D&D End Times Campaign

The Great Crusades

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In the year 1448, self-proclaimed Sultan Jaffar of Araby invaded Estalia from the south. Envisioning a continental empire, Jaffar imposed iron-fisted rule upon all the lands he conquered, casting down the idols and churches of the hated infidel. This triggered a religious crisis in the Old World, prompting King Louis the Just of Brettonia to declare the First Errantry War. The Empire, gripped by civil war, sent no armies. But hundreds of thousands of faithful took up the Vow, and the Crux, and marched south in defence of their Gods. For nearly 150 years, invasions or "Crusades" have raged back and forth, fortunes have been won and lost, territory has been seized and ceded. The Old World has profited enormously from the bloodshed, including through the discovery of 'naphtha', or black-powder. At present, the Crusaders maintain their 20 year control of the capital Al Haikk and nearby port-city of Copher. But the years of occupation have been long and the cruelty of Jaffar is forgotten. Rumour now grows of ghostly lights in Ben Aliad, and beating war-drums in the desert.

It is the Year 1622 of Sigmar's Empire.


Part I- Knights of the Realm


Chapter I- The Holy Land

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Martek

Clouds of pale sand and grit kicked up in the rider's wake. Holding the scroll-case tight against his body, the cowled man urged his mount over dry, rocky terrain, passing lonely stone houses on the road to Martek. The message, arrived at port via merchant-carrier, was for the eyes of the city's ruler, Reynard Von Solidor alone. Sealed in lustrous scarlet wax, it bore the Eagle-sigil of Kurt Helborg, Elector Count of Solland and chief supporter of Karl-Franz I's claim to the throne.
From 'Brothers Solidor and the Last Crusade'

[Von Solidor's Reliquary]
A hot wind howls off the desert in a cloud grit dust, meeting four figures on the dry plain outside of Martek, mountain-city of Reynard von Solidor. The newcomer, tall and proud in glinting armour, turns away from the dust, not yet used to the desert heat after his time in Bretonnia. Sir Balin is the oldest legitimate son from Lord Reynard, and newly returned with a proposal for his father. To his right stands a man who shares Reynard's strong jaw, a younger man wearing the white tabard and gold hammer sigil of a Sigmarite priest. Joachim von Solidor is fresh from the seminary, but wears his two-handed greatsword with the ease of experience. Two men talk cordially nearby, both tanned from years in the sun. One wears the sigil of Von Solidor; Alaric Sand is the bastard son of Reynard and has answered his brothers call with vigour. He wears chain marred with years of use and the blade at his waist had already taken many lives. The other is an outside, Aurelio de'Lorenzo, an Estalian noble from a house long allied with the Von Solidor line. He had cemented the alliance with a marriage to Reynard's only daughter, Gwendoline, and wore a sword and hammer on his belt marked with the sigil of his house. A messenger had arrived two days earlier for their father, and the sons had been shooed from the castle while the Lord von Solidor conducted his business. The group had spent their morning with Sir Gregor, practicing the lance and sword with their old drill-master. Now, having finished games of Regicide at Gregor's suggestion, they awaited the arrival of Sir Harold their father's Clarion.

Sir Harold approaches, honouring Sir Balin with a small nod, before addressing the group. The camel-traders who had arrived at Martek this morning had been complaining that on the road from a nearby oasis their herds had been troubled. The creatures had seemed to sense some unseen predators, and the traders had no time or men to spare to find any such creatures. As most of the knights who might normally have slain the creatures were in the castle with the Lord, Sir Harold was requesting that the brothers ride to the area and if not slay the beasts, then at least make a show of Lord von Solidor caring about the wellbeing of his constituents. The local nomad tribes had been causing trouble of late, and so the horses are adorned with the colours of Von Solidor, lest they think Reynard had grown weak. The men ride out of Martek the next morning, led by Alaric to the oasis. The mounts thunder across the open plain, riding over dry creek beds, low grass and rocky dunes. Beneath the harsh sun herds of oryx and the few robed figures scatter before the sigil of Von Solidor before the group crests a low hill and look down upon the oasis. Hulking Nehekharan carrion birds circle the oasis, but those that are not seen off by the galloping horses are easily slain by bolt and blade. The carrion were gathered around a dead body, a traveller at the edge of the water whose pockets and scabbard had been emptied. Searching the area the knights find a strange bag in the oasis, black-red roots that give off an ill smell. The traveller's mouth is filled by a swollen black tongue, and the group surmises that someone had poisoned the waterhole. Finding strange small footed tracks nearby the group rides away from the oasis, eager to find those who would poison the water in their father's lands.

Following the tracks the group rides through the heat of the midday, and as the afternoon wanes find themselves outside a small cave mouth filled with light from a cook-fire. Riding ahead Joachim and Balin spur their steeds and smash into the figures, revealed as the grotesque Skaven. The rat-men, snarling and bickering in a chittering language, wear rough hewn robes and bare only rusty swords and daggers in their furred hands. The creatures are no match for the cavalry charge of Joachim and Balin, fleeing back with their tails between their legs into the waiting sword and hammer of Aurelio. Tying their horses in the cave-mouth the group moves further into the cave, lighting torches on the Skaven cook-fire. Further in the cave the group finds more of the rat-beasts, these larger creatures wearing rusted armour and strange triangular wooden shields. Smashing the beasts aside the group breaks into a breeding pit, where the Skaven beastmasters breed the local desert skinks as creatures of war. Joachim rushes ahead but soon finds himself cut off and surrounded in the mud of the breeding pits. As he struggles against the skinks Aurelio and Balin forge towards him through the mass, huddled robed figures no match for the warriors. Rat skulls are smashed by Estalian hammer blows and Bretonnian forged steel, and soon the last of the creatures flee back into their burrows beneath the cave. One final chamber remains and within it the will that had brought the Skaven from beneath the earth. A swirling Dust Mephit lashes the group with storms of dust and razor sharp rock, but weathering its magic on their shields they strike down the beast.

The Mephit's hoard has items from various travellers who had fallen victim to his traps, but one item stands out from the rest. A small chest marked with the Vol Solidor sigil, stolen from a nearby reliquary. Nearby a pile of grave-rags and bones are discarded, the occupant of the robbed grave of no interest to the Mephit. Incensed at the raiding of their family tombs the group moves back out and remount their horses, rushing to the nearby reliquary silhouetted by the sinking red sun. Twilight has fallen when they arrive, with little of the pale red light cresting the horizon as they arrive in the rocky valley. The octagonal reliquary rises high up on a cliff, with a carved and winding stairway leading up to the bluff dark. Below the group finds the cause of the darkness, the Von Solidor guardian stabbed in the back by a rusted sword even as he lit the lower lamps of the reliquary. Rushing up the long stairs they find the reliquary raided, sarcophagi overturned and relics torn apart and discarded. Within are more Skaven, their black robes almost hiding them as they try to fit a massive tapestry depicting the Von Solidor ancestors in battle into a hemp bag. The creatures are ambushed by Alaric, whose crossbow bolts slay many of the beasts before they can even react, and the rest are slain as they turn, cut into pieces by Joachim's massive sword blade. Returning the artefacts to their proper places and straightening the reliquary the four brothers feel driven, connected to their ancestors and the glory of their house. Joachim's eyes widen as he prays, his faith rewarded by Sigmar with new strength to slay his enemies.

The following morning men-at-arms from Martek arrive, sent by Lord Reynard to collect his sons. They agree to stay at the reliquary to keep it safe, and the four men gallop back through the desert towards their home. The city is a bustle when they return, the Lord Reynard having recalled the household with plans to travel to Al Haikk to the King's Court. Within his imposing fortress, the high walls carved into the surrounding mountains and looming over the city, they meet with their father at the head of a large assembled force. Reynard is elderly, but keeps the power of his youth. This fury rises upon hearing about the fate of the reliquary. He had heard of the local tribes looting graves before, and believed them to be responsible for raiding the tomb before the Skaven arrived to pick the area clean. He grows angry, swearing that the locals would pay for their insolence. While he rides for Al Haikk he will send his sons to find those responsible, gifting them with half a dozen of his knights to "put the fear of Sigmar into those heathens". A cheer goes out amongst the assembled force, and later that day the brothers find themselves riding out again at the head of a group of knights towards the nomad campsite of Osirisk.

It is two days through the desert to Osirisk, but led by the seasoned Alaric the group makes good time through the desolate sands. Osirisk is a Saracen base of operations, nestled within a valley of red-brown rocky outcrops. Arriving at the camp the cavalry lower their lances, banners of Von Solidor streaming in the breeze as their horses gallop towards the milling figures. The household knights peel their horses off to attack the civilian camp while the brothers pierce deep into the nomad's main forces. Many Saracens are slain before they can reach their horses, while those who mount are cut down as they swing their scimitars against the far better armoured Von Solidors. Those who flee are slaughtered as they run, while Joachim captures one alive to question. Alaric takes a Saracen horse as a prize, the swift desert creature much famed for their speed and fortitude. Joachim binds his prisoner, a black tattooed nomad with sharpened teeth and dark robes. Ungagging the man he begins to intone, spitting foul words from a bloodied mouth. Nearby the dead nomads begin to rise, their eyes black and their skin falling loosely from their flesh as they are filled with necromantic magic…


Chapter II- The Good Die Young

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On the Spice Road

The dead saracens, blood cold for not an hour, began to rise as a fell wind whipped through the area. Cold fingers grasped spears and scimitars in a foul imitation of their lives, while others clawed forwards with naught but their hands. A wave of undead surge towards the embattled knights, skin rotting from their bones as they are driven forward by ill magic. The knights of Lord Reynard balk at the masses of enemies shambling towards them, but his four sons hold firm. Holding crossbow, sword, and hammer in steady gauntleted hands they advance towards the horde. Balin walks at their fore, his glowing sword held aloft and a prayer to the Lady on his lips…
From 'The Last Crusade'

[Swords for the People's Crusade]
Alaric puts a bolt through the head of the necromancer, but the dead continue to rise. Hefting whatever weapons are at hand the dead rush forward. At their feet arms and upper torsos, violently removed from their hosts, crawl forward. The horses are the first to flee, and the vol Solidor knights struggle to keep their mounts under control while fighting against he horde. The brothers are not so troubled, drawing weapons and wading into the fray. Blades and bolts smash into the undead, but despite heinous wounds the creatures continue to claw at the armoured figures. At the back of the creatures walks a crusader, long dead he rises again in rusted chainmail and wielding a zweihander in skeletal fingers. Balin lays into the figure, his glowing sword smashing piece after piece of the creature aside until finally the green light fades from his eyes and the bones lie still once again. Their will broken the rest of the undead collapse, leaving bloodied figures gasping for breath in the now silent oasis.

Resting only to heal wounds and bury the few knights who had fallen to the undead the group makes all speed back to Martek to warn their father about the strange occurrences that had befallen their party. The road is busy with merchants and wanderers making their way east, but it is a group on the second day that catches their eye. Several hundred peasants march in a strange imitation of military formation, their hands gripped to wooden spears and farming implements. They each sport a copper medallion of Sigmar around their necks, and are led by five brightly coloured figures on horseback. The figures meet on the dirt packed road, their Bretonnian colours clear even before a heavily moustached man removes his helmet to speak. He is 'Hornblower' to Sir Louie of Mousillion, an elderly knight behind him to remains silent, and the knights are leading the peasant crusade to Bel-Ahaid. It seems the High Priest of Sigmar in Al-Haikk had decided the city's poor should form a crusade, and had provided the people the means to reach the bandit city to the east. The hornblower is unsure about the success of the crusade and seeing the group's pack horses carrying spare weapons suggests a deal. His master Louie is happy to financially support the peasant crusade, but has not the methods to procure weapons. Should the group return weapons to them they would be purchased for a decent price, and the likelihood of the crusades success would rise.

