Sunday, 20 March 2011

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 28 - Final Showdown In Nuln

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Their Fated Travels…

RPG Party events as told By Robert James Freemantle – recounted and extracted in a minor interpretation from some sessions too of the WHFRP 2nd edition book ‘Forges of Nuln’

Chapter 28

Final Showdown In Nuln

There was a sense of trouble still in the air, thick and threatening, making it almost hard to breathe.

Maestro knew that something was about to happen too. He had studied the star charts the night before and was overly concerned about the events of today. It was the sort of day, as he put it, “where somebody you know could end up dead. Even you.”

What happened next was a slow realization of panic. At first it seemed as if there was some distress nearby that the guards were dealing with. Then in another place, raised voices caught their attention. Up from sewer holes came enemies all about them, all across the city.

They had found themselves fighting their way through a crowd of mutants running riot about the streets of Nuln. Still they were trapped on the bridge.

The Countess was immediately removed from the situation and whisked away into a carriage that sped off at a great rate.

Maestro wondered for that moment how actually being Emmanuel’s lover might not have been such a bad thing – it might have meant he could have escaped all of this – to be rushed off to the security of the palace instead of being out in the middle of it all. Then he remembered of course that it would have meant…doing things with her…he wasn’t used to having to…do things. Plus she would only be his undoing anyway, for his dooming warned that a woman would be the undoing of him. He had already proved that with Sister Angelique!

Rissandrea raised her voice as best as she could and spoke to the others of the group, “I knew there was something big planned, from all those mutants we fought in the sewers before. Oh dear.”

Tobias raised a finger knowingly and commented, “Ah, but don’t you see, this is just a diversion. The real threat will appear soon, I don’t doubt.”

It was clear that the guards and citizens had their hands full, fighting off mutant attacks all over the place. The city watch were battling them in several districts at once.

150 years ago

The Celestial College

The Seer Council Chamber

Seer Magister Viez sank to his knees in front of his chair. The glowing pulses of the azyr crystal in the middle of the chamber danced their reflections across his face. His beard twitched from silent mutterings as his vision became more precise. His eyes turned a hazy blue colour and he saw what transpired next.

Viez raised his hands towards the crystal, with his outstretched trembling fingers weaving a thread within the air in front of them. Like playing some musical instrument, he was engaged in a process of automatic writing, but the letters and words that appeared before him did not scribble onto paper as was the norm, it appeared as visions against the very crystal itself.

The other Seer Magisters leaned forward intently to witness the level three expression in progress before them.

As they watched the picture changed from one of focus on the city guards fighting mutants to one of panic, of civilians running away from something screaming, terror on their faces. As the image became clearer, it was clear to see what was causing this commotion: An abomination. A creature stitched together made up of various body parts to become an enormous thing of terrifying appearance.

As the vision in the crystal shifted, a second abomination, different looking in its own way appeared at the other end of the city. The bridge they now stood on was the centre point linking the two areas.

Dieter could clearly be seen speaking to the others, “It looks like Rolf built a second of these things, just incase the first wasn’t enough.”

Rissandrea made the sign of her holy order and consecrated the ground they stood on.

Maestro looked this way and that and considered how safe he might be were he to hide under the bridge itself. It was a good idea he considered, but then knowing his luck he’d probably only be set upon by a troll or some such, that was how it worked right?

Tobias spoke out, “It is against my better judgment, but being the heroes as we now are considered to be. We must do what we can to aid the city.”

Several bystanders who had witnessed Maestro’s “heroic” speech to the Countess moments before cheered him and the others on expectantly…Maestro did not like that…not one bit.

Just then a voice sounded out towards the party. The hard faced Bretonnian man from before and his party of travelers, including the Gnoblar had appeared. He spoke, “Worry not, heroes of renown, we shall aid you by battling one of the abominations for you.” The others of his group nodded enthusiastically at the danger. Maestro considered them all to be mad.

Rissandrea spoke out, “Yes, we cannot let this atrocity of undeath continue. We must put these souls to rest.”

