Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 20

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Their Fated Travels…

RPG Party events as told By Peter Davis-Parker (primary) & Robert James Freemantle Second Treatment, plot co-coordinating, editing by Robert James Freemantle

Chapter 20

Farewell Middenheim

Extract from the Diary of Maestro:

Day 49

We’ve been up all night and I’ve not had a chance to rest. Worse still, Rissandrea insists that we inform the Verenian temple of Tristran’s fate. As far as I’m concerned I’m done with this whole religious malarkey. I told her she’s free to go do what she pleases but to leave me out of it this time. I’ve seen the inside of too many temples in this city and I want nothing more to do with any of them. Bunch of utter poo-poo heads.

Extract form the diary of Dieter:

Day 49

Rissandrea wants to make sure that Tristran receives a proper burial. Well that’s fair enough, but I would like to at least get some sleep while Morr’s eye is not watching me. At least I was able to acquire this nice piece of obsidian, albeit having had to remove it from that petrified chaos sorcerer and as such he is missing an arm. I do not care what the rest of the group might think on this matter, but I do wonder why I have this faint reminiscence of carrying a blade in the shape…I wish to have obsidian shaped into what I just know is the correct form… I’m sure there is a specialist blacksmith in this city that could perform such a feat.

Extract from the diary of Tobias:

Day 50

It is most strange, I thought my pack felt heavier yesterday but I put that down to fatigue at the time. However upon inspection of my backpack I found several items that Rissandrea instantly recognised as part of Tristran’s equipment. I must say I have no clue as to how I managed to fit most of these into my pack nor do I have the recollection of taking them from him.

Extract from the diary of Rissandrea:

Day 50

I was shocked to find that Tobias had removed several of Tristran’s belongings from his body upon death. I had wondered when the priests had asked us what had become of some of his equipment as it was not present at the time. I had assumed as we had left the site of such corruption that perhaps they had been looted from his body while our presence was elsewhere. I have been noticing that the celestial scholar has been acting oddly only at night - ever since the incident in Altdorf. I did not had a chance to examine him properly at the time but it seems that we might not be leaving for out next destination for a while yet, I will see if I can find anything that could be the cause of this concerning change in attitude. If he lets me.

Extract from the diary of Dieter:

Day 50

It seems that Professor Zweistein has been ‘instructed’ to find out information on this daemon that was imprisoned within the brass skull and of course since we were the most involved in this matter, the most academic members of the group have been asked to assist with the inquiry at the library. Surprisingly Maestro was more than eager to get involved with it. My guess is that he just wants to get away from holy Temples as much as possible.

Tobias looked at Maestro who had his nose buried in a book, trying to get some last good reading done before the sunlight was gone.

“Maestro I must declare that your obsession with daemons is a rather dangerous subject, most people in your position should not show such interests.”

The unofficial journeyman wizard looked up from the book he was writing, “Well actually it’s more of a fact that they might have an interest in me, there was a rather odd occurrence that took place during one of my lessons at the college.”

Several years ago, Altdorf, the Celestial college:

Maestro was sat within yet another lecture. He wasn’t paying total attention to everything the instructor was saying as he was focused on the paper in front of him which was covered in notes. Most of these notes were of rudimentary engineering schematics, although there were arcane marks as well.

Today’s lecture was on the dangers of magic, or rather ways to avoid attracting the ire of Tzeentch. The primary way to do this was with a protective magic circle that allowed the caster to focus the winds of magic more stably.

The master wizard that was tutoring this particular class had a rather odd styled beard in that it was exceptionally long. Within the long strands of hair were entwined metal discs shaped as arcane symbols, some of which the students had never seen before. Maestro fancied that the tutor had a miniature symbol situated in his nose and that it caught the light when the man turned his head – that or perhaps it was a piece of snot. Either way, there was probably some magical answer for it all as far as Maestro knew. This was of course the major problem: Maestro didn’t know very much at all.

The teacher continued his instructions, explaining that the very spot he stood upon was overly magically imbued – a vortex of pressure that swells into the physical realm from the other plane, the daemonic sub-reality attached to theirs. He explained that special magical safeguards are employed here to keep the opening as just a swell and not a fissure. Were it a fissure he explained, then any matter of daemonic manifestation might occur and that is why a magic circle is the only true way to protect one’s self while casting up the eight winds of magic. This technique was particularly expressed to these students who were not yet even at senior apprentice level. The eyes of Tzeentch were particularly watchful for students who were gifted in magic but lacking in the patience and maturity to properly control it.