Sending their father's knights back to Martek the brothers ride into the Serpent Hills, searching for a renowned bandit hideout that could provide the weapons and armour they had promised the crusaders. The bandits were ex-sellswords, recruited by an Arabian Warlock called Landar to raid and pillage the nearby regions. Finding the remnants of smashed carts Alaric tracks the bandits back to the rocky valleys of the hills. A squat wooden tower dominates the entrance to a canyon, the smoky forms of armed men just visible above the wooden walls. Tying up their horses in the approach the brothers begin to move up the canyon, framed by the setting golden sun as they dash from tree to tree towards the tower. The archers atop the tower begin to drop, crossbow bolts from the canyon below piercing helmets and skulls as the men look for their source. Distracted, they fail to notice the figures moving below them until it is too late, and Joachim, Balin and Aurelio smash down the door of the tower with weapons drawn. The bandits rush to pick up their scimitars, but their leather armour is no match for Martek forged steel and they are slain where they stand.

Deeper into the canyon in a tangle of rocks lies the bandits main base of operations, an old crusader fort refitted with a wooden palisade and rebuilt where the old sandstone had collapsed. Outside the fort is a sea of bones, the bandits victims mingled with the remnants of a battle fought long ago. Amongst the bones crawl giant rats, lured by chunks of meat to guard the outside of the fortress known as 'Landar's Holdfast'. Alaric moves up through the bones, avoiding the rats, and climbs over the palisade into the fort. Moments later the gates wing open, a frantic Alaric pushing it open as a pair of bandits take aim with crossbows. The others rush forward, the giant rats slaughtered as Joachim swings his two-handed sword cleanly through them. Lashing out with hammer and sword Aurelio creates a hole for Balin, who takes crossbow bolts on his shield as he dashes to the defence of Alaric, now bleeding from multiple wounds. As Aurelio and Balin rush the palisade Joachim takes a position behind the line, shooting forth light from his hands while holding his sigil of Sigmar above his head.

As the party regroups at the gates more bandits flood from the fortress proper, swinging scimitars wildly and hollering battle cries as they rush towards the embattled group. Steel clashes on steel, and the desert sand is soon awash with blood. When the dust settles only the von Solidors remain, bloodied and dirty but alive. They move to police the weapons of the bandits, lashing them to one of the pack horses while their mounts are led through the boneyard. Moving into the fortress they raid the armoury, adding spears and bows to their growing collection of armaments for the peasant crusaders. Reaching the top of the keep the men come across Landar, the dark skinned warlock walking towards the group with twin scimitars drawn. As he approaches his form is shrouded by a swirling cloud of dust and sand, his foul magics leaping up to protect him. Balin and Joachim rush forward to engage the man, but find themselves blinded and engulfed by the swirling dust. They fall to the ground, writhing in pain as the Warlock's magic wracks their body. Not breaking eye contact with Aurelio and Alaric the warlock pushes his twin scimitars deep into the chests of the both of the men.

The warlock falls, eye pierced by a single crossbow bolt, but the damage had been done. Joachim and Balin lie dead on the floor of the fortress. Dark eyed Aurelio and Alaric strap the bodies of their fallen brothers to their horses and with heavy hearts leave Landar's Holdfast behind. Galloping through the desert they meet with the peasants crusade the following night, turning in the weapons and armour that were gathered. That night the men discuss their future with Sir Louie, and the old knight suggests a solution. He had heard of the miracles of the First Crusade, and knew stories of men waking even from death when blessed by a saint. He gives them the name of a Theologian in Al Haikk who studies miracles, Lucan, and with many thanks the two remaining brothers take their leave. That night, camped beneath a stone arch from a long forgotten civilisation, the two discuss their plans to resurrect Balin and Joachim. Although uncomfortable with the idea, they agree to bring their brothers back no matter the cost.

Balin son of Reynard, pure of heart, blinded and stabbed by a Pactblade Warlock.


Chapter III- Ave Maria

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The Cruciform Covenant prepare their ambush

"I don't like this any more than you do brother," said the Questioner, speaking mildly over the screams. "You're a godly man, by all accounts."
The old monk was held roughly by a grizzled cultist, while the church guards looked on in discomfort. As the beating subsided, he tried to speak through swollen, purpling lips. "V-Von Solidor," he murmured. "Von Solidor."
At a nod from their leader, the cultists dumped the monk unceremoniously to the ground.
"Right," said the Questioner, turning to his fanatics. "Who do we know in the city by that name?"

[The Tomb of Saint Jerome]
After a few hurried days ride Alaric and Aurelio arrive at Al Haikk, their brothers bodies strapped to the tops of their horses and preserved only by Sigmar's grace. Moving through the massive sandstone walls into a city of golden tipped spires and stone alleyways the pair ride for the Cat and Dragon tavern. The tavern is dusty and dark, a known hangout for thieves and vagabonds, and also the favoured pub of Alaric's cousin Wolfgang von Solidor. Wolfgang is employed by the Church of Sigmar as a witch-hunter, and the the brother's know they can depend on him for both information and discretion. Luckily Wolfgang's associate, a bard named Löwenzahn, has heard of Lucan and is willing to lead the party to him for a nominal fee. Riding through the poor district outside of Al Haikk's walls the group makes their way through a tight mass of people, eventually arriving at an old manor house that Lucan now calls home. As a stern young woman opens the door Aurelio gives a bow and to his companions surprise explains exactly and honestly what their purpose there was. Wide eyed the woman allows them access, and in the cluttered mess of Lucan's study they meet with the strange cleric. Lucan grows excited discussing the ancient miracles, and brings out an old scroll that shows evidence of precedent of the faithful being revived by the saints. He mentions one saint in particular, Jerome the Ardent, who was the site of many of these resurrections. He knows of an ally of Saint Jerome, Viseo, who is said to have recorded the Saint's final resting place. However these records are tightly held within the archives of the cathedral district, where Lucan is no longer welcome. He asks the party to retrieve the journal of Viseo for him, and promises to try and save their brother's souls if they retrieve it.

While Alaric stays with Lucan and the bodies the others change into their finer clothes and make their way to the archives in the cathedral district. A few pretty words get them through the heavy doors of the district, while a document forged by Wolfgang allows them past the white clad church troops guarding the archives. With a lie about Lord Reynard sending Aurelio to get records before the new crusade the priestly monk allows them full access, even going so far as to lead them to the restricted section in which the records of Saint Jerome are kept. There are many books about saint Jerome, some even locked with chains, but none that feature the journal of Viseo. Wolfgang sends the priest away and reveals he had found evidence of a secret passage beneath the restricted section. Down some cobwebbed and ancient steps the knights find themselves in an darkened tomb, symbols of Jerome carved into the walls and suits of armour standing in defence of the area. Moving inwards they find these were not suits of armour but undead guardians, now animating to defend the tomb! Swinging rusted halberds and swords the ex-crusaders swarm at the party. While Aurelio and Wolfgang fend off the creatures the bard Löwenzahn is not so skilled, slashed down as he draws his hand crossbows. Falling with a high-pitched squeal the undead mass forward, threatening to overwhelm the intruders. Pulling Löwenzahn back with them Aurelio fends off the undead and bleeding from various wounds the two manage to slam the door closed just as the guardians reach them.

Resting in the restricted section Wolfgang pays an urchin to send a message to Alaric, who arrives some hour later fully armed and armoured. Löwenzahn, his arm in a sling, agrees to stay with the party despite his wounds. Now prepared for what they face the group moves back down the stairs and into the tomb. The skeleton crusaders charge once again, but the party are ready. Aurelio leads the creatures off, while Wolfgang's expert knives cut them down from behind. Löwenzahn and Alaric send bolt after bolt into the fray. Eventually the last of the skeletons are killed and the group moves further into the tomb. Löwenzahn lights their way with bardic magic, and Wolfgang leads the group carefully through a heavily trapped area. The final room in the tomb is protected by a heavy door and the walls are carved with strange hieroglyphs. Almost too late Alaric recognises the Nehekharan script, and from a tomb a creature emerges. Rotting flesh covered in bandages the creature draws a scimitar from its sarcophagus and rushes to kill those that would interrupt its rest. He reaches out and grabs Löwenzahn, who crumples to the ground as if asleep. The beasts seems to ignore the wounds caused to it, slicing with its scimitar regardless of the many rents and blows laid upon it. Eventually Aurelio takes the initiative and throws his flaming brand onto the creature. As it immolates the others follow suit, and soon the foul beast burns on the ground before them.

The tomb is covered with a carved map, the allegorical 'journal' of Viseo. Taking an etching of the map, the group moves back out past a shocked priest and rush back to Lucan's hideout. Back in the safety of the manor-house Alaric and Löwenzahn are healed by Lucan, the touch of the mummy a known and feared curse in these parts. Meanwhile Wolfgang burns the unholy tomes found within the tomb. Lucan is concerned that he will be targeted by the 'Cruciform Covenant', a group of religious zealots that hate Lucan and seek to destroy any knowledge that sits outside their extremely conservative world view. The map not yet deciphered the group begins making preparations to leave town, preparing a carriage to carry Joachim and Balin's bodies. The last light of the day dripping away the group takes accommodation at the Serpent's Pub and procure supplies from the innkeeper for the following days journey. Their rest is interrupted however by the arrival of the Cruciform Covenant. A crowd arrives during the night, bearing flaming brands and chanting oaths to Sigmar. Most are common folk, whipped up into a frenzy by the few white robed figures walking among them.

As the group wearily exits the Serpant they are set upon by the townsfolk, the chainmail wearing priests driving them to a killing frenzy. The knights try to talk the fanatics down, but are shouted down by the red faced man leading the attack. At first the group only seeks to hold off the townsfolk, not wishing to slay the innocents, but soon they are fearing for their own lives as more heavily armed and armoured Covenant members enter the fray. The church Militia push forward with spears and heavy flails and the knights struggle to hold their line, Löwenzahn and Alaric falling to the hammers of the would-be paladins. Eventually through the skill of Wolfgang and Aurelio the mob is seen off, the inciting priest chased down and left with a dagger in his back in a nearby alleyway. Their welcome in the city well and truly spent, the carriage and horses are prepared and a timely exit from the city planned. Lucan heals Alaric once again, but even his clerical abilities can do little to hide the scar that now splits his face in two. Mounting up, the strange group gallop past shocked guards and in to the darkness of the early morning.

Riding through the desert at pace, Alaric and Lucan begin deciphering the map. The location is revealed to be 'the Saint's Pool', a well known miracle and battle site some ten days ride from Al Haikk. The days pass in silence, Lucan riding atop the sealed carriage as Alaric leads the group through the harsh desert. Eventually they reach an immense sandstone ziggurat, surrounded by sands strewn with old bones and rusted equipment from a battle long ago. The sand dunes lead upwards to a rocky outcrop, and beneath the ziggurat stands a simple carved stone door. A strange brown robed figure emerges from the door, his face kept in shadow, and as the party approaches he simple gestures and begins to lead them inside. Within the cavern there are many nomads and priests of various faiths. Sigmarites stand side by side with Saracens and followers of the Old Gods and New. At the end of the cavern stands a pool set at the base of a simple sandstone tomb. Lucan's eyes are wide with glee as he slides the body of Joachim into the pool, and incanting a ritual he steps back as his body is overwhelmed by light. As the light settles the pool is still once again, and a gasping Joachim is very much alive. Stumbling and gasping he is robed by a concerned Alaric as Lucan brings the body of Balin into the pool. He incants the words, but no light emerges from the pool. The noble Balin lies still as the grave, the power of Sigmar unable to bring him back.


