Sunday, 27 February 2011

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 25 - To Nuln By barge Part Two

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Their Fated Travels…

RPG Party events as told By Robert James Freemantle

Chapter 25

To Nuln By Barge – Part Two

Extract from the diary of Rissandrea:

Day 100:

I was standing on the deck admiring the view outside when something shocking came to my attention. Over on the river bank I was facing, some way ahead was a scene of slaughter. A caravan party with bodies surrounding it lay dead over the way. Many of the trees in the copse that ran along the bank were scarred and hacked, as if a group of violent minded people had passed that way. The boxes of goods they carried were fine cloth. I could see this as one of them had been busted open, revealing its contents. They had left that too.

Then the truth of the matter was revealed.

High above the barge, on an overhanging rock that jutted out from the mountainside above the river, a wild eyed bloodshot beastman peered over, watching the approaching vessel beneath. He gave a sharp hand signal and guttural command to a nearby gor, who held a rowing boat’s oar in his hand. He quickly wedged the paddle end of it underneath a large nearby boulder, with the help of two more gors pushing it with their hands.

The maddened beastman too resembled a gor, yet he looked like so much more as well. The veins beneath his skin stood up on end. He breathed heavily at all times and dried blood was clearly visible down his front and chin, originating it seemed from his mouth. He once had been a gor, but now he was something else. Tallagh Grorrv now commanded this troop, a force of beastmen he had once been an infantry fighter within. He barked a new order to the other side of the wide ledge. Fifteen ungors quickly took their positions, with bows at the ready, while the gors pushed the boulder to the very edge.

Then the troops waited for his signal.

Soon the barge was in the right location and he gave the order to open fire. The ungors shot their arrows over the edge and let gravity bring their plummet into an awful missile barrage.

Rissandrea was standing next to a marine, one of the posted guards that would attend such barges. They had been chatting about faith and life’s bigger meanings when the sky above them turned suddenly dark. They looked up just in time to see a hail of arrows come down upon them.

One arrow lodged into the collarbone of the man Rissandrea had been speaking to. Another arrow had landed close to Rissandrea – too close! It had pinned her robe to the deck, through the bottom flowing part that met the floor. She tugged at the material and it pulled free with a sharp tearing sound.

Next the Shallyan turned her attention to the injured man as the alarm began sounding. Shouts and screams could be heard already. A terrible voice carried on the wind, inciting some dark command in a language nobody present could understand…nobody conscious that was…

A dead passenger, a woman in her twenties was carried along the deck by an already grieving man. Her arrow wound bled profusely where the man had already removed it. Rissandrea looked around, trying to assess the injured and those who could be saved. The casualties were not many at least.

Suddenly a new hail of arrows came down, raining around the passengers and crew, but taking no casualties this time except for a crewman who had an arrow scrape down his cheek, making it bleed deeply.

The screaming commotion brought others from below, onto the deck to see what all the hubbub was.

The sea marines were ready, weapons in hand, shouting orders back and forth for defensive positions to be set up and maintained.

Suddenly there was a crashing sound, as a falling screaming ungor plummeted into the deck, smashing cargo and rigging with his descent. His body was crushed against the now split plank boards. This ungor had been unfortunate enough to miss twice with his bow hitting only water - giving Tallagh Grorrv all the excuse he needed to dish out what he saw as a fitting punishment for negligence in action. Again his wild cry sounded and again the arrows fired.

The captain of the vessel was looking up from his cabin, in distress, as his first mate was giving him a report of what was happening out there. The captain quickly turned the barge to the starboard and it pressed towards the bank with great power. This was a timely action, as the next hail of arrows landed soon after. Only two of them had made contact with the barge, thudding into the wood planks harmlessly.

The war gor cried in triumph at his foe doing exactly what he had wanted them to do! He gave the command at once and the gors hauled the boulder as hard as they could. They were pushing and pushing, but for some reason the boulder did not topple over the edge, simply choosing to shift weight back towards them as they stopped pushing. Tallagh was not impressed and screamed wildly at the gors who renewed their efforts suddenly. Even this fearful expression of energy on their parts was not enough to shift the huge rock.

It suddenly became clear why this was happening. An outgrowing tree had sprouted out from the mountainside and was stopping the boulder from rolling forwards properly.