At that moment, a cracking sound caught everyone’s attention. Even Maestro looked up. The teacher stared down at the floor with a puzzled expression and stated, “Alright then apprentices, what you are witnessing here is a conjoined physical to non corporeal emanation. This is likely caused from some…thing from the other side walking over the fault line that leads into our reality. If we did not have the magic circle in place right now, we would be subject to an anomalous emanation of purest evil. That is why…”

His words were suddenly cut off from a loud hissing sound that erupted up from the floor. The teacher looked down at his feet and saw pink smoke billowing up from the centre of the circle. He quickly incanted a spell, summoning the winds about him but the smoke interfered with that. It was quickly taking on a thickly reddish hue as the teacher noticed that it seemed to be clinging to the very magic around it. Every piece of energy the teacher summoned was negated. The smoke engulfed the winds of magic so that the master wizard could not channel. A green crackling spat and sparked up from the floor as flames erupted from the circle and a terrible howling sound wailed into the room.

“Students, evacuate the classroom at once, the circle has failed and we are in the midst of a daemonic outbreak. Sigmar knows what is coming!”

The pupils of the lessons didn’t have to be told twice. Within moments they were all up in a mad scramble for the exit. Maestro was still wrapped up in his doodling of course, for he was used to great sounds of hustle and bustle during such lessons. Usually it was from students rudely running to the front of the room to get a better look at whatever spell had been cast. This time however, Maestro didn’t hear the master wizard tutor shout at them all and tell them to return to their seats. This fact made him look up from his drawing and then he saw it - All hell breaking loose. The teacher was already gone. Endrel, Maestro’s most despised foe, a fellow student in his class was last out of the room. Their mutual hate for each other had gone on since they had first met one another. Endrel was nice enough to inform the teacher that he was the last student in there and helpfully closed the door which was then magically locked from the outside. This left poor Maestro stranded inside the room.

Maestro was up on his feet, running towards the door, stepping carefully around the magic circle and site of the emanation as he screamed, “I’m still in here, let me out, I say, let me out won’t you?”

Some of the other students outside looked to the master wizard in alarm but he smiled casually, “Ah yes, a daemon will do anything, try any trick to be let free, but do not worry apprentices, the walls and door themselves are tightly protected with sealing spells. It will go no further than that classroom, I assure you.”

All of this was no good for Maestro however, who thumped and slammed on the door. He did a quick run up and kicked it with one foot, his pathetic skinny leg showing momentarily under his robes, indicating that he lacked the strength for any such brash action of physicality. Damn that Endrel thought Maestro, as he looked back at the circle trying to determine how it even went wrong. He knew he should have paid more attention in lessons. Just then he spotted something that seemed to be out of place within the circle. Somewhere within one of the many arcane symbols, near the edge of a triplet of triangle like shapes was a shoe print that led to a scuff. This had damaged the drawing’s integrity. As terrible realisation dawned on Maestro he looked down at his own feet. There at the front and soles of his shoe he saw…chalk. “Oh dear” he said aloud, “it must have been when I left the classroom earlier. I didn’t realise they had a silly circle down. While the tutor explained I was probably relieving myself in the urinal. Well I’m not very relieved now!”

At that moment, an eruption of floor tiles and magical heat made Maestro jump into the air, a look of fear in his eyes like a deer in the headlights of a truck. He very almost relieved himself again, in his robes, as he scattered back the other way across the room, fearing to look upon the monstrous abomination present. He could now sense its evil intentions, its malign spirit and will to destroy, making his skin cringe at just the notion.

Maestro ran to the other end of the classroom and grabbed from the window sill a long stick with a hook at the end of it, which was normally used to open and close the high classroom windows. Not here though. Maestro looped the hook into the metal loop attached to the window and yanked it to make sure it was locked. He then left it dangling inside the window loop and began climbing up the pole, the angle of the hook thrust into it funnily enough kept it steady, at least for now, as Maestro was able to manoeuvre his way to the top up the pole.

His legs shivered as he could only guess at which vile monster lurked in the classroom below him. He heard it snorting and felt the eminence of its evil. This was indeed a daemon! He had been trained to recognise the spiritual signatures of them at the very least, even though he had up until now never seen one. He had only ever heard them, here and there throughout the college halls, accidentally summoned or being banished.