Chapter IV- Exodus

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The gates of Al Haikk

"You would deny me this," whispered Reynard, tears dripping from his furious eyes. "I, who have done more for the Church than any in this land?"
"It is is not I that denies you Lord Von Solidor," replied the Lector. "It is God."
Hunching over Balin's white-pallored form - preserved by balms and prayer - the Lord of Martek wept. His cries echoed in the cavernous cathedral.
"My son," he gasped. "My son."
"Blessed are you in suffering, my Lord," cooed the Lector. "Upon the son, the sins of the father. But in grief, we are offered God's forgiveness."

[The fall of Araby]
Lucan takes his leave, riding to the port city of Copher intent on contacting the Von Solidor estate and gaining payment for his services in reviving Joachim. Joachim still regains his strength and remains in the carriage with the grave shroud of his brother Balin. That night a comet streaks across the sky, its tail burning hot as it dances through the stars. A sure sign that Sigmar watches over them, the Von Solidors are encouraged that their holy crusade will indeed bring much glory. Heartened, they begin the ten day journey through the gruelling desert back to Al Haikk. A few days into the journey, their armour already covered in the dust and dirt of the desert, the men stumbled upon a strange sight. On the site of a battle long ago there stands now only empty graves, bodies risen once again by the foul magic of the desert. Tracking the undead Alaric finds them huddled within an ancient ruined structure, the skeletal bodies of dead crusaders and saracens joined by strange undead in bronze armour wielding golden spears and shields. Wolfgang and Aurelio ride in on their horses as the undead forming ranks in a strange imitation of a disciplined human army. The pair charge bravely, but are battered against the tower shields of the undead and soon find themselves overrun. Alaric pours arrow after arrow into the skeletons before rushing forward with his axe drawn. Arriving at the melee he finds a wounded Wolfgang closing the eyes of Aurelio, the golden warrior speared by half a dozen blades and laying in a pool of his own blood.

Aurelio's body is taken to the carriage in silence, another brother lost of the desert. Picking through the now dormant undead Wolfgang comes across a strange scroll written an ancient Nehekharan. With his broken Nehekharan Alaric translates it, revealing the tale of an Imperial Wizard called Arkhan who travelled to Araby to learn the magic of ancient Khemri. There is some discussion of going to kill this necromancer, who seems to have taken up residence in Ben Aliad, but the pair decide to go to Lord Reynard first and inform him of what had transpired. Outside Al Haikk they are greeted by a strange sight, the vast sandstone walls of the city surrounded by a shambling mass of undead. Speaking to some of the King's men holding a watch-tower outside the walls they learn that for the last fortnight the dead have been rising across Araby, with this particular army having arrived just after the Conclave of Knights was called. Guided by the King's men the spare horses are tied to the front of the carriage and with this increased speed the group manages to punch through the undead lines. Riding through a swamp area they are pursued by skeletal knights, undead Saracen light cavalry that shoot their horse-bows with the skill of the living, but manage to ride through the gates just as the undead close in. Barely stopping to speak with the beleaguered city watch at the gate the group begins to move through the city. A teeming mass of refugees clog the streets, fleeing from undead across Araby to their capital city. In some areas sick peasants are walled off from the others, Shallayan priestess' healing those afflicted by disease or dark curses.

Riding beneath golden towers and past gardens the sand-swept group makes their way into the Al Haikk cathedral district. The Conclave of Knights is situated within the Grand Cathedral of Sigmar, golden clad and glowing with light in the centre of the city. Many warhorses are held outside by squires, a testament to the dozens of knights within the cathedral walls. The glittering array of knights argue forcefully, with King Roman sitting quietly on the throne. A brittle old man his grandfather was a renowned conquerer in the First Crusade and beside him sits the bald Lector of Sigmar, his face cast in a permanent rictus grin. Two Grandmasters of the many knightly orders present are debating, with Grandmaster Roy of the Golden Lions arguing to returning to the Empire while Grandmaster Markus argues that the strength of Araby should not abandon her people. Pushing through other knights the group is reunited with Reynard, whose red eyes betray his knowledge of Balin's passing. He greets his surviving sons, glad at least that Joachim could be returned to him. He tells them with sadness about the sacking of Martek by the undead, and the loss of many of their family outposts to Saracen raiders. As they speak the High Lector stands and speaks. He received a missive some weeks ago, the reason for the calling of the Conclave. A request from the Lector of the Empire for loyal knights to return to the realm. Trouble rages across the Empire after the death of the Emperor, and a number of claimants threaten to break into civil war. Arguments break out again across the hall, with some knights intent on returning to the Empire and others intending to stay and defend Araby. Reynard voices his intention to stay but gives his sons his blessing to leave if they feel their duty lies in the northern lands.

Making their way out of the still shouting Conclave the men move back out into Al Haikks streets. Aurelio's body is returned to his family, his wife Gwendoline von Solidor inconsolable at the death of her young husband. Aurelio's shield is lain upon Balin's body, his final wish to protect the young knight fulfilled in this small way. At this docks they meet with a contact their father had mentioned, Sir Gregor's son Adalwulf von Gebhardt. Adalwulf is a hulking man whose Von Solidor colours barely stretch over his overly muscled torso and arms. He chuckles as he brawls with a pair of city low lives, his moustache swaying in the gentle breeze. The vagabonds driven off he sits to discuss with the group the state of Al Haikk. There is talk of a new Sultan who afflicts the lands, and the dark magics he casts upon the occupants of Araby. Stories run rampant of swarms of locusts devouring whole towns and of rivers running red with blood. Alaric and Wolfgang find themselves torn. On the one hand they want to help the city, and free their homes from the clutches of the undead, on the other they feel obliged to return to and protect their homeland in the Empire. Unsure of their path, they stow their personal feelings and join Reynard in his visit to the Lector. Although Reynard offers gold and riches the Lector refuses to resurrect Balin, claiming that it is not the will of Sigmar. Reynard flies into a rage, and becomes even angrier when Alaric suggests taking Balin's body to Bretonnia to seek the assistance of the priestesses of the Lady of the Lake. The Lord von Solidor refuses, speaking out against the Bretonnians as cowardly and ungodly. Alaric and Joachim's minds are set however, and they decide then and there to take Balin to Bretonnia no matter what it took, knowing this would invite Reynard's fury.

Adalwulf and Wolfgang devise a plan to take Balin's body against Reynard's will and during the night the pair walk into the Von Solidor estate. Wolfgang implements various disguises and some magic to make himself appear as Lord Reynard, and the Von Solidor troops do not question their lord going to visit his son. Once in the crypt Wolfgang creates an illusion that disguises Balin's body as a chest and Adalwulf simply carries it out past the guards. Outside they find Alaric ill at ease blathering to Sir Gregor, but Adalwulf's father soon leaves and the disguised body can be loaded into the cart. The guards become suspicious but the men are already galloping out of the Von Solidor estate with Balin's body loaded into the carriage. Arriving at the East Gate of Al Haikk they wait for Wolfgang to meet them. Time stretches by, and after Reynard's fury at discovering his son's body gone the Von Solidor troops are searching the entire city street by street for the perpetrators. Eventually Wolfgang arrives and the gate is opened. The encircling undead are unable to comprehend what is happening before the horses and carriage have blasted past them, leaving the city of Al Haikk and the undead surrounding it far behind.

Although past the reach of the restless dead the dangers of Araby were still arranged against the party. Several days of travel through the desert prove to not be uneventful. While foraging Adalwulf disturbs a hive and is set upon by Nehekharan fire beetles. Despite crushing the creatures with his axe he is heavily poisoned and the group is forced to make camp while Alaric mixes a remedy from local herbs for the stings. While the others rest Wolfgang roams around, eventually finding the beetles last victims. A gem trader and his caravan had not survived the desert, and Wolfgang pulls a bag of precious stones from the belt of the rotting trader. Eventually after several days hard ride the group crests a sandy hill and comes upon the port town of Baskra. White stone houses jut up against the blue sea, providing for a small port of wooden jetties and moorings. But trouble, it seemed, had reached Baskra as well. People huddled within the town, protected by a wooden palisade from an army of undead that hammered against its walls. Townsfolk and nearby farmers smash against the wall, their flesh rotting from their bodes as locusts swarm from within them, devouring what little life remains. As the group watches in horror a sound reaches their ears from back at the carriage. Joachim, still pale but fully armoured, is drawing his greatsword. Hearted by the return of the cleric and hefting weapons the Von Solidors prepare to charge the mass.

Aurelio of House de'Lorenzo, golden-haired, impaled by Skeleton spearmen.


Part II - Knights Errant

The Elector Count of Solland strode into the war room, his armoured footfalls booming in the cavernous space. Passing rows of gold-weave tapestries and standing armour suits, he approached it's lone occupant. Looking up from the candle-lit maps, Karl Franz wearily ran a hand through his hair.
"You have a dark look," he commented, eyeing the tightly wound scroll in Hellborg's hand. "I don't suppose that's good news for a change?"
"Another holy war has been declared in the South," said the Count. "The Arabyians have again turned to dark magic, and the Orders are bound to dispel the threat. The Grandmasters write to convey their regrets.
Franz gave him a wry look. "So not good news precisely."
"My agents indicate that Al Haikk will not hold. A handful of knights, armed civilians and refugees have sailed north, but nothing suggests a Crusade."
"No answer from Reynard?"
"He mourns the death of his heir, slain in a bandit raid."
The presumptive emperor sighed, hunching over his maps in frustration.
"Todbringer and his brutes are astride half the country, and if he doesn't claim the throne by force, then Emanuelle will get it by guile. I'll be damned if the whole situation isn't just handing the Empire to the North on a platter, but what have I got that compares with gold, armies and black magic?"
Hellborg placed a steadying hand on the younger man's shoulder. "My lord," he rumbled."You have faith."


Chapter V- The Southron Sea

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Landing outside of Sartosa

Over leagues of baking desert, they passed piles of flyblown livestock and a handful of burned-out farmsteads. Nursing painful scarab-stings and the aches of many battles, they crested the dunes of Baskra and beheld a salt-wreathed sea. But the river-mouth was red, as though running with blood, and amid the slouching shapes of boil-afflicted smallfolk, clouds of hungry locusts seethed and swarmed.

[Escaping Araby]
Reunited at last the brothers Joachim and Alaric ride towards the undead surrounding Baskra. The desert road winds past ships moored with chains fastened to ancient statues nestled in the waves, and within the walls of Baskra the old sandstone temple can be seen among trees and white stone houses. The undead turn and mass towards the riders, but are quickly cut down or smashed apart by sword and axe blow. Adalwulf darts around the edge of the mounted combat, cracking skulls and spilling blood with his axe and shield. Joachim holds aloft a holy symbol of Sigmar and the zombies baulk and flee before him, hammering against the walls of Baskra in an attempt to flee the holy light. Stopping for a moment at the edge of the town the group spots a strange figure within. Armoured in black leather and wielding a two-handed scimitar is a man with red skin and strange horns. A devil man of Ben Aliad! As they approach he moves into the temple, cutting down townsfolk as he goes. Wolfgang remains outside to protect the townsfolk while the others move into the temple to hunt the Devil. Within the ancient sandstone temple the Devil looks up from pulling his blade out of the last of the towns clerics as the group enters. Up close they see now that he sports a flowing black beard and wears the sigil of the First Jaffar on his armour. He darts forwards almost immediately, his blade cutting out with unnatural swiftness. A series of quick blows cut down Adalwulf where he stands, the muscular man left bleeding on the ground. Meanwhile Alaric and Joachim take blow after blow against their armour before eventually with a final axe swing the devil is killed.

