didn’t know how lucky he was, having a man such as he as his bodyguard.

When he knew he was leaving to wander the wilds alone, Maestro naturally decided to hire some protection. Though he had come from a wealthy background, his family’s money had run out.

The last of his coin had been spent on tuition fees for the College, bizarre oddities that Maestro had a tendency to waste his money on and the very last of it went on hiring Tordrad, making sure to pay him a good long while upfront so he could worry later about re-hiring fees.

Rissandrea too had to leave the city. She had been instructed to study, to learn the world and give aid to those who needed it as were the foundations of her order.

She sensed a grave darkness in the future of mankind and knew that her duty lay somewhere there, wherever war might bring suffering. This wizard, she knew, was on a path of conflict, a road that led through great affliction. She wondered how much of that affliction and suffering might be at the wizard’s own hand! Then there was the fact that the daemonic gods knew of him now. They must surely be angered…or impressed.

When she heard that Maestro and Tordrad would be leaving the city by river barge, she too decided that this would be her route. Destination anywhere, she told herself. She wouldn’t necessarily disembark when the wizard did. She would just be present so that she’d have the choice to do so, when the time came.

Dieter made his excuses and left the group, explaining that he would concentrate again on becoming a doctor and aiding the city in that way…It was nearly night he thought, he had better get home and get some sleep, before Morr’s gazing eye was about, looking for him in the night sky as he always did. He did not doubt that.