Finally, after much nefarious cackling from below, Maestro built up the courage to look down and see his fate. He had wondered why he wasn’t dead yet for a start. Upon glancing at the daemon, he then realised why. The summoned creature was indeed a daemon. Its red skin, yellow eyes, horns and cloven feet an indicator that it was a creature of Khorne – yet it was also only – an imp…A very small daemon indeed, but still frightening to behold, in its own way…

Maestro realised that the creature was not tall enough to actually reach him, despite it trying to jump up and down. Maestro smiled eventually and called down to it, “Well well, it seems that we are at an impasse doesn’t it?”

The creature looked suddenly shocked. This human, this young weak human had spoken in the dark tongue. Maestro had indeed been taught this language by his own master, the bright wizard Magnamus, but he hadn’t realised he had used it here. Something in his brain had automatically made his speech adapt to the situation without him being aware.

Daemons did in fact have their own language, but the dark tongue was a language used by the forces of chaos and beastmen. In speaking it, there was an entry point to talk to daemons too.

Maestro’s smug expression quickly changed to one of dismay however, as the window loop partially snapped from the wooden frame it had been built into. This effectively broke the locking mechanism. The window slowly yawned open and down, drooping Maestro closer and closer towards the imp with every moment.

With all of his strength, a greater deal more athleticism than would be the norm for him about his movements due to fear, Maestro swung from the pole as it too came free from the window completely and he jumped long and far through the air, landing on a desk about halfway back along the classroom. The imp grinned in glee, licking wistfully at a chunk of flesh attached to his claws, from some earlier victim no doubt and then it began to advance, quickly on its short little legs.

Maestro knew that he had to destroy this creature fast, for even though it was one of the admittedly lower denizens of the daemonic planes, Maestro was one of the admittedly lower wizards of the magical order. The wizard summoned as much strength as he could muster, calling for the winds of magic to aid him like they never have before – and indeed they never really had aided him in much…Then with an outward thrust of his two hands, palms outstretched towards his enemy he launched a large magical dart attack that shot towards the creature, only to fizzle out before contact.

Yes considered Maestro, that spell needed a little work. He realised he wouldn’t even be able to mind dart the foe to simply give it a headache either.

Oh how the imp cackled, which turned into roaring laughter, albeit from an exceedingly high pitched voice. The imp bent over forwards, slapped his knee and pointed at the wizard.

Maestro at first considered that he had never before been so humiliated. Then he remembered some of the other things he had done in the College up until now…Well then, he knew there was nothing else for it. He couldn’t fight it head on so he would have to choose one of the smallest spells he could think of, something so diminutive that the Imp’s Khornite anti magical essence wouldn’t shut it down, nor be considered a threat to it.

Maestro summoned his energy again, this time with his hands weaving the signs behind his back. He concentrated hard to make sure that the icons were weaved correctly as they were in reverse, but this delay mattered not as his diminutive foe was still laughing distractedly. Silently the last line of the sound spell was recited.

An incredible roaring voice shot out from behind the Imp, ending its cruel laughter and wiping all of the humour from its face. The imp began to shiver on the spot recognizing the sound bellowing behind him. It was so paralyzed with fear that it did not attempt to turn around and face the apparent newcomer.

Maestro had heard daemons throughout the College halls, but never would he forget that roar and sheer mocking supremacy of a creature he heard bellowing through one of the portals: A bloodthirster of Khorne. This was a creature considered to be the very avatar of its God’s presence and will, higher in scale even than that of a mere daemon Prince. The creature breathed heavily, threateningly. The problem at this time was that while Maestro did have a minor grasp of the daemonic tongue (as much as he was allowed to see), he would not be able to have the fake beast talk convincingly to the Imp and of course if the little fellow didn’t for one moment believe in the authenticity of proceedings he might well turn about and see that it was all a trick, that nothing was there. Maestro therefore did the next best thing. He had the pretend bloodthirster address him instead, speaking in a language he did know – dark tongue.

It began, “Little wizard worm. Oh I know your name Maestro Rophel Illefescion In The Flesh.”

Maestro feigned an impressed nod of his head at the pretend bloodthirster getting his full title correct…The imp wasn’t intelligent enough to pick up on this stupidity.

The bloodthirster continued, “You are mine, wizard, but you are not yet ready for me. You are still too weak, your soul is not yet tasty enough, your belly is not yet fat and suckling enough. But any…ANY who would harm you before you are ready for me…they will suffer in a way of my most grandiose design, that which I would restrict to those who have wronged me or offended me in the worst possible way. Blood for the blood God!”

The imp frighteningly chimed a response, “Skulls for the skull throne.”