With a recovering Adalwulf under Joachim's care Wolfgang and Alaric run off or kill the last of the undead. The group are approached by an old man, skin tanned from years in the sun. He introduces himself as Elder Jean, the master of this town, and thanks the group profusely for freeing his people from the scourge of the undead. Only one large vessel remains in port, but its captain Calligos has shut the ship off from the people of Baskra. Unable to leave because of the chain pulled across the dock, around the ship Ares a troubling standoff has emerged between the desperate townsfolk and the crossbow armed crew. Despite the party's efforts to barter with Calligos the sea captain is unwilling to take the refugees from Baskra with him, claiming low stores and nowhere for them to sleep. The group pays a fair price for passage, although forced to leave the carriage behind, and load up their horses and equipment. The carriage is given to the people of Baskra along with a horse to pull it, and the group gives the refugees the last of their rations. Saying fairwell to Jean and the others, who will attempt to walk along the coast to the next town, the group rows out to the Ares and steps aboard.

The many sails of the Ares creak as the ship makes it way out of the bay at Baskra and out into the open sea. The vast yellow sands drift into the horizon as the Von Solidors say goodbye to their homeland. For those that had never sailed before the first few days were rough going, most meals emptied over the sides of the ship and into the blue below. At dawn of the third day, a shout of alarm rings out across the deck. Oncoming from the East is an angry storm-front, blooming with red-gold lightning. At its head, an immense war-barge, glinting with gold and bleached bone, encroaches, massive beyond anything that should float. It’s figurehead is a golden sphinx, whose face is rotted back to reveal a skull. “Gods preserve us,” murmurs Captain Calligos. The Khemrian Tomb Ship is pushed forward by oars grasped by towering monsters, Jackal and Vulture headed figures of bone and metal. The legendary Ushabti power the ship forward relentlessly as smaller ships break off and head for the Ares under the cover of dozens of undead vultures. As the assault craft draw closer the Tomb Ship begins to fire its mounted ballistae, undead crew loading and firing as they did in life. The crew of the Ares is gripped with fear as projectiles start to fall among them, splinters of wood and blood bursting off as they find targets. The group springs into action, Adalwulf and Joachim grabbing lose ropes and sails and pulling them into place as Calligos shouts orders. Alaric springs to action with the crew as ships pull alongside, and skeletal boarders are driven off time after time. Eventually the ship is brought to right and pulls away from the Tomb Ship, the ill cloud receding back as the monstrous craft retreats into its waters.

The Ares makes good time across the Southron Sea, but is soon becalmed as a vast grey cloud reaches as far as the eye can see. The ship's navigator is unable to find the stars to find their way, and so the Ares is stuck with sails down as they wait for the mist to move on. Some weeks later they emerge, rations low and desperate. Closer to the coast a call is raised from the crows nest. A wrecked ship had been spotted, a massive Bretonnian Man-of-War run aground on a reef and holed. Desperate for supplies the group offers to go aboard, rowed to the wreck by a sailor un-ironically named 'Skinny'. Tentatively boarding the vessel, the group moves past groups of giant crabs, killing any creatures that come too close. The Victoria is an immense vessel bearing the colours of the Bretonnian city of Bordeleaux, but her majesty had long ago been covered in barnacles and seaweed. Wading through waste deep water the group are set upon by the new occupants of the Victoria, a group of sirens bursting from the water and slashing with bladed claws and tails. Battered back the group takes deep wounds, their armour abandoned for fear of the extra weight. But eventually their blades cut through the thick scales of the sirens and draw blue blood. Throwing the crabs into the bags for food the group manages to salvage some barrels of sealed food and a small chest of valuables before making their way back to the Ares.

Back at the ship the group finds a commotion of the ship. Having been drawn to the wreck by the sirens call the ships navigator had thrown himself into the sea, and Calligos was shouting at the rest of the crew for their negligence. Eventually the ship gets back underway and the pure sapphire seas give way to sandy beaches and the emerald green of jungle as the island of Sartosa comes into view. The island is dominated by a large active volcano, and on the far side the rambling port is enclosed by a grey stone wall. Before they can pull into the port however they must pay the tariffs of the Pirate King. Jaego Wroth is a flamboyant figure as he walks aboard from his man-of-war the Heldenhammer. He demands a fifth of all gathered bounty and Captain Calligos dutifully presents a fifth of his wares. Jago's men go below and take a tad more, Jaego greeting Calligos with a wink to explain the process. Pulling into Sartosa port the Ares passes towers and walls bearing a formidable number of cannons, as well as other ships in port and the vast fortress of the Pirate King that stands watch over the whole settlement. Dismounting the group spreads out amongst the ramshackle wooden buildings of Sartosa. Rumours are abound in the pirate port, many ships stuck in town due to the haunting of the Pirate Currents to the north. Stories run amok of a ghost ship called Neptune that preyed on sailors who tried to make the crossing, and few are willing to attempt anything. Whispers are also heard about cannibalistic pirates who worship the shark god Strimfels roaming the region.

On the rope-walk, the dock district where items are traded or sold, Alaric takes the magical items the group had discovered in the desert to be analysed by the mystic aboard the ship Hierarch. While on the rope-walk the group tries to find passage to the Tilea mainland, but find most ships unwilling to cross the Pirate Currents due to the rumoured ghost ship. Wolfgang's investigations find that the only way to fight the ghosts aboard the Neptune is with silvered weapons, and only one group in town has the skill and silver to perform that task. The "Svardlings" are a group of Dwarves who live within the volcano at the centre of the island of Sartosa and their skill with weapon smithing knows no rival in the region. But their questioning had not gone unnoticed. A group of pirates confronts them outside the Crooked Farthing inn, cutlasses drawn and rotting teeth bared. But the would be bandits have no idea what they were getting involved with and soon they were either bleeding on the ground or running for their lives in the streets of Sartosa.


Chapter VI- Sartosa

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Wolverton's victims

"One gold says I can hit one".
The old man looked at the pygmy nearly a mile off into the jungle, and back at Alaric who stood grinning next to the old brass cannon.
"No chance young'n. No chance. I'll gladly take ya gold".
Atop the watchtower the thunder peal of the cannon echoed through the jungle, and far below a pygmy was reduced to a bloody spray.

[The Pirate Isle]
The price of silver is high, and Joachim looks around Sartosa for the means to pay the Dwarves for the honour. Plucking parchment from a town noticeboard the group finds themselves in the tavern Whirlpool, speaking to a man named Jory. The mans grandfather was a "Captain Jory", officer aboard the merchant ship Eldorado that had gone done transporting gold from the New World. It was also carrying an artefact from the mythical city of platinum. Jory claims to know a man, Old Jim Farthing, who knows the location of the wreck. Sensing the mans thin grip on reality the group decides to travel to the Barrel of Monkeys instead to talk to a Dwarf named Gutto. In the midst of the brawls and loud music of the Barrel of Monkeys they meet with Gutto, a dwarven pirate with a substantial gut who wears a half dozen pistols in a brace down his chest. Gutto tells them about a mine to the east that was once run by the dwarves, and the riches that are hidden there. He is particularly interested in Gromril cannonballs, used to fight ghost ships. If the group returns to him gromril cannonballs from the Mines of Ragil he agrees to pay them handsomely, as well as putting in a good word with his captain. This Captain Silver intends to sail the haunted Pirate Currents, and his crew the Freya will take the group if they agree to do this for Gutto.

While the others make preparations for the walk to the Mines of Ragil Wolfgang stops to watch a pistol duel that takes place in one of the muddy streets of Sartosa. As blackpowder is rare in Araby it is a marvel for the witch-hunter, and he immediately starts making plans to purchase a pistol of his own. Horses stabled and packs brimming with supplies the groups starts the march up towards the volcano. The dwarves of Sartosa dwell within, and there one can seek a guide to pass through the ancient tunnels to the mines. Pushing through the dense jungle up a beaten path the group stops for lunch at the Tower of Roba, a stone watchtower that has been converted into an outpost for travellers on the island. The tower-keeper is an old man who warns the group about the dangers of the forest. He seems particularly interested in the cannibalistic halflings who live there, who he refers to as 'pigmies'. He offers to scare them off by firing an old brass cannon atop the tower, but Alaric has another idea. Taking careful aim he launches a cannonball that obliterates a small group of the pigmies, sending the rest scurrying back into the forest with squeals of fear. Some gold changes hands as bets are paid.

Moving away from the tower the group makes their way into the area known as the "Howling Jungle". Moving through the muggy undergrowth to the sounds of bird calls and insect whines the realise why, the cacophony nearly deafening. Moving through the jungle they come across an abandoned pygmy camp, the remains of dead halflings still visible in one of the torn up tents. Adalwulf spots some imperial uniforms and relays that these men were from Marienberg, a trading port city in the Empire. As the group picks through the remains of the camp the killers of the pygmies make themselves known; a pack of cold ones dashing from the undergrowth to ambush their next prey. The lash into Alaric, who is smashed down by the gnashing jaws of one of the scaled beasts. The others counterattack to save their friend, Adalwulf's axe buried deep in then necks of the beasts as the large man swings with all his might. Eventually the beasts are seen off or slain and a shellshocked Alaric is helped up by Wolfgang. Taking time to look through the pygmies valuables Alaric skins one of the cold ones, intent on making a cloak. The group takes turns sleeping in the remaining pygmy hut, and as the afternoon closes in make their way once again up the side of the mountain.

As the sun sets the group makes their way out of the jungle, enjoying the feeling of wind on their faces as they reach the volcanic plateau. Set in the side of the wall up against a lake bubbling lake is an immense metal door carved in dwarven runes. A bronze dome dominates the lake, steam bubbling around it. Passing through a group of tents and shoddy buildings the group gains admission to be dwarven hold, Joachim speaking their tongue and convincing them to allow the group inside. They move past armoured dwarven guards, through murder slit riddled hallways and metal door after metal door before arriving in the dwarven fortress known as 'The Penitentiary'. There they meet with the Vaultwarden Ooren, a muscular dwarf with a strange orange mohawk. He accepts their offer to silver their weapons, but does not want gold for payment but a favour. One of the prisoners of the Penitentiary had recently escaped, and Ooren needed help tracking them down. The group accepts his offer, the chance for free silvered weapons too good to pass up. Ooren leads them downwards into the depths of the fortress, a strange mechanism of gears and pullings taking them deeper on a platform that moves. In the cell of the escaped prisoner the group can see where the wall was exploded inwards, and the narrow tunnel the escapee made his way down. Following a dwarven runner named Bruni they make their way down the tunnel by the light of a glowstone torch provided to them by the dwarves.