Tallagh peered threateningly over the edge once more, seeing the barge was about to pass out of range for the planned arial attack. Failure was unacceptable to Tallagh. He had suffered defeats before, back when he was a normal gor, but since his new found strength of status, he knew no defeat whatsoever. He was not about to start now! The growling war gor watched the gors struggling with the root, to push the boulder around it somehow, while one of them hacked desperately at the small tree, to chop it off. Ineffective, thought Tallagh, who walked purposely up to the gors, looked at them a final time and kicked the one currently pushing the boulder at that moment – a great kick which connected with the entire bottom of his hoof. The impact was harder though than any kick had a right to be, snapping the small outcropping tree and pushing the boulder, gor and all over the edge into a plummet below.

Tordrad, Tobias, Dieter and Ulger had now joined Rissandrea on deck. Maestro was still out cold, but Rissandrea wasn’t so concerned about him. She had given the wizard a quick medical inspection earlier, under the watchful gaze of Angelique. The Shallyan had put his unconscious state down to over exertion and recent stress. He would recover well enough she knew – plus he had been left in the capable if rather large hands of the Sister of Sigmar, who stayed at the man’s bedside praying for many an hour.

On deck, Dieter looked up to see the falling boulder above. The others followed his gaze. Dieter calmly patted Ulger and stated, “If we die, we die.” before pulling his jacket up around his face to cover his head. Just then, the huge boulder landed: hitting the very edge of the barge, almost capsizing it from the force and making it rock violently.

Below deck, Angelique had ended up on top of the still unconscious Maestro, as she peered down at him and said aloud to no one in particular, “Sigmar truly works towards this union, does he not my love?”

Above on deck, the barge was still mostly intact. The boulder had pulled some of it away, but there was no breach enough to spring a leak. It had been mostly cosmetic structural damage. The boulder bobbed in the water, as if mocking them. There must have been some property within the rock, or air that kept it afloat even this long considered Dieter.

Rissandrea praised Shallya. Tordrad praised Ursan. Tobias grumbled and cursed, having been lurched backwards onto his back from the force of the blow. Ulger growled defensively at the new scent approaching from above…

Tallagh Grorrv had bounded forwards, his heart carrying his unnatural blood through his veins at an alarming rate, as he grabbed the two remaining gors and jumped over the edge, with one firmly in each hand. The two gors screamed fearfully at their unexpected descent. Their war gor leader roared with the lust of battle ahead. He could taste it coming up and he would let nothing step in its way.

Tallagh landed, his fall softened somewhat by the unfortunate gors either side of him. Their bodies broke upon contact with the boulder, but their leader who had still been gripping them had perhaps been lucky, with the equal distribution of force at his sides - and he had landed on his hooves, directly upon the boulder. Even with this small help, it was unlikely that any normal creature could survive such a jump – and thusly it was clear that Tallagh was very special indeed!

The maddened war gor let both gors slip from his grasp, into the deeps of the river below, before he bellowed a challenging war cry and leapt with all of his might. Within a blur of motion, the war gor had made the jump from the boulder that had landed behind the barge and the vessel itself. Had he waited any longer to jump, he perhaps might not have made it – although that theory was in some doubt, considered Dieter, who observed how easily the man beast had managed what was arguably a hard jump, making it look easy anyway.

The crazed creature landed, his hooves making a clud sound on the deck. He simply stood there, his huge chest moving up and down as he breathed in the battle to come. He unfastened a huge polearm from his back. Its deadly range was drastically more than the eye could behold, as a passenger attempted to run – the war gor swung the weapon outwards and struck the man through his shoulder with it. With a carefully precise yank motion, the blade tore the arm off. Gutteral screams ensued from the victim who stumbled away – satisfied with the horror, Tallagh allowed him to do so.

The crew’s onboard weapons had been unlocked to allow the marines access to them. A marine raised a handgun, aiming at the great beastman. He calmed himself and fired with a deadeye shot. The bullet did not strike its target in the way he had hoped though. The beastman swirled the weapon in front of him and there was a clanging spark sound as the bullet ricocheted off of the metal weapon head. Everyone gasped at this show of skill. Confidently Tallagh strode towards the quivering marine, who regained his senses in time to draw a sword. The weapon was quickly knocked out of his hand, even though he had struck with it. The beastman’s reflexes were on a scale beyond imagination. The marine ran from him and jumped overboard, screaming as he went!

Tordrad saw this and his face soured at this cowardice. He grabbed the only weapon at hand, a scimitar that lay nearby, and stepped forwards in determination.

Rissandrea walked behind him, ready to support as always. Lives were at stake and she would do whatever was needed to save them.