A terrifying laugh from the perceived beast made the imp’s knees knock together in fright before it bellowed, “Now begone from my sight, lest I flay you and use you for a toothpick to your own flesh, all of you!”

With that, the little imp ran to the portal, not daring to look behind him before jumping through the vortex like hole in the floor and within a second he was gone, as was the opening as if it had never been there. The apprentice wizard had done it, all with the manipulation of a mere sound spell, worked masterfully like a puppet. He quickly grabbed the chalk from the nearby blackboard and drew the magic circle back in place as it was supposed to have been. He decided that when they’d ask how it had happened he would say he didn’t know. When they asked him how he survived an attack from a creature of the daemonic planes, he would say it was a Khornite bloodletter under bellowed instructions from a bloodthirster too. They had heard it all, after all. That he had survived was a tale that went around between the students for some time to come, yet this only added to Maestro being considered weird and an outsider by his fellow pupils – and the hailed congratulations from the tutors only served to make Endrel despise him even more…

Tobias stared aghast at Maestro as he finished the tale, “You know Maestro, I could quite easily report this in my findings. That you were dishonest and were the cause of the very outbreak you were hailed a hero for resolving. You are a dis…honest…”

Maestro’s eyes fixed on Tobias, for he had stopped talking and a strange expression had come over his features.

The halfling continued, “Dishonest…yes, yes but what was I saying. Gah, this damned robe again, so constricting.” Then he pulled the offending garment off once more, revealing his black thieving garb below.

Ah yes, thought Maestro as he looked up at the moons taking to the sky, Tobias has changed into his alter ego again. What a spot of good luck for me!

Maestro carefully packed the scholar’s robes into his backpack as he always would when Tobias changed like this. Inside the pack though he found another set of celestial wizard robes and a pointy hat. Maestro said aloud, “Gosh, is that your spare clothes Tobias?”

The halfling stared and concentrated really hard, a look of grim internal conflict on his face as two personalities fought to get to the fore. The scholar’s personality had a brief flash of awakening enough for the halfling thief to respond, “Oh that thing, well you have been performing very well in your duties, that of an…inbetweeny wizard…”

Maestro helpfully jolted in with, “Journeyman?”

“Yes, journeyman, that’s what your lot call it. So I planned on giving it to you so that you should at least look the part that you are ready for…I think”

Maestro’s face lit up. Tobias considered him ready to be called a Journeyman at last. How wonderful. He would at least look the part and perhaps he would get some more respect from people. Then he remembered the reality of the Old World and considered that the defined appearance of a wizard in fact caused fear in people and as Maestro knew all too well, scared people did dangerous things – after all he was a scared person most of the time…

After much research by Maestro and Tobias, the group determined that this new threat, this new Khornite danger still had the worst to come and they managed to track down the position of the next shard of the creature’s essence: It was somewhere in Altdorf.

The (mostly ) ill-fated group decided to take a caravan back to the Empire’s capital city. The view was that there would be safety in numbers. Maestro of course considered that it also meant more chance of meeting “a crank” as he put it. But he also considered that it meant more people to die before him if something terrible were to befall them on the way.

The first day of the journey passed without incident. Dieter sat in meditation next to Ulger who just lay listlessly beside him. Dieter rested a hand to the dog’s ribs to calm it. Neither enjoyed the peace as they both felt the fight was where they truly become themselves.

The few times Dieter opened his eyes, was to spy on his comrades. Maestro split his time between looking through his telescope, presumably trying to understand the future before he really understood the present. Tobias was sat on the back of the caravan writing notes in his book, observations of his journey up to this point. He also kept looking quizzically at the wizard, not remembering giving him the wizard’s robes yet, but he was going to anyway, so he didn’t concern too much upon it. Rissandrea fussed over any she thought might be injured which in this troupe of passengers departing from a war torn land happened to be a fair degree of its patronage. Tordrad still appeared slightly shaken from the events faced in Middenheim and walked slowly alongside, drinking occasionally from his hip flask.

Before Dieter could go back to his musings, he, Ulger and Tordrad sensed something bad coming in off of the wind to the East. A strong animal musk wafted off of the breeze from the forest and was then suddenly disappearing almost as quickly as it appeared.

Ulger pounced down from the caravan with hackles up growled at the forest, while Tordrad drew his scimitar. Dieter drew his new obsidian kris blade from its sheath and stepped cautiously toward the forest.