Bruni warns the group the dwarves abandoned these tunnels because they were overrun with lizardmen, and the men move tentatively through the mossy rock halls by the light of Joachim's holy icon. Passing through long abandoned mines they arrive in an open chamber that drips with water. Lichen and moss cover the walls around a strange stone pool at the centre of the room, within which lizardmen lie in wait. The smaller lizards spit darts at the group as they enter from strange blowpipes, while one creature runs to a wall and blows on a horn that echoes through the tunnels with a deep throaty moan. The call summons more creatures, these wielding bone axes and turtle shell shields and covered in armour made from bones. Clad in light made by Joachim the group stands firm against lizardmen that dart from the darkness to attack. Axes and swords flash, and the blue blood of the lizards is cast upon the ancient stone floor. Eventually the creatures are slain, some fleeing off into the darkness away from the holy judgement of the crusaders. Moving onwards the adventurers find the Mines of Ragil had long since been looted, but the group can easily find several gromril cannonballs that the looters had been unwilling or unable to take. Exiting the mines they emerge into a grassy plain on the east coast of the island. Moving through the jungle to the beach they find themselves looking out across the water at a ruined castle dominated by a tower now used as a lighthouse. This is Dragontooth castle, and nestled within the rocks Adalwulf spots a pair of ships. Swimming to the island and moving along the beach in the moonlight the group spots the sigils of Stromfels, and with shock realise this was a the base of the cannibal pirates the townsfolk of Sartosa had spoken fearfully of.

A town is nestled within the castle walls, and observing the comings and goings it seems almost two dozen pirates live within. Many of the buildings in town are naught but burned out ruins, and even from their vantage point the group can see the hanging shapes of imperials and other pirates who had been captured by the cannibals. Intent on punishing the pirates and sure their quarry was hiding within the group formulates a plan. Armed with a dagger and tinderbox Wolfgang swims over to one of the ships in the bay, a pirate frigate named the Maw. He is spotted by the crew as he tries to climb aboard, but ducks and weaves through the ship to the battery. Pulling a lantern from a hook he casts it upon the collected barrels, turning to run as the rum and blackpowder within begin to slowly ignite. Moments later the area is light with an orange glow as the Maw explodes with an echoing boom. Within the town the pirates grab their weapons and rush out to the bay, while a pair of longboats are cast out to look for survivors in the burning hull of the Maw. In the bay Wolfgang summons an illusion of a water elemental to cover his escape, but the pirates circle around and ensnare him. His exhausted struggles cannot free him from their nets, and he is slowly drawn in to the longboats.


Chapter VII- Fidelis Fraternitas

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Dragontooth Cave

Howls and frenzied drumming rang through the burned-out town, and the awful light of cook-fires cast warping shadows against the walls of the lighthouse. The Crusaders wound through the inclining street, splashing through salty puddles from alley to alley. As they reached the outer bulwark, the still-blazing hulk of the cannibals' ship illuminated the bay. Spotting a jeering mob returning from the beach below, Alaric cursed. "It's Wolfgang," he whispered urgently. "They've got him!"

[the Den of Stromfels]
The pirates drag an unconscious Wolfgang into the sea-caves beneath the town and eager to save their ally Alaric and Adalwulf pursue them. They dash through the caves within, moving through limestone tunnels lit only by flickering torches. The few pirates unfortunate enough to wander into their path were quickly cut down with axe blows or crossbow bolts as the pair moved further into the caves. The system is flooded, and the heroes are often forced to fight waist deep in water or across precarious bridges over flowing rivers. Eventually they find Wolfgang, hung from his ankles above a massive cookfire and surrounded by chanting fanatics of the Shark God Stromfels. Facing off against the tattooed scimitar-wielding pirates Alaric releases Wolfgang with a well aimed bolt and the three engage in a bloody melee with his captors. Fighting the pirates in the flickering torch-light blood is spilled on the ancient stone floors of the under-caves of Dragontooth isle. Eventually the last pirate falls with one of Wolfgang's knives in his eyes.

Moving through the caves with a shaken Wolfgang the group finds the tunnels opening up into a large cavern with a moored ship, supplies and equipment piled on the wooden docks. A group of Dwarven sailors sit in a cage nearby, beaten and captured by the Stromfellian pirates. The dwarves are from the fortress of Barrick Var, having come with their Captain Ulli to Sartosa. They suspect that their captain had dealings with the leader of the pirates here, a man named Wolverton. Ulli was apparently blackmailed into helping the prisoner escape from the Penitentiary, but they had not seen him for many days. Leaving the dwarves to prepare longships with which to escape the group moves upwards through the caverns towards the base of Dragontooth lighthouse. Pushing up they are confronted by frenzied pigmies and pirates beyond count before finally arriving at the top of Dragontooth tower and confronting Wolverton.

The top of Dragontooth tower is whipped by wind and rain, the area dotted with statues of pirates in immense pain. A pirate chief sits at the far end of the tower. He is ritually scarred, dread tattoos of bloodshed and sharks covering his thick grey skin. As the group approaches he bares his sharp teeth, drawing an axe from beneath his robes and rushing towards the party. Lashing out he drives the group back, a savage bite ripping into Adalwulf's shoulder. The warrior falls to the ground in pain as his flesh blackens around the wound. Cautiously Alaric and Wolfgang attack from both sides, but Wolverton holds them back with expert axe blows. He plunges his fangs into Wolfgang's neck, but the rogue draws two daggers as he falls and plunges them into the neck of his attacker. Falling to the ground he pulls the daggers out and Wolverton falls to the ground in a pool of his own strange black blood. Alaric quickly tends to his fallen comrades, and the wounded group move to police the weapons of the pirate chief. Hung over the lighthouse fires, the remains of the escaped dwarf sorcerer bubbles in a cauldron, his magical death-scream having turned many of his captors to stone.

Finding Wolverton's possessions below the crusaders have a troubling revelation. A book containing the ritual to cause a volcano to erupt sits, used, in the rooms below. The rumbling of the mountain at the centre of the island gaining ominous meaning the party rushes back to the dwarves and make their way out of the bay and back along the islands edge towards Sartosa. As they reach the port some days later the volcano had started to well and truly erupt, magma flowing through the jungle and a plume of ash bellowing up into the sky. Most of the ships in port are hurriedly loading and leaving, even some that had seemed permanent fixtures dust off ancient sails and make their way out into the bay. Rowing over to the Ares a stunned Captain Calligos informs them that assuming they were dead he had sold or butchered their horses. Rowing away from the traitorous Captain Calligos they meet with Gutto and get aboard the Freya, ship of the pirate Captain Long-Drong Silver. Giving payment in the form of gromril cannon balls they move their possessions aboard as the ship hoists sails and leaves Sartosa. The crew of the Freya are orange haired dwarves, not armoured but holding massive runic inscribed axes. As the smog of the volcano falls above Sartosa the shambling pirate fleet makes its way towards the mainland.

The Freya sails for a full day through the volcanic fog, navigated only by the skill of Captain Silver and the runic magic of the ships Runepriest. Eventually however the vast pirate fleet enters the Pirate Current, and screams begin to ring out from the fleet. In the smog of the night the fell ghost ship Neptune attacks. Spectral pirates leap from the wood of ships as ghostly cannonballs smash into ship after ship. Pirates fight back with all their might, but their cutlasses simply pass through the ghostly forms. That is all but the Freya. Armed with gromril cannonballs the dwarven ship blasts back at the Neptune, renting great breaks in her hull. Those ghosts that attack the Freya are met with silvered axes and the gromril pistols of Captain Silver. As the fleet is ripped to shreds by the ghosts the Freya pushes past them, crew wounded but thankfully alive. Eventually the ship reaches the Tilean coast and Captain Silver lets the crusaders off, accepting payment for the travel and bidding them farewell as he sails north to kill the "troll king of Kislev". The group moves up the coast towards the city of Luccini in their new attire. It is a few days overland to the city, but in the cool fresh air the group makes good time. They are a strange sight arriving at the city; Wolfgang in robes looted from the Stromfellian lair, Alaric in the armour of Wolverton and Adalwulf hefting his toothed axe.

An army is mustering on the outskirts of Luccini, the proud hound banner of the ruling house prominent in the city's many towers. It is a strange and elegant city, a maze of arches and white stone hung with garlands and spring blossoms. Moving through a gate guarded by armoured men with strange spotted fur cloaks the group takes rooms at the Gleaming Goat Inn, a two story stone building with a gold plated goat statue at the centre of the common room. Speaking to the many mercenaries filling the inn they hear rumours of the ruler of Luccini being a feared warlord, and tales of a brewing war with the other city-states of Tilea. After the stresses of Sartosa the mercenary bar is a grateful respite, and the crusaders let their hair down with the sell-swords. Adalwulf makes friends with a group of horse-archers from Kislev, drinking fire whisky and engaging in brawls in the back-lot of the inn. Meanwhile Wolfgang gets robbed by a local pickpocket, but uses his investigatory skills to not only track down the halfling responsible but regain his lost coin. The following day Alaric arranges the purchase of another armoured wagon within which to store Balin's body, and horses for the group from a local trader. Meanwhile Wolfgang meets with a group of local information traders, paying coin for information about Tilea and the best path to Bretonnia through the mountains. He also engages in a duel with a local noble, winning himself a fine Tilean blackpowder pistol. Newly armed and resupplied the crusaders mount up and head out of Lucinni north into the grassy plains of Tilea.


Chapter VIII- Dogs of War

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The ruins of Vezarro

Holding his striscia loosely, the one-handed man wiped grit and blood from his face. Ashes fell steadily from the clouds, lightly coating the docklands and haloing his hair like snowflakes. Periodically, meteors would streak down into the sea, vanishing in great gouts of sizzling steam. As he watched, the rickety fleet of fishing boats struggled to load and make sail.
"My Lord," wailed a passing refugee, mistaking his Von Solidor footmans' tabard for a knights'. "We are not sailors! How will we find the motherland?"
"That way," he replied gruffly. "Until the men speak Tilean. Continue until they speak something else."
As more howls echoed through the dock, Löwenzahn kicked his crossbow towards Lucan for a reload.

[Tilea]
Even as the crusaders gallop through the gates of Lucinni the city begins to empty around them, the armies of Prince Vespero mobilising to march to the north. The massive army of mercenaries and state troops rally beneath the Prince's magenta hound banner as the group breaks away from the army and moves north through the sunny grasslands. On their new Tilean steeds they ride for a full day, passing white leaved trees picked by peasants that stop and stare as the fully armed and armoured figures ride past with the armoured wagon containing Balin's sarcophagus. The following day they pass a group of peasants rummaging through the rotting remains of a wagon, signs of a battle around a flooded settlement with a recently built wooden palisade. Seeing the Prince's banner flying above the fortification the group rides through its gate, surprised to find the town almost entirely occupied by mercenaries. Smaller companies wear their own colours, while noteworthy companies like the Republican Guard are legendary throughout the region. Passing through a group of foul smelling Orc mercenaries the group meets with Riko, captain of the Republican Guard, in his tent in the centre of the outpost. As they speak shouts are heard from outside the tent and the crusaders rush out with weapons drawn.

A horrible hunched shape walks slowly towards the tent from the camp-proper. With mottled flesh and long dank hair the creature drops a dying mercenary from her clawed hand, green smoke belching from her mouth and filling the eerie camp. Around her stand Republican Guards, eyes glowing green as the hag possesses them and sends them against their allies. The hag sends forward her ensorcelled soldiers and flees off into the camp, pursued by a dogged Alaric hefting his crossbow. The others wade into the melee, reluctantly cutting down the possessed. Eventually the pikemen are face down in the running water of the river running through the camp and a reluctant Alaric returns with news of the swamp hags escape. Riko returns from seeing to his men and requests the group leave the camp so he can tighten security, instructing them to head north east to avoid the armies of Miragliano in the field.