Dieter and Tobias sneaked forwards carefully, to get into flanking positions as quietly as possible.

4 weeks ago.

A bloodied copse not far from Nuln.

An Empire threat response platoon was mopping up the last beastman stragglers, of those foolish enough to run amok, attacking some of the smaller settlements in the area. This band of beastmen was only one of several running rampant across the lands, so near to the city without being picked off, especially during a militarily busy time that it was disquieting.

Still, with this battle, the chain of command was now severed from the head of the troops, for Captain Anders’s soldiers had at last found and killed the war gor in charge. His head hung from the captain’s horse already, chained up by the pierced ring that went through its entire nasal cavity.

“No wonder we won” Anders had joked, “It probably couldn’t see past that chunk of metal in its face.”

The men laughed in approval, as a release of the nervous energy that had built up in the face of battle.

Suddenly, Captain Anders became intrigued, as he saw what he had believed to be a corpse, getting back up - A beastman gor who didn’t look particularly spectacular but a little more powerful than the others of the squad around him.

Anders instinctively pegged this one as a chieftain, a unit champion. With a furious bellow, the gor commanded to the bodies about him. Several of them arose from the ground. This took the good captain by surprise, and he ran his hand along the feather in his helm as he would often do out of habit.

These were not undead. These were simply beastmen who were badly injured and would have normally laid there until either the Empire troops had gone or until the soldiers killed them, by stabbing the dead “just to be sure.” It was common for troops to be put out of a battle in this fashion, damaged sustained that the pain stops one from arising, or sometimes going in and out of consciousness while bleeding badly. But for those around the gor chieftain to arise on his command, this was something out of the ordinary. Anders glared at his intended target as it strode towards him, seemingly unaware of the head wounds it had sustained. The captain had his runner take his horse back out of the way as it was starting to spook, perhaps just from being in the presence of a true child of chaos.

The chieftain closed in on the captain, bellowing a challenging word in its bestial dark tongue. The captain drew his sword in response. The other beastmen indeed waited back to allow this fight to take place.

The chieftain picked up a bone cudgel from one of the dead of his kin and kept walking. As he did so, he threw the weapon at the captain’s face! Such an act was so unexpected that Anders almost didn’t doge the improvised projectile in time.

The chieftain, Tallagh Grorrv drew an axe. Anders was ready in-case this too was thrown at him. It wasn’t. Instead the beastman reached him and melee battle began.

This chieftain had a strong sense of battle skill, perhaps long honed over the years. His attacks were wild but with grace of balance enough to parry again from the captain’s counter attack. Already the captain’s sword had been knocked aside and he was open! The chieftain thrust the point on the weapon’s head up to take him in the gut, but Anders brought his metal clad boot across and kicked the axe against its flat part, redirecting the angle to miss him.

It was then Anders’s turn to be on the offensive. His speed was superb, forcing the gor chieftain to peddle back defensively with flurry after flurry of attacks.

Still the beastman retreated as Anders tested him from every conceivable angle. It would not be long now, the captain knew. Already he had gashed the creature to the arm twice. It was a testament to its willpower that it had not dropped its axe, for one blow had slashed right down to its hand, opening a wound between his forefinger and thumb. Gripping the axe would now be agonizing.

As the battle continued, with the human stepping forwards every few blows and the beastman retreating, a strange darkness over them from the sky was impossible to miss. As if a rainy storm were due at an accelerated unnatural rate. An explosive impacting sound off in the distance that made the ground about them tremor, not far from them, threatened to tear their attentions away from the battle they were in, but both fighters kept their enemy resolved before them. That did not stop the others of their respective groups from looking though.

Human and beastman alike, stood and gawped in shock at the smoke rising up from the site of impact two miles away. They couldn’t tell what it was, but something had fallen from the sky.

As the two adversaries fought on, a new presence in the sky above them again was impossible to miss, even though they dared give it much regard. A darkness began to grow as a large shadow formed over the two of them.

Tallagh swiped his axe in a wide arc to buy himself room and chanced a look upwards at the cause of the growing shadow. He was in disbelief at the huge chunk of green stone that plummeted towards their very position. The captain almost had Tallagh’s head off, but this time he jumped backwards just in time to avoid the fatal blow. Suddenly the beastman’s hoof struck against the body of one of his own kin and he fell over backwards with a crash – just as the warpstone meteorite hit their location, landing dead centre upon the Empire captain, who had looked up at it and smiled darkly with acceptance of his cruel fate.