Just then, three beast men emerged, presumably attracted by the smell of the breakfast not long eaten. Dieter sneered at these abominations and said to Ulger, “There you go boy, seconds for you.” With that he pointed his blade towards the centre atrocity and charged. Although Tordrad did not understand his words, he knew what to do. Ulger pounced on the beast man on the right tearing at the creature’s throat with his own powerful jaws. Dieter smiled as he heard the offspring of chaos scream in a mixture of terror and agony. Dieter dodged the attack from the axe held by the second beast man and slashed at the thing’s weapon arm, severing it. Looking at the blade he felt a familiarity and momentarily saw the world change. He saw in the mist a large figure wielding a long obsidian blade like he himself carried now. The figure turned towards him and extended it fresh from battle toward Dieter who now was dwarfed by the figure before him.

He was dragged out of this sub memory as the beastman struck him about the skull with its other arm before being impaled on Dieter’s sword. The blade glowed momentarily before being wrenched out without a speck of blood on it. Looking to his left Dieter spotted that Tordrad had beheaded the beast and was busy reaching for his canteen.

Dieter shouted over his shoulder, “Anybody get hurt Rissandrea?” whilst he hacked off a leg for Ulger to eat.

“Nothing serious, Maestro just got some magical backlash from a spell he was casting. He will be fine, but please why are you cutting out their horns? Have these creatures not suffered enough at your hands?”

He looked back with eyes of both fire and pity and got back to work on the skulls of the creatures that had attacked them, “This will make them lessen their attacks. This was only a scout force. Besides I can burn some of the horn to ward off others of their kind. I would rather not fight them every five minutes. I know your order is against this kind of thing but I am also sure you do not wish to meet Morr in person before your time.”

Rissandrea replied quietly, “I will meet Morr as soon as Shallya releases me from bonds of duty. Should that be even today, then so be it.”

The would be doctor didn’t listen. It sounded too preaching for his liking. So he finished carving out the horns and hacked off a leg for Ulger to chew on for the rest of the trip and went back to his spot on the caravan.

The incense would take some time to prepare but the fates had already decided that was time they would never be allowed to receive.

Dieter asked questioningly, “Hey Maestro have you had any luck translating that book yet? I noticed you staring at it half of the night, you seemed rather engrossed if I do say so myself.”

While he awaited the wizard’s response he used his scalpel to add more powdered horn to the mix, all the while an ill feeling hung over the forest. It was as though the danger was ever present but not from any one position..

His train of thought was interrupted by the wizard’s high pitched annoying voice, “Actually Dieter I think I may have got it. The answer to the text finally came to me in a dream. It says and I quote from the dark scripture here,” before he continued another scouting group charged out of the forest. “Yes Maestro hold that thought would you.” Dieter ordered Ulger to charge in and the great doberman did as he was told.

Dieter glanced back briefly at the wizard after hearing talking coming from the man, What at first the trainee doctor thought to be recitation of the book’s passages was actually a spell of some kind. Dieter ducked and found himself wishing Morrslieb was high in the sky, since only then was the Halfling of any real use. Dieter’s critical eye turned next to Rissandrea, “Silly girl put the damned gun away, it will do no good here and waste precious ammunition.”

From a near crouched position, Dieter swung the kris blade in an upward arc rending the beastman’s flesh as though it were tissue paper. With but a thought, the blade glowed white hot as he pulled it back along the same arc searing the flesh closed while keeping the creature bleeding internally. “Anybody have an objection to me bringing this entire cadaver back with us? Since I have been with you lot my medical training has lessened between the constant fights.”

Rissandrea looked sickened by the request, “How can you even call for such a thing, that creature, of chaos though it may be, is suffering in the last vestiges of life and you want to use its body to further your own endeavours. Can’t you at least end its suffering? In Shallya’s name I beseech you. Or perhaps you would only listen to Morr himself at this point?”

At the mention of the Death and Dream God’s name Dieter turned on his heel, weapon drawn and strode towards the young priestess in training, his eyes blazing with mal-intent and rage, “You may call upon your mother or whatever she is from time to time and I accept that, you being her subordinate, her vessel on this mortal plain so to speak, however, if you such as mention HIS name around me again…so help me, I will personally escort your soul to him. I will even go so far as to put you on the death barge and sail you through the underworld myself, are we clear?”

Dieter raised the kris blade and saw in the corner of his eye Tordrad step toward him. Before he could lose all control, Dieter threw the blade backwards, sailing through the air and embedding itself into the brain of the till now just dying beast man, snarling at her “Satisfied now?”