Heading north the group rides through the sparse hilly area to the north east, passing a series of strange obelisks with ancient markings none recognise. Moving onwards the group comes across a burned down settlement, the town comprehensively sacked by a large force that slaughtered all within. Moving through the ruined town they find evidence of looting and bodies in both the magenta of the Prince and one or two bodies in yellow bearing the sigil of Estalia. Moving past piles of dung and paintings in blood the group comes across two survivors huddling in a half burned down hut on the outskirts of town. One man wears the magenta of the Prince, while the other the yellow of Estalia. Through heavy breaths the men explain that the town was attacked by Orcs, the yellow man informing them that he was part of a raiding party sent by House Pizaro of Estalia. Loading the men into the carriage to Alaric's discomfort the men leave the grotesque ruins behind them and move to track the Orc force in the eastern hills. Eager to avenge the town, they track the Orcs into the light woods, finding a tumble down Orcish town floating in the middle of a flowing river.

Wolfgang attempts to disguise himself as an Orc and gain access to the camp, walking up to a ruined watchtower at the edge of the river. Unfortunately the Orc sentry is surprisingly astute, and brings his axe down upon Wolfgang as the rogue struggles to deceive the idiotic beast. The rest counter charge, cutting down the Orcs that mass from the watchtower with axe and sword, while crossbow bolts hit the backs of any who attempt to flee. Within the camp a horn rings out and more greenskins flood from their tents and makeshift huts, smashing weapons against crude shields and screaming warcries. Forming up on the bridge Joachim and Adalwulf hold off the Orc's charge as Alaric throws bolt after bolt into the milling forces. Armoured figures fight and die on the rickety wooden bridge above the flowing water, but eventually the bodies of Orcs are cast into the water and only the crusaders are left standing. Rushing back to Wolfgang Joachim finds the witch-hunter cradling a bloody stump where his left hand once was, removed in a single blow by a stoney Orc axe. Camping just outside the now empty Orc settlement the group makes contact with a group of rangers from the Falcon Company mercenary group, the company having hunted these Orcs for some days and glad of the work done by the group. They wish to steal the Orc rafts and sail upriver, but find themselves torn between this and hunting the Orc chief who dwells in a keep in the mountains. The crusaders agree to slay the Orc chief, leaving the rangers to travel north but grateful for the warmth of their fire and their company.

As night falls the group moves upwards further into the hills towards the Fortress of Terenne. That night Alaric kills a crow with glowing green eyes, proof that the swamp hag still trails that group that had driven her off days earlier. An arched bridge leads up the mountain to the fortress, a long abandoned human keep in significant disrepair. A large blue banner with a black skull motif flies at the top of the keep and human skulls litter the ground around the entrance. Trying to sneak into the castle the group are ambushed by a pack of green skinned goblins, the fell creatures firing arrows from the darkness as the heavily armoured warriors walk beneath the gatehouse. The goblins are run off, slain as they rush out of rooms and darkened nooks. The group rushes off to pursue the beasts, lured into the trap that the greenskin chief had laid. Moving downstairs Alaric and Joachim are set upon by a massive squiq, its pink bulbous form snapping at them with brown teeth. Far above Wolfgang and Adalwulf are attacked by the swamp hang, her sharp claws and foul magic beating them back. As the last of the goblins are slain Wolfgang and Adalwulf fall to the claws of the hag, Alalwulf's shield shattered as it is smashed from his arm.

Adalwulf regains consciousness just as the swamp hang drags him and Wolfgang towards a massive cook pot and buries his axe deep in the flesh of the witch, cutting her down with a series of brutal blows to the neck and chest. Below in the dungeon Alaric pulls forth the sword of Manaan from his pack and plunging it into the squig, pulling it out with a burst of black blood that washes across the stone ground. Jaochim finishes the creature off with a burst of light magic and the pair rush to find Adalwulf and Wolfgang, finding the pair bleeding near the hag's cook pot. Joachim uses his clerical abilities to heal their wounds but he can do little to repair Adalwulf's shattered arm. Missing body parts, bleeding and exhausted the crusaders clean their weapons and steel their resolve as the sounds of goblin drums echo through Terenne Keep.


Chapter IX - Res Publica

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Estalian caballeros fly the Sun-and-Spear of Myrmidia

His knees creaking under the heavy burden, Samuel shifted the sack on his shoulders and put one foot ahead of the other. Wars were a fact of life in Tilea, and good for business, but Samuel's thought dwelt more and more on the small stash of coins he had amassed over years of picking battlefields. "This will be my last war," he promised himself inwardly, lugging the salvaged weapons towards the distant wooden fort. "I'm getting too old for this." Raising his eyes from the muddy road, he let out a shout. The magenta-clad guard was long dead, impaled to the palisade by a crossbow bolt.

[Foreign Aggression]
A wave of goblins on their tails the crusaders fall back into the woods around the keep, Alaric hurriedly trying to find a cave in which the group can retreat and rest. Wolfgang leaves the group, sneaking through the forest to where their horses had been stowed to protect them from the marauding goblins. In a small cave the group waits through the night, hearing snarling and goblin chatter in the night. A group of goblins riding fearsome grey wolves come during the night but are seen off by Joachim's heavy blade, the priest cutting beast and rider alike in half in a splash of green blood. Rousing the others they rush out of the cave into the night with the sound of goblin hunting horns following them. The pursuing packs catch up the group at a ruined watch-tower that once helped guard the Fortress of Terenne. Led by a fearsome grey skinned ogre riding a massive white wolf the goblins rush in to the tower. Some fall to Alaric's crossbow bolts, while the rest are slain as they rush up the stairs within the tower. Hacked by axe and greatsword the Ogre finally falls, his body breaking on the rocks below as he is cast from the tower top.

Resting on the tower surrounded by the corpses of slain goblins the group rearms themselves and prepares to return to Fortress Terenne. They leave at dawn, having not heard back from Wolfgang. On the way to the keep the party meets again with the Falcon Company, who are surprised to see that they have survived. The Falcon Company reveals they were sent by Borgia the Besieger to kill the Ogre Krusk and manipulated the group into killing him for them. The company leader trades his crossbow with Alaric for the head of the ogre and the company take their leave. The remaining goblins at Terenne are no match for the crusaders, and even after unleashing their monstrous squig beasts the last of the goblins are slain. The castle cleared the group finds a chest filled with gold looted from the pillaged nearby towns. Their purses bulging the group re-unites with Wolfgang, leading their horses from where he had protected them during the night.

Riding onwards towards the town of Riffraffa the crusaders pass a number of smaller villages destroyed by the tidal wave they had heard whispers of in their time in Luccini. Whole areas of farmland and grasslands had been turned to swampy mush by the wave, and the crusaders give coppers to the hundreds of peasants picking through the remains of their lives in the ruins. The crusaders take their horses along the high roads above the new swamps, the carriage unfit for the mushy ground. After a few more days of travel they find themselves at the town of Riffraffa. The town has been turned into an island by the wave, the surrounding lands destroyed and the town only accessible by rafts. The rafts themselves were operated by men in yellow and red clothing, heavily armed and bearing the banner of an Estalian lord. Ignoring the town for now the crusaders make their way to a small chapel not far away to meet with Father Helstrom, a priest of Sigmar about whom they had been informed by the Falcon Company. Helstrom is an old man with a hunched back who welcomes the crusaders with care and hospitality they had not encountered for some weeks. He tells them of his portentous dreams, nightmares of death and fire that make him sweat even as he recounts them. Helstrom was an ex-crusader of some note and was still blessed by the powers of Sigmar. He offers to heal Wolfgang and Adalwulf's injuries and after in a burst of light the men's missing hands seem to have regrown entirely. Joachim falls to his knees, eyes wide in wonder at the power of his god.

Dining with Helstrom the old priest tells the group of his discomfort at Riffraffas occupation by the Estalian lord Francisco, and at the suffering under their rule by the locals. He requests that the party help repair the aptly named "crusaders road" that runs through the region, destroyed by the flood. The road would link four villages together, allowing trade and support to once again move between these cut off villages. Remounting their horses the crusaders ride from town to town gathering men to help clearing and rebuilding the road. From Stiano to Asteano, Pavona to Schozazy the peasants of Tilea join the crusaders in helping keep their villages safe. The Elders of each town send men skilled at construction with the group to help repair the road, and in short time a great stretch of the ancient paved road is clear of rubbled and sandbagged against further floods. Bandits hired by the Estalians try to stop the repairs but the blades of the crusaders see off the ruffians. Honouring the mercenary code the bandits are allowed to leave with their lives, and the construction continues. Stopping in Pavona for the night the Mayor Rick has his finest craftsmen carve Fleur du lis and other Bretonnian imagery into Balin's carriage, the mighty knight finally beginning to receive a tomb worthy of his glory.

But the rebuilding of he crusaders road is not without its dangers. In the muggy air monsters thrive and a clan of swamp mutants tries to stop the road from being repaired. With brown cloaks and feathers where men might have hair the creatures attack with stone spears and blow darts. Some of the peasant volunteers fall beneath their poisoned weapons, but the rest of the mutants are driven back into the swamps. As Joachim heals the wounded volunteers he finds the swamp mutants had cast a curse upon the survivors, and it takes all of his hold power to remove the fearsome blackness upon their souls. The following day a strange group approaches upon the road. A knight with an immaculate white tabard greets the group, introducing himself as Sir Tybalt of Araby. Tybalt claims to have survived the fall of Al Haikk and come north. The men with him are survivors of the battles to the south of Tilea, where Prince Vespero is said to have suffered a great defeat at the hands of Borgia the Besieger. Tybalt agrees to join the crusaders in repairing the road, and offers the services of his mercenary allies if the group can provide food and work for them. In good time the newcomers are put to work guarding the volunteers as they dig and reinforce the road, while riders are sent to Stiano and Pavona to trade gems and other valuables for additional rations. On peasant in particular shows promise, joining Alaric for hunts and riding patrols with Joachim and Adalwulf. The young man is named Morgan, and is honoured when the crusaders present him with a spear and suit of leather armour and offer for him to join them as a squire.

After ten days of hard work the job is done and the triumphant crusaders return to the chapel at Riffraffa to find it in strife. An Estalian knight rides away from the chapel, outraged at having been refused entry by Father Helstrom. The Father had armed himself as if for war, although he could little lift his old warhammer. The Estalian knight returns to his fellows across the last grassy plain in the region and the crusaders realise they mean to attack the chapel. Sending the peasant volunteers back to protect their villages the crusaders form up on the hill in front of the chapel. Tybalt stands proudly with them on his warhorse and his mercenary soldiers form up behind. Overwhelmed by this sign of piety Helstrom presents to Joachim his mighty warhammer, a golden clad Sigmarite artefact that Joachim raises before him with pride. The knights of Estalia crest the opposing hill, some dozen of the men in yellow tabards atop grunting steeds. The crusaders stand resolute, and as the sun begins to set the riders surge towards one another. Tybalt, Adalwulf, Wolfgang and Joachim with his glowing hammer charge towards the frontmost knights, while Alaric leads the mercenaries to deal with the second ground. Peppered with arrows the horses of one group fall, their riders cast off their mounts and slain by the mercenary pikemen. The knights lash out with their greatswords and slay many mercenaries as the two mounted forces clash. The mounted crusaders crash into the Estalians with a mass of flesh and steel, horses rearing and kicking as their masters fight with sword, hammer and spear. The Estalians are feared horsemen and renowned fighters, but the weight of righteousness weighs in the crusaders favour and eventually the last of the gold clothed men are fleeing back towards Riffraffa. Bloodied, the crusaders stand upon the field of battle more convinced than ever in the god's belief in their cause.