The damsel amongst Blitzal’s group sneered inwardly at the Shallyan woman’s words but hid it well with a dainty smile. So decided the damsel Andrianna internally, the evil inside me would for now have most control…

The Bretonnian man continued with, “We shall fight the one we can see behind us. You should deal with the other. We will let the city guard deal with the mutants as best they can.”

“Oh joy” exclaimed Dieter sarcastically.

The fat wizard with Blitzal’s group, Dappar saw this and commented, “Gorr, they’re keen. Come on then Blitzal, let’s do this while we still have time to catch supper out.”

Blitzal replied with, “while the eatery you like still exists you mean?” as a building ended up with a hole in it from the abomination wielding a person at it like a knuckle duster.

“True” concluded Dappar.

Maestro was pulled away from the bridge, open mouthed at the idiocy as he saw it of everyone around him, even those in his party who now surely dragged him towards certain death.

Within no time at all, the group was finally upon the second abomination. It had been too interested in fighting the city watch around it until Tobias fired a crossbow bolt through its flank so that it disappeared inside. That made it turn its attention to the halfling well and truly.

Dieter smirked and said, “Not that I don’t mind that thing eating you first, but then it would surely turn its attentions upon us next anyway. We may as well try to keep you alive as a distraction…for our sake”

They had split up and spread out, attacking it from all sides. Each time it attacked one of the group, another of them on its blindside would attack and it would cry in torment from the pain.

Rissandrea held redemption in a shaking hand, debating whether to fire or not. After all, there was a chance she might hit a mutant.

Still the mutants scurried about them, being kept busy mostly by the city guard who were now thrilled to see the huge creature’s attention taken off of them.

Back in the Seer Magisterial Chamber, the wizards gasped as the familiar mutant face of Claus Liebnitz protruding from his host’s belly appeared. They witness a vision of Tobias trying to shoot it with his crossbow but missing. Then they saw its host body picked up by the abomination and consumed. The face of Liebnitz is the last thing seen as it went down the creature’s throat, laughing all the way until it could no longer be heard. This sound gave way to a humming though that continually rose in decibels until it was uncomfortable to the ear.

Next the wizards witnessed the abomination scream at the top of its lungs, its hands reached upwards, fingers splayed out. A red smoke poured from its mouth.

Seer Magister Artwieb stepped forwards, closer to the crystal and remarked, “the daemon Xathrodox, of course that foolish Liebnitz man is still the host!”

Seer Magister Leonart stepped forwards quickly and pulled Artwieb back away from the crystal’s image. The wizard had been leaning in towards it to get a better look.

Artwieb gave his fellow a scolding question filled look as Leonart said, “You were getting too close Seer Magister. While it is only an image of the future and is not now, I have seen that two whole shards of the daemon exist within the creature before. That means a daemonic prince more complete than not. Daemons transcend space and time and exist in all realities, for their realm is out of step with ours anyway. Had you made contact with even the image of it, it may have become pre-eternally aware of our existence and made visit upon this place, be it before or after the events that happen here.

Again, the wizards stared in horror as the image on the pulsing gem unfolded before them. The abomination’s skin in its head began splitting as black horns began pushing their way out. Long fingernails began to grow splitting the ruined fingers in place. The daemon’s face began to take shape within the features of the abomination.

The huge possessed monstrous form of Xathrodox mockingly spoke to the group, “You stopped but one of my shards. But two out of three will still be enough to wipe this city off of the map and take my plans forwards. You are too late. You cannot stop me. But I know you will try.”

Maestro looked to the others as if to ask if they must. Tordrad glanced sternly at him, noticing the wizard quivering fearfully on the spot. That look was enough to put Maestro in doubt that escape would be impossible.

All of the damage done to the flesh construct’s body began to smoke and in doing so knitted back together.

Dieter was up close, rending his scalpel through the achilles tendon on the creature’s right foot, or at least where the tendon ought to have been! A rigormortis effect had meant that this part of the foot and leg had stiffened enough to hamper walking yet also to create immunity to such attacks.