With that the doctor strode to retrieve both the horns and his sword, “Wizard, while I am busy cutting out these horns, why don’t you tell us all what that book says. Please.” Glancing backwards, he offered Rissandrea what he thought a comforting smile should look like. It was just a guess.

Later that day, he chastised himself for losing it with the woman. He couldn’t afford to split with them, or cause them to want to do so, lest he be separated from their sides for too long…and he just knew that Morr would then have some agent or another in his service trying to kill the group, just to spite him, yes he was convinced of that. Still though, the temper and anger within was worsening with each passing month. He was having to eat more and more of the gunpowder based cookies just to push down the “headaches” as he called them.

Extract from the diary of Rissandrea:

Day 57

Dieter and I had a startling confrontation today. He always seem to hold back some darker nature, but today my mention of the God Morr caused the chains holding the doctor’s other side to rattle, almost to the point of snapping it seemed. I genuinely feared for my life. As I looked in to those eyes, there was little of the man I had travelled with for the last fifty or so days. What lay just beneath the skin is something of pure darkness, malevolence. I hold a new level of respect and fear towards the man now. At first I believed his aversion to Morr to be a habit of his chosen profession. After all what he does best is keep from Morr those who would normally be welcomed into his eternal domain, but Dieter’s hatred goes deeper even than that. I wonder if he himself even truly understands how he feels.

I only mentioned it because I know he always does anyway. Just when he’s off to take a nap in the day, he reminds us all of how he wants to keep his dreams to himself and not have them defiled by Morr at night and so on.

Oh dear Dieter, what is going on with you?

Extract from the diary of Tordrad:

Day 57

Dieter and holy girl had argument earlier. Things got heated. I thought wizard would ask me to help break it up, but doctor he know better than let it come to that. There is something dangerous below his surface. Must be cautious, for wizard’s sake. Spending too much time worrying about evil of male wizard, I might not notice even bigger peril in group.

“Yes, as I was saying before those creatures so rudely interrupted” started Maestro, “It says ‘The Red Flayer: proud and merciless

This child of Khorne spat in his father’s eye

The Blood God drained his husk

But the essence of the Red Flayer survives

He still lives—in the Brass Skull

He still lives—in the Dagger of Yul K’chaum

He still lives—in the Chalice of Wrath

Trapped and bound, he craves blood

The Red Flayer will rise again.

I must tell you all though, those writers had very little punctuation skills. It made that a bloody hard read. Bloody hard.”

Maestro began to wrap up his recitation as Deiter poured some alchohol and spat some of his special herbal bars into the chalice with the beastman horn powder.

Lighting a flint, Dieter threw a lit stick into the goblet causing a small explosion which blackened his face momentarily. “Sorry Maestro I didn’t interrupt did I? The incense is prepared, it doesn’t smell nice, but it should keep them at bay, for the most part.”

He saw Maestro’s eyebrows rise questioningly. He knew what the wizard was going to ask. He was going to ask how Dieter had learnt such things. These were things that would hint at a person being a hedge wizard: one of the illegal outlaw casters of the Empire. A person gifted (or cursed) in sensitivity to the winds of magic but without training. A wizard without training, as the magisters taught was a danger to the Empire – an easy target for the embrace of chaos. Hedge wizards would be arrested and put to death regularly. But surely Dieter couldn’t have been on of those…surely not…he is a doctor…everyone knows that. One would simply be worrying needlessly.

Once more, Dieter’s strong ability of constant hypnotic suggestion, words and actions that tricked and played upon the subconscious mind to make it miss certain things it might otherwise see, did their job. He always had the group in a mild constant state of delusion – and there was nothing they could do about it – because they didn’t know it was happening. Dieter then sealed his technique home with a distracting question, “As a celestial wizard you can sometimes access the future can you not?” At this Maestro used his telescope to better grasp the azyr and began to scry the future, relaying the information he received to them as he himself was reading it. While he would use the aligments of the stars above as his basis, he did not perform the feats of an astrologer per se. For the stars were merely the ever shifting yet undeniable constant as a basis of inspiration, of focus. The powerful wind of azyr was like a thin mist that rose into the sky upon its arrival into the physical plane from whence it came. This blanket of raw azyr power could be read across the stars and spells then could be cast basing around their aligments as a focuser.