Part III - Questing Knights

The torches sizzled and spat, casting eerie shadows against the dank dungeon walls. The jailors bowed awkwardly as the two greatest wizards of the Empire swept out of the darkness, their gold-stitched cloaks flung over their shoulders. Facing the vault door, Archmage Balthasar Gelt made an impatient gesture, and internal clockwork began to spin and click. With a muted ping, it swung open of its own accord and Thyrus Gormann, Master of the Bright College, kindled candle-flames that orbited overhead. Chained in filthy robes within, the Magister of the Celestial College giggled and thrashed on the cell floor.

“Gods Balthasar”, breathed Gormann. “I thought it was only affecting hedge wizards and incautious apprentices.”
“We’ve actually been fortunate,” replied Gelt. “He only killed household staff and pets as far as we know. Turned a few of his trainees into mice. He could have levelled Altdorf.”
“It’s the Prism isn’t it? As we've feared. Magic is no longer being filtered into individual Winds.
“The evidence is certainly mounting. Qhaysh // once again bears the Taint of Chaos. It is possible that// this will be all of our fates now.”
“Madness,” breathed Gormann in horror. The chained wizard seemed to find this hysterically funny, and the candlelight briefly flared and burned green. Unnerved, the Magisters withdrew to reseal the cell.
“We will have to recall the Journeymen,” said Gelt, his grim expression hidden behind his golden mask. “Call the Colleges to Conclave, somewhere we won’t pose such a threat.”
“But Archmage,” said the Bright Wizard. “Where would we be safe now? When could we possibly go?”


Chapter X - Yellowjack

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Plague in war-torn Ebino

Piping a sweet melody for the crowd, Peter capered around the camp, ducking and weaving around tent-ropes. To the wonder of onlookers, rats were emerging at the sound of his playing, falling in by twos and threes to follow at his heels. Finally, as his hunchbacked assistant held it open, the rats filed willingly into a woven sack. To great applause, Peter threw the squirming sack into the nearby river. As he bowed, waved and exulted in the praise, another assistant was hidden downstream, wading into the water to retrieve the bag.

[Quarantine]
The fine Estalian bred mounts are policed by Joachim and Wolfgang, whose own horses were killed in the melee, and the group quickly say farewell to Father Helstrom. Many of Sir Tybalt's mercenaries offer to stay and protect the Father, and the rest disband or return to their families in Riffraffa. Their cohort diminished, the Crusader's ride north. Passing through the flood lands the horses make their way out onto the grasslands and make good time through the Tilea countryside. A few days into the journey the carriage makes it's way past the city of Remas, but despite the smoke rising from the city the crusaders do not stop. After six days along the strada aurelo, or "golden road" the group arrives at the river Tarano. Unable to cross, they spot the fleet of the Prince Lorenzo in the bay of Miragliano, blockading the city. Moving inland they come across an old ruined stone bridge that had collapsed into the river and set about cutting down some trees to form a makeshift bridge. Alaric and Adalwulf steadily swing their axes, but the demolition of the trees awakes strange creatures living within the tops of the massive trees. Long limbed and grey skinned creatures swing down on webs to attack the party, slashing at them with poisonous claws and gnashing teeth. The creatures attack in a frenzy, but are slain by the crusaders before their poison can come into effect. Finishing the bridge the carriage cautiously crosses the river and the group continues onwards.

Arriving at the city of Ebino the crusaders find the walled and fortified town surrounded by forces wearing the green of Miragliano. Riding to the fore Tybalt explains that the yellow quartered flag being flown above the wooden palisade indicates the city is under quarantine. Approaching the quarantine zone a guard explains that there has been an outbreak of plague between here and Miragliano and that none can pass for forty days. The city of Ebino is closed on order of the Lady Isos, the head of its merchant council. Within the quarantine zone doctors wearing strange bird shaped black masks are burning the bodies of those killed by the plague, much to the chagrin of a group of local peasants who shout profanities at the men. Stowing their horses and cart the group visits the many merchants stuck here by the quarantine, with Wolfgang purchasing a hunting hawk from a particularly disgruntled looking Kislevite merchant. Resupplied, the group moves to speak with the Lady Isos about having their quarantine lifted, only to find in her tent a sign of a struggle and guards with their throats slit. Tracking the kidnappers the group finds a mass of peasants standing around a pyre in the farms outside the quarantine zone. Lady Isos is tied to the pyre, and a red faced man bellows a disjointed sermon at the gathered peasants. The man introduces himself as a Witchhunter of Myrmidia, burning the Lady for not allowing last rites to be said over those dead from plague before their bodies are burned. Joachim tries to reason with the man, but his ignorance and arrogance is overwhelming. Eventually Wolfgang sneaks through the maize fields and cuts the Lady lose while Adalwulf distracts the crowd with a blathering display of shouting and tensed muscles.

Returning the Lady Isos to her tent she is met by more guards and says her thanks to her rescuers. She explains that she is burning at bodies at the insistence of her plague doctors, and that waiting for last rites to be said by priests would only make the corpses more likely to spread the plague. She asks for the Crusader's help in protecting Ebino from the plague, and they graciously accept. They agree to first find the Halfling enchanter Bellweather, who was coming from the Empire with a magical artefact to assist Ebino. However the Halfling had gone missing on the road and the Lady asks the Crusaders to help find him. She also points them to a bard in the encampment named Peter the Piper. Peter has prepared a bardic ritual to rid the town of its rats, but needs components for the incantation. He asks the group to retrieve a handful of ghoul fangs, a fairy dragon egg and the core of an awakened tree. Unsure of where to get these items the group endeavours to find them while tracking the Bellweather, hoping these monsters live in the forests east of Ebino. Leaving the carriage with Morgan behind the group mounts their horses and rides east from Ebino in search of Bellweather. By happenstance early on the second day they find a group of ghouls devouring the corpses of some troops from Miragliano. The ghouls take blow after blow, their undead flesh regenerating by some foul magic. The creatures lay Wolfgang low, his daggers embedded in their grey flesh. While Joachim drags Wolfgang back to safety Alaric and Adalwulf fight side by side, their axes cutting off limbs until at last the writhing undead stop moving.

With Wolfgang so heavily wounded the group are forced to make camp and rest for the remainder of the day, enjoying some grapes picked from a nearby vineyard. The following morning they arrive at Toscanea, a small town situated around an old nobles manor that had been converted into a hospital to deal with the war and plague outbreak. Some Miragliano troops are stabled in the town, and plague doctors occupy the manor house in the centre of the town. Stopping in the Restless Badger tavern Adalwulf finds himself pick pocketed by a local child and spends much of the day tracking down the miscreant. Alaric uses the day to catch a stray cat, hoping the beast will keep the carriage free of rats in the future. That afternoon the group visits the hospital, finding wounded from both Miragliano's army and citizens afflicted by the plague. In one room Joachim finds a group of halflings, mercenaries from the famed Cookpot Company of archers. They claim to have seen Bellweather, but are quickly silenced by the nurses and orderlies. Suspicious of the cover up Joachim picks up a halfling and leaves, much to the annoyance of the town guards. Back in the forest at their camp they question the halfling, finding out that the plague doctors have been seen coming and going from the hospital with boxes concealed with cloth. They had also been seen bearing strange hourglass sigils. The halfling claims some patients die without being sick, and others get sick apparently overnight after being taken off for treatment. Their suspicions roused the crusader's endeavour to investigate the manor house hospital after dark to see if the halflings accusations are accurate.

Guided by the expert eyes of Alaric and Wolfgang the group makes their way through the town, easily avoiding the green clad guards. Even the clanking Joachim reaches the manor house unmolested and Wolfgang picks the lock, gaining access to the secret basement. Within the stone basement they find large tablets with strange green arcane runes and blood splattered nearby, clearly a site of some foul ritual. Joachim draws his holy hammer and smashes the tablets, the stone shattering with booms that echo through the enclosed corridors of the basement. The noise attracts a group of black robed men bearing a purple hourglass sigil, who scream at the outrage and attack with curved ritual daggers. The daggers inflict foul festering wounds where they hit, and even after the men are slain or captured the wounds refuse to heal. Alaric interrogates one of the men, discovering that they are posing as priests of Morr, the Imperial god of Death and Time. However Joachim surmises that they are actually of a different cult and executes the prisoner. Moving past a room where barrels contain a strange green sludge the group smashes through a pair of doors and confront the true culprits behind the events in Toscanea.

Furry ratmen gather around a massive iron cookpot that bubbles with a viscous brown liquid. The Skaven wear green-brown robes and swing censor bearers that emit a mustard smoke in the area around them. The strange beaked masks of the plague doctor single human stands among them, a plague doctor in his strange beaked mask who holds aloft a mace that glows green in the dim light. Smashing through a pair of wooden doors Joachim and Adalwulf are hit by a wave of poisonous green gas that leaves them coughing and wheezing, while the skaven plague monks move forward with their censors held aloft. Falling back from the poison gas the group are charged by the plague monks, smashed backwards by their blows and finding their own weapons bouncing off their thick rusted armour. Alaric is beaten down by a pair of monks who corner him in an adjacent room, while the rest of the party battles in the main hallway. Adalwulf and Wolfgang are pushed backwards as well, kept alive only by the healing magic that Joachim summons forth to support them. Shouting a prayer to Sigmar he swings about himself with his greatmaul, smashing down the skaven with holy light. Eventually the plague priests are slain and the human priest rushes forward, pushing Adalwulf down with a blast of unholy energy. Wolfgang and Joachim rush forward, smashing at the priest until at last he falls with Wolfgang's rapier piercing his heart. Flipping the cauldron the crusaders find a cage filled with rats, the intended carriers of the skaven's foul plague. They kill the beasts and destroy all remnants of the plague. Further in the basement they find Bellweather, driven insane by some foul magic in a room filled with his own excrement. Around him they find magical artefacts, made by the Halfling in the depths of his madness. Packing their bags full of oddities they turn to leave, finding in the hallway outside Alaric still lying where he fell…

Alaric of the sands, a long way from home, poisoned by foul Skaven.


Chapter XI - The Beacons Are Lit

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Revola

The weather-beaten scout looked up from his cookfire, laying down the fat hare he had been skinning. There was an odd note to the shriek of birds in the distance - and looking to the horizon – he saw a dimly visible flock taking flight. The blunt peaks of the Irana Mountains were snow-capped even in late summer, but among them, a plume of black smoke smudged the sky. Donning his feathered cap, the commoner snatched up his simple effects. The fire was on the Tilean side of the border, and the Brotherhood would need to be informed.

[Tilea burns]
Joachim slings Alaric's form over his shoulders, his brother convulsing and frothing at the mouth as a poison of the plague rats does its foul work. Leaving the makeshift hospital they find the town abuzz, guards rushing back and forth and some buildings on the towns outskirts burning. From among the guards rides Tybalt, a look of concern dashing across his face as he spies the unconscious Alaric. Greeting the wounded group he informs them that Toscanea is under attack by Skaven! Exhausted from their earlier battles the crusaders none-the-less draw weapons once again and prepare to defend the town from attack, Joachim lining up alongside the rallying guards while Tybalt and Adalwulf lead a charge into a ratman vanguard. Wolfgang moves off to warn another group of guards about the attack, but is viciously bludgeoned unconscious by the men as he approaches. The skaven flood from alleyways and holes in the group, swarming out to slaughter the fleeing townsfolk. Wolfgang and Tybalt ride back to protect them, while nearby the guards form up under Joachim's shouted instructions to fight a group of heavily armoured Skaven wielding strange glowing green orbs. The orbs explode when thrown, spewing forth noxious green gas and forcing the men to withdraw. With the sounding of hacking coughs the crusaders are forced to withdraw from the town as it is flooded with Skaven and green gas, the last of the townsfolk fleeing towards the relative safety of the forest.