The daemon spun around and swung its claws at Dieter. The would be doctor growled and raised his staff just in time to connect with the blow. The strength of it almost knocked the implement from the man’s hand however and put him off balance. The creature readied its other hand, claws point at Dieter like a group of knives to put through his stomach – but before the blow could come, Tordrad’s sword made contact with the creature, tearing halfway through its already damaged right leg exposing the bone. The leg was kicked outwards defensively, impacting the Kislevian and knocking him aside. The man knew to turn the momentum of this fall into a roll, which he did. Just as the daemon turned back to face the short human with the curly black hair, his intended victim, he was nowhere to be seen. Quickly the daemon looked around and instead saw Rissandrea with her gun, redemption. It recognized the weapon from the fight before. He would not let it tear him apart this time. The unholy creature moved towards the Shallyan quickly, and snatched up a member of the city guard, using him like a shield before her.

The daemon smiled in satisfaction. He could see that the holy woman would not fire, for risk of hitting an innocent.

Tobias and Maestro however had no such qualms. The halfling fired a crossbow bolt into the daemon’s side as Maestro sent bolts of electricity into the monster’s body.

The daemon laughed triumphantly and spoke, “We are dancing the same dance as before, but the only thing you had to help you last time is gone. The cursed flame of Ulrich. You will find this dance ends in a very different way, mortals.”

With that speech, the creature’s body began to heal immediately. Smoke poured off of it as flesh reconstructed to flesh again.

“No!” shouted Tordrad, as he ran forwards, flurrying attacks into the daemon’s side and ducking the counter swings for as long as he could before he was caught by one and knocked down at last. He was replaced immediately by Ulger who jumped high for the creature’s body and bit deeply into its chest. Dieter came upon it too and struck with his blade. At that exact moment, the daemon let a wave of fire rush out from its body, like a pulse of energy that surrounded its skin. Ulger fell from it, his face burning and Dieter recoiled in pain, his hand burnt by the fire. Dieter could have sworn that it had felt like the fires of some hell were trying to pull him in.

Finally the screaming burning city guard was put out of his misery, as the daemon tore him in two.

Tobias almost vomited seeing this. Even Tordrad paused for thought as he picked himself back up properly. Maestro though drew river’s edge and brought the watery blade across the daemon’s back, extended as far as it could like a whip. The blade was smoking after contact with Xathrodox.

Maestro could feel a pulling sensation coming from the consciousness inside the weapon, it was unhappy to be fighting this foe. Maestro thought back at it, incase it could understand his thoughts too – that he too wasn’t happy to be here fighting, but they didn’t fight for glory, they fought for survival.

The daemon focused on Maestro and took a deep breath. Flame shot out its mouth as the wizard ran behind some of the city watch who were fighting mutants. Both watch and mutants were caught in the blaze, so that Maestro wasn’t.

The daemon stared at the man in disbelief as he peeped around the charred corpse of a mutant, dead standing stuck to the spot. He did not know humans could be so cowardly. Tordrad’s sword hit the creature again. It struck back and the Kislev man blocked the blow with his shield.

Lightning appeared to crackle up and down Tordrad’s arm with his new attack and as it struck it expressed itself through the weapon he held! With a mighty war cry he burnt the creature’s flesh as he cut deeply. Even then, the wound began to smoke and knit together.

Tordrad braced for impact as the creature stomped its foot to the ground, sending splinters of paving and cobblestone shards up at him. He covered his face and pulled the visor down on his helmet. This bought the monstrosity enough time to scream a summoning. The ground continued to split open where its foot had impacted. Dieter was poised to strike but waited and watched in fascination at this new event.

Tobias still kept unleashing bolts but they were ineffective, the wounds simply healed up with the protruding missiles still lodged in its daemonically infused undead flesh.

From the split in the ground came the massive hilt of a sword too large for a normal human sized creature to wield. This would have even been a challenge for an orc warboss! Xathrodox pulled the weapon from the ground as the others could sense the power coursing off of it.