Maestro began, “I see… I see a barricade on the road. Lots and lots of beast men standing around it - yes it must be a trap. I also see a broken wheel. One on this caravan has broken near the back. Our lanterns are out and there are many enemies closing in. No this can not be right, I see a bright wizard.” The Wizard began to come out of his trance, slightly giddy before continuing. Well that is all I saw. I hope I was mistaken because I would hate for us to fight so many beastmen.

Dieter glared at the wizard through hooded eyes. He thought of telling him that the bright wizard was already here but thought better of it. Something about the man reeked of danger and something else that the trainee physician could not place.

Dieter was sat on the lip above the wheel with his back to the caravan while the wizard read quietly, almost to himself now, from the book, his burlap sack of horns dripping along the road. That in itself was of little concerm since Ulger kept pace and lapped at the blood almost before it hit the ground. The sense of danger and his headaches were stronger now, taking the wizard’s low mumbling as a good cover, the doctor called upon powers he didn’t fully understand and placed his staff on the caravn itself, where it stood, seemingly as though held in place by some unseen force.

“Don’t worry Maestro. Ulger shall protect you as no doubt will Tordrad. I’d say if anyone were to bring you foul of harm it would be Tobias. He seems to be of fickle thought and fouler of mood as of late. Especially in the evening.

They were now aware of the presence of a man amongst their caravan, a man who didn’t look it but was identified as being a wizard. Dieter subtly pointed Maestro in the right direction. Maestro then proclaimed to the group that he had discovered the whereabouts of this wizard at last, amongst the travellers.

Dieter had mentioned then that the man gives him a bad feeling.

The halfling shuffled up to Maestro, standing between the doctor in training and the wizard, “You know Dieter, just because he has not helped us, does not mean he is bad. He has clearly finished a tour on the front lines. We can hardly expect him to fight such lowly creatures as those we fought earlier.”

Dieter thought on his words and just grunted, “I suppose you are right. How do you feel since our fight with Blackrot? I must say, you seemed to hold your own quite well. At least against the smaller myriad of forces.” Dieter grinned at this last but decided that he should give the halfling a break. The undersized moot dweller deserved at least a short cessation from their oft times mutual hostilities.

Rissandrea spoke, “I must say I feel the gods themselves smiled on us, allowing our mutual forces to push back the tide of chaos. For as long as it might last anyhow.” Dieter glared at the woman who now stood behind the halfling to stay just on the edges of her awareness for now. He Felt tired both mentally and physically and it was hard work keeping up this heroic disposition – the bunkem hip-hip horay for the Empire mentality that was expected from most adventuring men. He limped to the back of the caravan to gain some space and more importantly peace in which to meditate, leaving his staff leaning against the middle procession as he did so. Ulger began to follow his master but was waved away. His eyes and Dieter’s met and the dog jumped up on the lip of the vehicle, curling up around his human pack leader’s staff.

The rest of the daylight hours passed without incident.

Later, after the sun sank below the rim of the world and Morrslieb shone brightly upon the group, the cart that led their procession was forced to stop as the rear wheel warped and cracked. Remembering what Maestro had said, the group jumped into action. The crew of the parade were decisive and the wheel was replaced before there was so much as a sign of attack. To feel secure, Dieter relit the basin of crushed beastman horns and the group travelled alongside the procession.

A mile ahead, they came across a barricade blocking the road, but no sign of the apparent beastmen who had surely constructed it, based on its crude design.

All of them felt uneasy. Had Maestro been wrong in his vision or was this part of the trap? Ulger stopped and looked behind them, growling low in his throat. “What is it boy? What do you hear?” Dieter needn’t have asked as he already felt it. A large mob of the creatures they had fought on and off that day. The beings had been following them, being kept at bay only by the power in Dieter’s clandestine spell - and the formula which slowly cooked in the bowl.

Maestro further kept them at bay, using sound spells and marsh light conjurations to confuse and worry the easily manipulated brutal beings into thinking an army of men were approaching on their flank then added, “Now I do suggest that we put out our lanterns and proceed as quickly and as quietly away from this area as we are able.”

The past – The Moot

Tobias stared at the lights as they came closer. He had let his brother out of the cells earlier that night. The torches were moving from the cells out towards the forest, to where he himself now hid. The halfling felt obligated by his own perceived guilt to see his brother to safety, but as they crossed the boundary from the Moot proper, the alarms sounded.