As the large chunk of warpstone made contact, it killed the human outright and splintered immediately, with pieces firing off like shrapnel around it. The dust cloud and soil thrown up buried several of the fallen, both those dead and alive.

Tallagh’s rough leather armour tore open as warpstone flew at him. One particularly shard entered his body perfectly, like a needle bullet. It punctured the beastman’s heart and lay embedded there as the falling soil fell around him, burying him alive.

There he lay, for days on end, trying to dig his way out, but struggling, because the warpstone in his chest felt like it was killing him. For some reason, the wound had not been fatal. This warpstone had begun to mutate the area of its entry soon after contact. This effect had indeed resurrected the dead beastman’s heart and forced it to beat, against the will of all natural biological order.

Still Tallagh lay there, slowly digging his way out. The only food was that of his own kin, the body he had tripped over. Had that mistake in battle actually saved his life he wondered? Were he standing, what then would have happened? Was the shock perhaps lessened by him exposing less of himself to it on impact? That the body of his dead kin shielded him from much of the blast? For it had surely hit the corpse first. Whatever the reason was, he told himself that he was alive and his foe was dead. It was an intervention of the chaos Gods, he was sure. It was a sign that he had been chosen to fulfil some great deed.

The other beastmen who had been similarly struck with pieces of the foul tainted green stone had also mutated somewhat, but none of these survived. Only Tallagh would prove strong enough in body and will to dig his way out and be all the stronger for it.

4 weeks later…

Tallagh’s polearm smashed against Tordrad once more. With no armour to protect him, he was prone. Already the Kislev born warrior was bleeding in three places as Tobias and Dieter finally managed to attack. Ulger sunk his teeth into the war gor but the creature brought his other hoof up and kicked the doberman away, fracturing its face from the impact. It whined and pulled itself back up to a standing position as its master, Dieter threw a bottle of alcohol at the beastman. It impacted with a klish, harmlessly against his armour. Every attack from Dieter’s previously concealed scalpel was dodged.

Tobias let swing another stone from his sling. This time, it had hit the beastman. Again, he shook off this attack as if it were nothing and kicked Todrad hard to the chest, sending him sprawling across the deck. He cursed in his native tongue.

Rissandrea proclaimed, “I have never seen anyone do that to Tordrad! I fear this bodes ill for us all.”

Together, Ulger and Tordrad charged as Rissandrea fired redemption, the gun she carried. They had not bothered to search the Shallyan nor enquire for weapons and hence she hadn’t realised that weapons were not allowed – for it was unlike the order to carry weapons. The gun’s shot blazed out towards Tallagh, again with a tail on it like a white comet. The war gor had seen it coming though and side stepped, ducking his head under and around the bullet as the trail whizzed past him harmlessly! The soon to be priestess stared in fascinated horror. How could anyone dodge a bullet?

Ulger and Tordrad leapt at the same time, a jumping attack to bring the full momentum of their weight and gravity down upon the war gor. Tallagh did not balk at this. He placed his weapon’s handle in a horizontal position and thrust up outwards at them both. Not only was the war gor strong enough to hold the two of them in their jump, (Ulger at the neck) but his counterforce actually repelled them both backwards onto their backs, each landing with a terrific crash on the decking. Tordrad’s head had hit the board too hard and he began to lose consciousness.

Ulger was struggling to get back up. Dieter commanded the dog to stay put, telling him he was a good boy. Rissandrea rushed to Tordrad’s aid at once, pulling his eyelids open to check his pupils and whispering prayers of healing.

As another stone struck the war gor, he had decided that that was enough. He brought the handle of his weapon up and round into Dieter’s face, his movement a blur. The impact spun Dieter around to face the other way and dropped to one knee. Were any of these a threat to Tallagh, he would have made the executioner’s kill there and then. But they were not. Plus the one who had flung stones at him was on his mind foremost.

Before Tobias could load another shot, the war gor was upon him, with blinding speed. No-one they had seen had ever moved as fast as this, except perhaps on horseback. He picked the halfling up by the throat, lifting him off the ground so as to be level to level with his face.

Tobias desperately swung his hanging legs, but they were too weak to do any harm from kicking. His prised his hands around the grip of Tallagh, but this he knew, was also a futile gesture. Soon his face was beginning to turn red, as death from asphyxiation was only moments away – but just at that very same moment, the beastman, himself imbued with warpstone, recognized a trace of it in the halfling too. He was just like him. How? The confusion of this made him let Tobias go, who fell to the floor like deadweight. He was barely alive and certainly no longer conscious.