Suddenly Maestro felt his sword’s will yank towards the new weapon, pulling him forwards a little in the process. Maestro commented, “Are you insane? I believe you are! First you don’t want any part of this thing, then you do. Well you’re not getting me killed!”

Suddenly then, purple tinged black grasping hands pulled up from the ground and gripped the monster by its enormous legs.

“This has gone too far” spoke the newcomer. It was Gabrielle, the amethyst wizard.

The Khornite creature hissed at the magic that bound its legs and pulled them free of the spell anyway, by pulling the very ground up beneath it. It charged towards the female magister as she cast a spell towards it that dissipated before it could hit. She turned to leave but the monster called forth the will of Khorne and something odd happened. Bone began tearing up out of the ground shaping into a dome. It began covering them both like a bubble.

Rissandrea saw this and ran to get inside before it could close, noticing that the creature’s wounds still kept healing themselves. It roared at the shallyan woman and caused a shockwave that knocked her backwards. It knew that she was the only threat to him and she had to be kept out at all costs. Then the bone prison was complete.

In amongst the overly long fused rib like structures were a number of skulls, they seemed to wordlessly chant some eternal warning to any who would approach.

Instinctively, Tordrad jammed his axe into one of the skulls, shattering it. There seemed to be an effect on the power outlining the gruesome dome.

Maestro caught on, as much as it disgusted him and he beat his staff against a nearby skull to him. The others began to follow suit as they heard a calamitous battle raging inside the dome, with the woman screaming in pain now and then. It didn’t sound good at all – they all knew they would have to hurry or it would be too late.

Inside the barrier the amethyst wizard encanted special words of her order and began to draw from Morr’s will to overcome the defenses surrounding this abomination, this abomination to death itself. A large scythe made from the made from the slightly purple ether that gathered around appered in her hands. The two combatants clashed in the centre of the dome the flesh seared and died where she slashed at it. Now Xathradox knew why she had called on this particular spell and knew beyond doubt he could not prolong such a fight.

Maestro spoke, “I would blast this thing, but it’s so anti-magically drenched with his will that it would take longer than doing this.”

Tobias nodded in understanding as he cracked another skull with his staff, hitting it repeatedly until it fell from the bone cage.

Inside the barrier, the last of the wizard’s lifeforce drained from her body as the creature throttled her round the neck. She had been unable to cast any spells to free herself. The creature had an aura about it, a dampening field to her magic. The daemon prince pierced her chest with it’s blade before alowing her to fall limp and lifeless to the ground. As it did so, the barrier exploded, sending shards of bone outward in all directions, cutting and grazing the party and bystanders/combatants nearby.

Tordrad stepped through the dust of the bone fragments, his vision obscured. Suddenly he was picked up by the beast and thrown at a nearby building. His armoured body smashed against the front door and it broke open on impact. The Kislev warrior lay there groaning for a moment until Maestro ran to him and tried pulling him back to his feet. He growled in his tongue, <“I thought for a moment there that I might be free of you wizard, little chance of that then. It looks like you will have to get me killed another time perhaps.”>

Of course Maestro didn’t understand a word of it but he pretended to anyway. He nodded and answered, “That’s quite alright Tordrad, anything to help you, helps me.” At least he was honest about it.

Rissandrea quickly ran past the men, into the house and disappeared upstairs. Meanwhile Dieter and Ulger fought furiously keeping the creature at bay. Suddenly though, it hit the doberman across the flank from its next jump attack and it fell moving no more. Dieter could sense it was still alive but that it had sustained damage. His rage boiled over and this caught the daemon’s attention. It looked down at him suddenly and spoke, “Well well, what a curious one you are. The others I expect do not know of you.”

Dieter shifted uneasily on the spot then redoubled his efforts with a growl of determination aimed at Xathrodox. The unnatural thing continued to talk, “The undeath part of my form recognizes the undeath part of yours. Foolish mortal, to tamper with that which you do not understand. Now I see what you are!”