Tobias was torn now, if he returned or more likely got captured he himself would be jailed. If he kept running, he would be considered an outlaw by his own people. The militia were close enough now that their voices could be heard and the escaping halfling was forced into desperate action. The young Wilwart struck himself about the head and loosely bound his own wrists, falling to the ground with barely any time to spare. Immediately they were on him “Master Wilwart. Are you okay? Can you tell us what happened?” it was at this point that the halfling counted his nobility as a blessing for the first time in his long – though still short by halfling standards – lifetime. He rubbed his head and thought for a moment. Before he was able to answer, a runner arrived.

“Young Master Wilwart. I bring grave news. Your father has been gravely attacked and his laboratory ransacked.”

Perhaps it was the shock of hearing of his father’s attack, the situation with his brother or maybe even that he had hit his head a little too hard with the stone but Tobias Wilwart fell unconscious.

The room swam into focus and Tobias recognised it as the infirmary by its antiseptic smell and white walls. Looking slowly from side to side and taking note of the stiffness in his neck, he saw his father to his left. The elder looked across at his son with anger and betrayal written across his face as surely as if they had been tattooed on there. “So I see you are awake. Do not try to move Tobias, the restraints might hurt you if you struggle. It is you who are to blame for my condition, by your actions even indirect as they may be. Do you believe I am unaware that it was you who got your brother hooked on those damnable substances in the first place?”

The younger Wilwart was stunned into silence, taking a few moments to formulate a response. “Father please, it has torn me asunder knowing that I am in part at least responsible for Frederick’s predicament. If I could travel back in time I would do nothing the same.”

Cut off by a gesture from his father Jeremiah, he watched as his father was racked by a coughing fit and noticed the blood that escaped his mouth with every cough. “Do not deem to call me Father or deflect from the level of your guilt Tobias. The guild found me deep in my work whilst you had my militia chasing you across the Moot. They wanted the formula. The same formula they wanted Frederick to acquire. I refused them to protect you both…Were I to have smashed the beaker on the floor, they could have taken samples still, or pulled up the floorboards themselves for study by their alchemists. That formula is the pride of our family. My greatest accomplishment in alchemy and now I am dying for it.”

Tobias stared into space, the shock reeling him. His eyes began to fill without warning. He asked his father, “How is it that you are so gravely sick…father?”

The older halfling coughed again and took his time with the reply, finally saying, “I put the contents of the potion in the one place that they could never access it. I drank it, son.”

A look of horror tore across Tobias’s face. His father shook his head in a dismissively stern manner, even in such an ill state as this, “fool of a boy, you will never be an alchemist. You have no talent for that which is your heritage, boy. My body is breaking down the ingredients via my digestive system. Churning them away. My final grand gesture of transmutation for the potion - through my own body.” He coughed again before righting himself and continued, “I have one thing left to say to you before you are sent to the cells to take your brother’s place. If you take the knowledge of the formula and keep it safe within your head, I will allow you to leave these lands, not to return under punishment of death. From here on you will be of House Wilwart in name only. Your selfishness has cost the life of your brother once the men find him and shortly myself too. So you are given the choice, the freedom of banishment or life imprisoned and the guild riding you ‘til your last breath escapes your shell.”

His father died minutes later. Tobias spent one night in the cells wracked with guilt for the lives he had ruined through his own addiction. By next morning there was no sign of the last of House Wilwart in the boundaries of The Moot.

Of Frederick’s fate, there was no knowledge.

The Present – An Inn one day’s travel from Altdorf.

Tobias was still sat on the wheel arch of one of the caravans where Dieter had placed him - after picking him up in his semi conscious state. “What? Where am I? Where is the small army that tried to attack us from the rear?” asked Tobias.

Dieter was quick to pipe up angrily, “Go back to sleep mongrel creature. And remember, you freeze like that again and I will leave you to whatever the fates have concocted for you. Thanks to the wizard and his quick thinking we managed to get to safety. We are staying at the inn here until morning. We will all be home by noon tomorrow. I waited out here to ensure your safety, foolish as it might be. Now let us go inside before you catch your death of something...” Dieter waited for the halfling to enter then grabbed his stave and followed behind. If anyone else were about they may have spotted a shadow of it burned into the wood of the caravan.

As the pair entered they were greeted by Maestro and the rest of the group. The bright wizard Wolfgang Scheunacht stood behind Maestro and seemed to be very interested in all of them now gathered. Dieter quickly saw a flash of some dark energy emanate from within the wizard and from the guarded looks on Maestro and Rissandrea they too noticed something with their magical senses. They were old hands now at spotting something wrong in a person. Dieter wondered how he’d gotten away with it for so long, in that case. Ulger looked uneasy under the table.