Dieter quickly ran up behind the war gor, jumped onto his back and called upon the small reserves of secretly kept illegal magic within him. A small amount of fire appeared in his hand as he brought it against the alcohol that stained the armour. It went up like a match!

Tallagh reached around and pulled the trainee doctor down and over him, as the fire blazed on the war gor’s body, burning him severely across the torso. He then held Dieter tight in a bear hug like manoeuvre until Dieter cried out in pain, as flames licked at him.

Dieter would not survive this long and this made him angry. So angry that the other, the presence almost took ahold of him again.

Dieter’s shadow shifted jaggedly, dancing up Tallagh’s body, cast unevenly against the burning flames. These same flames seemed to bother the war gor in no way, even though his skin was cooking through the armour he wore.

The shadowy hand curled up to Tallagh’s throat and there it snapped in movement, its fingers closing around the beastman’s windpipe to strangle him. This did throw the creature off of its attack. It began to struggle with the shadowy presence that strangled him, as he let go of Dieter.

Dieter’s skin was burnt up the left side, from waist up as far as his neck. He resolved that higher collars would be in good order. A strangely calm thought to have had, seeing as the pain he was in and the injury sustained should have been the things on his mind.

The warpstone shard inside the beastman’s heart had cauterized the wound when it struck – however it did something else as well. It mutated the cells of the organ itself, super enhancing it so that his heart would beat at an extraordinary rate. The heart inside the foul creature’s chest began to speed up, as abnormal amounts of adrenaline surged into his system. His gift was at last kicking up into a new gear – this time to compensate for the oddly paranormal attack the small curly haired human had brought upon him.

Everything around Tallagh moved slower than it ought to. He recognized this effect as beneficial. It wasn’t that the world was moving slower. He was moving faster! His eyes were perceiving input at an accelerated rate.

The presence that strangled him, cut off his windpipe. With an almost supernatural blurring shift of movement, Tallagh Grorrv moved out of the shadowy grip and roared at it with commanding presence. The blast of this sent it backwards flying into Dieter at once. This knocked the would be doctor onto his back and sent him sliding across the ship. The shock of the other’s presence so forcibly taken into him, brought Dieter low, making him convulse on the ground. Rissandrea looked about her, seeing that there was nothing she could do against the monster – with her team mates down. She could only try to save them in any way she could, but she feared that the dreaded beast man would not let her.

There was a terrific crashing sound as doors flung upon further back on the barge. Then very heavy quickened footsteps could be heard approaching.

A woman’s voice called out, “Beast! You shall face the wrath of Sigmar.”

Angelique Rosemead appeared at the front of the deck, bearing a great two handed hammer and pointed it towards Tallagh in challenge. She looked around at the casualties already suffered and saw again the beastman’s speed as he threw a charging marine over his shoulder and into the water, with but one hand.

“It ends here!” cried the plump woman as she ran towards the war gor with the hammer she had broken free from the weapons locker. The great weapon glowed with a bright intensity. A holy radiance could be felt from it and this made the beast man roar, as if in mental pain at its proximity. His skin began to darken in reaction to the presence, as if he was mutating once again. His fur was also changing, turning a bluer shade of colour.

The war gor waited, his long pole arm in a counter attack stance as Angelique neared him.

Just as Tallagh was ready to avoid the blow, the sister of Sigmar cut short her downward swing, bringing the massive hammer down against the deck between them as she cried out a prayer of strength to her God. She concentrated with all of her strength as a powerful zeal enlightened her muscles to a supernatural level.

When the hammer struck the wooden deck, it cracked from impact as planned – a huge gaping hole that shattered downwards to the water below as the holy infused energy connected to the weapon gave it a further mass charge of shock wave, finally released.

They were very near the end of the barge and the beastman had nowhere to go as the impact created fast splits across the whole deck and down the entire vessel.

Without warning, the entire end of the barge gave way and fell into the water with a large splash that sent water up over their heads, covering the entire barge.

Tallagh could not be seen amidst the wreckage in the water but Angelique was taking no chances. She looked back towards the captain’s bridge cabin at the other end and saw him looking back up the barge in concern. She took a deep breath and shouted a command at the top of her powerful lungs, “Captain, get away! Full speed ahead!”

The captain did not have to be told twice and within moments, the vessel was pulling away at its top speed.

Rissandrea continued to heal those who had fallen in battle as they pulled away from the place of the wreckage and all was still…

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