Dieter’s eye widened in horror as the monster gripped its hand into a fist in front of the man. As he squeezed it and it tightened, seemingly squeezing thin air, the barriers that normally held Dieter’s “other” in place were suddenly not enough. The power of the thing’s undeath took over and Dieter collapsed to his knees, in front of the dead wizard Gabrielle. The would be physician’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and the black tentacles once again streamed from his mouth. This time they clutched the wizard and began motioning down their length in a way to suggest that they were feeding. The thing inside was feeding on Gabrielle’s essence and Dieter was powerless to stop it.

Tobias interrupted the satisfied grin on the daemon’s face, with another well placed bolt, this time right into its temple. It must have punctured the thing’s brain, but still the monster laughed at this attempt to stop it.

Rissandrea suddenly appeared at the top window of the building. She shouted to the others, “We need to do something right now before it is too late!”

Maestro wandered back out of the doorway trying his best to take Tordrad’s weight on his shoulder. It was bending him sideways from the effort but he just about managed to reply, “But how can we kill that thing? It will only heal all we do to it!”

Rissandrea called back, “We don’t have to kill it. We only have to damage it enough that it destabilizes from this realm and is banished.”

Maestro answered, “But the healing, like I said, we cannot do it enough damage quickly enough.”

Rissandrea replied, her face as serious as it had ever looked, “Then you shall have to have faith in Shallya, Maestro. Leave that problem to me.”

“Right you are” said the wizard, glad he was not being involved with that particular problem.

150 years ago

The Celestial College

The seer magisters concentrated together as the battle unfolded. No notes would be allowed to be made, for such things were risky, a liability of finding their way into the wrong hands and endangering the threads of the future. Instead they had to concentrate and remember everything as exact to its course as possible. With this fight, they were taking no chances. All of them studied, internally checking for the smallest details.

They saw the wizard amongst the group, the stupid man, firing every spell he could muster into the daemon. The first did not even make contact, but with enough channeled effort, Maestro had found himself strong enough to get some spells through at last.

Rissandrea from her 2nd floor vantage point opened fire with redemption, shooting a hole through the creature’s left cheek. Again, the burning area of the wound soon began to knit together. She simply fired again and again. Still, these shots were not enough to stop it.

Tordrad could feel the same internal presence that he felt before in front of this daemon, straining to get out. This time, he felt a lot less like he could control it. Some wild part of him responded to the daemon’s challenging roar and the threat it posed to the party. He couldn’t stop sweating…so hot, so uncontrollably hot! He quickly pulled his armour off. Maestro shouted, “What are you doing man?! Are you looking to die?”

Still the Kislev warrior pulled his armour off and Maestro got fed up of shooting spells so swapped over to his hochland long rifle and opened fire.

Rissandrea let loose with redemption once more. The creature at last was within a weakened state, but still it regenerated.

“Now is the moment!” cried Rissandrea. She gave a run up and jumped from the window, out towards the courtyard the others stood in. She landed atop the creature’s back and rested her gloved palms against its meaty undead flesh. She chanted a holy invocation to the mother of mercy and healing, to heal this poor creature’s remains, to stop the torture of its various bodies. The area around the woman glowed with an intense bright light and the creature screamed in protest. It bucked and the woman fell from its hulking body, onto her side, where she damaged her ankle and leg. As she lay on the ground, she once again fired redemption at the beast. This time the wound did not knit itself together! This time none of the other wounds mended, and the ones that had been previously caused stopped their process of mending at once. Some of the wounds even tore back open.

The creature looked to the woman fiercely, its eyes focused on her, fallen as she was she was still the cause of it feeling pain, again. It would crush her and take her soul with it back to its home where it would feast slowly, but only after it had finished its business here. It decided to collect on the shallyan’s soul right now though for sake keeping and strode towards her angrily.

Tordrad roared challengingly. Everyone turned to look, even Xathrodox. Though they had all heard the man do this before, this time was different. There was something real and bestial about it.

Suddenly Tordrad’s features began to change. His eyes went wild. Hair began to sprout across his body. His musculature began altering. His skeleton began to shift. His facial formation began to change in structure, looking longer, a lengthened black nose at the end of a structure, inhumanly sharp teeth in his mouth growled fiercely. Tordrad looked half wracked in pain, half wreathed in rage as the full formation came about. Before everybody’s eyes, the Kislevite man had turned into a massive hulking bear!

This had happened to him once before in his life. He prayed it would not happen again. He hoped it was a dream, but it had not been. Whether he liked it or not, he had been blessed or cursed by Ursun, the Kislevite Hunter God. His parents knew from a young age for they had seen the signs but had kept it quiet from the others of their town. They feared that he would become feared, an outsider, even if it may have truly been a blessing.

But now, the full might of Tordrad could be seen. The bear sped forwards, thudding the cobbles with its great paws as it went. As it made contact, it crashed its weight against the unholy monster knocking it’s great sword from it’s hand and sending it bouncing with sparks across the ground. There the two of them lashed at each other in a primal battle.

Neither Rissandrea nor Maestro could use their ranged attacks anymore and the shallyan woman was in no condition to drag herself over to the battle so they could only watch.

Tobias too was powerless to act now, with only a slingshot and crossbow in hand, for the sun had not gone down and given way to his more melee focused alter ego…

The two great beasts were tearing each other apart but Tordrad was getting the better of his foe, for now.

Dieter finally came back to his senses and stood to his feet. He turned around purposely and walked calmly towards the daemonic monster that tussled with the Kislevian bear. He summoned an internal will and the winds of magic kicked up. Even Maestro noticed this. The black shadowy tendrils were receding and an eerie calm look was on the trainee physician’s face. He spoke aloud, “So, control me will you? Make him take control of me will you? This…will…not…pass.”

Dieter dropped to his knees and began chanting, the words were complex and spiraling. Even Maestro couldn’t fully understand this passage, but he did know magic when he heard it. Dieter was casting a magical spell! He’s a wizard!?

Dieter no longer cared about hiding it. He was too angry at the insult. He recited the lines of a strange daemonic tongue. He knew this, because the daemon’s eyes blazed upon hearing it. “Nooooooo” it shouted, “I will end you!”

The creature desperately strained to break free of the massive bear, but Tordrad’s animalistic form was too much for him in this weakened state now. The bear’s teeth were firmly clamped around the daemon’s neck. Xathradox tugged and tugged to pull itself free and began tearing the very flesh away from its body as it did so. It managed to pull itself along the ground, away from the bear. The bear dug its front claws into the creature’s legs and held on to stop him in place. A tussle of strength took place as the creature had almost neared Dieter’s position, for the man had walked close to the battle himself previously.

It was too late though, the final words were recited at last and Xathrodox began to scream in pain as he turned into red smoke before their eyes. As he did this, the hulking creature’s body cavity caved in, released from the new burdened energy it had been filled with.

The daemon’s final words were cold and troubling though, “Evil still walks amongst you. The evil that suspended me will kill all of you!”

And then all was normal. Tordrad was even back to normal, albeit a lot more naked than when he’d started the fight. He was very quiet about the entire thing that evening.

Blitzal’s party had managed to dispose of the other creature as well. The attack on Nuln had been well and truly subverted. Not stopped of course, never stopped…as the mage seer inside the Celestial College 150 years prior observed the group spoke aloud to the others present watching the images before them, “For the evils that persist in our time, shall persist in their time too – and the times to come after that. The world shall know only war. It shall define its healing only by its wounds. It shall define its good deeds only by the evils that oppose. It shall employ heroes only in the measure of that which is needed…and sometimes…sometimes fellow magister sirs, it shall employ a band of heroes that are unwanted but most certainly needed. The worst is yet to come though.” Spoke Viez finally.

The others agreed like a flock of sheep. For even with future sight, when the vision of that which is still to come is certain, will all still be uncertain for the final outcome. The true meaning behind the gains and losses will only be known by those who experience it in their own time. It was something that the party would just have to be patient and wait for, for now…