Some miles away from the ruined Toscanea the surviving town guards and townsfolk regroup, some hundred souls saved from the Skaven by the heroism of the Crusaders. Joachim arrives last, holding atop his shoulders both Wolfgang and Alaric. He puts them down and begins to work his healing prayers upon them, calling on Sigmar to return his only remaining family to life. Wolfgang soon stirs, but Alaric does not wake, his fever worsening as time goes on. Adalwulf fetches the mounts, the halfling scout nowhere to be seen, and amidst the Toscanea survivors camp the crusaders discuss their next move. The captain of the Toscanea guards implores them to light the a beacon near Revola to warn Miragliano of the Skaven threat, while the group also know they need to get Alaric to healer as soon as possible to cure him of the plague. The final straw is the realisation that Balin's body, some days ride south in Ebino, is now protected by only the squire Morgan. The group decides to split, Wolfgang and Joachim riding south to reclaim Balin while Adalwulf and Tybalt head north to light the warning beacon. The southern group reaches Ebino with no trouble on the road, finding the camp outside the walls abandoned. The plague doctors are gone, and guards wearing the magenta of Prince Vespero burn hundreds of bodies. Morgan waits dutifully on the outskirts of the city, bearing some bruises that speak of rough treatment but gleeful at the return of the party. He tells them of how men bearing the colours of Prince Vespero marched through the town on their way to Miragliano, killing many locals and burning their bodies to ward off the plague. Bellweather's mental state worsens during the journey, the halfling enchanter mumbling dark and horrible truths between bouts of giggling laughter. Eventually Joachim's patience wains and using an old Sigmarite test involving a tree and a bag he determines that Bellweather is unworthy of life. A blow from his warhammer puts an end to the rambling halfling.

Meanwhile Adalwulf and Tybalt ride through the forests of northern Tilea. In an open field they come across one of the many battlefields where the forces of Prince Vespero and Borgias have fought, but between the corpses and looted bodies lies a strange sight. A warship bearing the bronze banners of Remas stands in the middle of the field, surrounded by troops from Lucinni and Miragliano that appear to have been turned to stone. Tentatively moving instead the pair find more statues, the crew of the ship and contingent of marines all turned to stone. At the centre of the ship stands a strange Elven statue, a robed figure clearly turned to stone in the midst of being stabbed by one of the ship's crew. Hauling a chest filled with Tilea coins and gems on their shoulders the pair leave the strange ship, Tybalt muses that the whole world is crumbling around them, and for once Adalwulf is silent. Some days further north the pair arrive at Revola keep, a large grey stone castle in a midst of a field of flowering Tilea sunbursts. Once occupied to guard the border against Bretonnia invasion, the keep is in disrepair, with collapsed towers and walls nearly overgrown by the trees around it. Within the pair are surprised the normal guardians of the keep dead, the current occupants a heavily armed mercenary group guarding a steel reinforced carriage. The group claim to be mercenaries riding to Bretonnia to avoid the war, and will not tell the pair what is in the carriage they guard so closely. They found Revola keep with the bodies inside, and their paymaster is deeply suspicious about the fate of the keeps previous guards.

That night, camped out in one of the eery abandoned rooms of the keep, Tybalt is sitting on watch when he is set upon by a strange figure. Clad in all black robes the assassin darts with near superhuman speed, slashing out with a curved and serrated shortsword. Shouting for help Tybalt is cut down by the assassin, his eye slashed clean through as he stumbles backwards in a burst of blood. Roused by the shout Adalwulf joins the fray, slashing with his axe until the robed figure lies dead on the floor. Across the keep cries go out, more black robed assassins making bloody work of the mercenaries. Eventually the attackers are run off and the dead revealed to be Skaven wearing tight fitting black leather underneath their robes. The day beginning to break, it is a quiet and tired group that leaves Revola keep. His numbers diminished, the paymaster had agreed to allowed the pair to travel with him to the north, and the cart trundles its way up the winding hills that lead to Revola pass. A few days ride south Joachim and Wolfgang meet with the Lady Isos in Ebino, who had locked herself in her manorhouse within the city walls. Isos reveals that the bard Peter the Piper had revealed himself to be allied with the Skaven, and had summoned a vast horde of rats that attacked the city. She passes Peter's possessions to the group for safekeeping, and passes them on to her personal priest. The priest is unable to help Alaric's worsening condition, and Joachim reluctantly inters the dying ranger in the grail carriage with Balin in a deep sleep, magically keeping him safe until they can find a priest powerful enough to cure the plague that ravages his body.

To the north Adalwulf and Tybalt make good time with what remains of the mercenary band into the mountains of Tilea. Reaching a smaller pass the paymaster reveals at last his charge; transporting gold into the mountains to pay an ally of Borgias to join the fight. Agreeing to join with him in travelling up the mountain, Adalwulf and Tybalt watch as the mercenaries carry a half dozen over laden chests up the mountain. Reaching a large cave the air begins to smell of brimstone and a warm air emits from the cave mouth. Thunderous roars begin to fill the air as the group moves onwards into the cave, where the walls seem to glitter gold. The now nervous paymaster calls out "Asarnil" and from further into the cave a figure emerges. An impossibly graceful creature, the Elf is armoured in silver and gold that seems to flow as he walks. He carries a beautiful curved sword at his waist, and pulls a silk kerchief over his face as he approaches the humans. The paymaster beckons his men forward, and as chest after chest are placed before the Elf his expression does not change. Eventually a smaller chest filled in elven jewels is presented and Asarnil gives the slightest nod. With hurried bows the group retreats, leaving the figure with his fortune in the cave. The paymaster explains that Asarnil is a dragon rider, an elf born to tame and ride dragons, and would now be fighting for Borgias of Miragliano. Almost on cue there is a roaring from within the cave. Later that night, as they descend the mountain in silence a vast white form flies through the night above the group towards Miragliano.

Adalwulf and Tybalt say farewell to the mercenaries from Miragliano, setting off towards Revola path and the beacon to warn Miragliano. Near the foot of the mountain they meet with Wolfgang and Joachim, who had ridden for many days to catch up with their allies. Adalwulf leads the group up the mountain towards the beacon, the group starting to miss Alaric's hunting and tracking skills as the wind grows cold and the path signs illegible. The unpleasant journey was only to grow worse, as the mountaintop village the party had planned to stay at is a ruined mess. In the centre of the village sits a scarecrow made from human flesh. Despite their efforts Joachim and Tybal could do nothing to ease the desecration that rots in the heart of the village, and the group moves upwards. On their first night on the mountain the group sees the work Asarnil had been paid so much for. Even from this distance the burning ships in Miraglianos bay are visible as if a second sun, the vast fleet of Prince Vespero reduced to cinders by the dragon-fire brought to bare upon them. As the snow began to fall the group sat in silence, contemplating the part they had played in the deaths of those burning at that moment. A day of climbing would follow, the wind biting through all but the thickest cloaks. The mountain had more surprises in store, a flock of foul clawed and winged beasts swooping upon them as they climb the ragged cliffs. The creatures are slain, and turn into strange winged women when killed. Throwing the bodies from atop the cliffs the group continues on, eventually arriving at the watch-tower on which the beacon is set. Once a tower to warn Tilea of Bretonnian attack, the tower is still guarded by the enchantments placed upon in centuries ago. Seemingly inanimate armour surges to life as the crusaders approach, swinging two handed axes long rusted. The armour is soon shattered, and the foul banshee that animated it cut down by Adalwulf's axe. Soon the dusty straw and wooden beacon atop the tower is burning, and the warning is sent to those in Miragliano. What little good it could do was no longer the crusader's concern as they made their way back down the mountain. Meeting back with Morgan and the grail carriage at the bottom of the mountain the party are reunited with their horses and make for Revola pass.


Chapter XII - The Land of Chivalry

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A slain village in Bretonnia

The bodies lay tangled and broken in the mud, surrounded by rust-coloured puddles. Hooves squelched and sucked as the horsemen crossed the nameless village in the rain, passing rows of waxen-faced heads spiked on poles. Waving away clouds of fat-bodies flies, Adalwulf tried to examine the rotting, semi-submerged forms. “No way to tell,” he concluded, re-joining his comrades in the saddle. “Could have been the Duke’s men just as easily as bandits or the Brotherhood.”
“No difference between those last two,” growled Joachim, and the company advanced under a sour and uncertain pall.

[Into Bretonnia]
The pass is a long gully that runs across the width of the mountains between Tilea and Bretonnia, and the horses make good time along the rocky road. Pave stones from a long forgotten road jut up between the rocks, and monoliths with worn away faces show more evidence of a highway of sorts once passing through this way. A crumbling building stands in the middle of the pass, a stop point for travellers between Bretonnia and Tilea. The group stops for the night, meeting some woodsmen from Tilea who have been hunting in the mountains for food and furs. Adalwulf drinks with the rough men, learning about their god of the wilderness Taal. The group continues on the following morning, Wolfgang's hawk flying high above on the cool mountain breeze. The creature returns some hour later, having spotted Skaven in the pass a few miles off the road. Unwilling to let the ratmen threaten the would be travellers the crusaders leave Morgan with the horses on the road and make their way into the sparse brush and woods that line the sides of the Revola pass. The Skaven are like none the party had ever seen, led by a hulking beast the size of a horse that swings arms bulging with warpstone infused muscles. The rat ogre is slain, and the dog sized rats that accompanied it driven back into the woods. Tybalt hunts down those he can, but many more flee into the tunnels and caves of the mountains. Returning to the road the group remounts and continues on. Eventually after a few days travel the group reach a sign that dictates, in gothic script, "Bretonnia". They descend, looking out at the vast green land arrayed before them.

The group descends from the Revola pass and into Bretonnia, a fair country of deep green forests and rolling plains. As the ground finally flattens out the idyllic land begins to form into something more real, a muddy path leading to a wooden arch from which bodies hang. Three bodies hang from the arch, their dirty clothes bloodied from wounds to their chests and legs. Joachim reads the signs hung around their necks, revealing the men and woman to be traitors to the king. The bodies are cut down and buried, with Joachim and Tybalt enacting a grim service for the dead. The vastness of Bretonnia soon becomes apparent as the group rides further north into the country, with several days passing without seeing a single soul. The group eats deer as they travel, Adalwulf's javelins collecting the bountiful creatures bounding across the rolling hills that straddle the road. Finally the group rides into a small village of wooden and mud huts, but they find far from the warm beds and peaceful rest they had desired. Dozens of peasants lie dead in the mud, with bloody ground across the village where the men, women and children were slain. Hoof prints in the mud point to mounted men being the perpetrators, and unable to stay and bury the dead the group reluctantly leaves the unnamed village behind.

Eventually the muddy hills give way to more plains, and the group soon crosses a wide sapphire blue river. Crossing an old and slightly rotten wooden bridge they see flags flying from spears on each side of the river, one a green field with a grey castle and the other a blue and silver field with a pegasus. With no way of knowing who the banners indicated the group continues north to where they hope to find civilisation. A few hours north of the crossing they come across a grey stone castle in the centre of a grassy field. A nearby sign declares the castle 'Summersfall Keep', and the mounted party approach with hesitation. More peasants are hung outside the gate and the green shielded soldiers within let the party into the keep with some reluctance. The castle seems to be occupied by primarily soldiers clad in a mixture of chain and leather armour, their shields bearing a quartered green and white field with a grey castle in the upper corner. The group are welcomed by the stablehands and their horses stabled, likely only due to the writ of nobility that Tybalt presents to a sneering keep seneschal.

Taking their ease at a small tavern within the castle walls the group sees another thirty or so fighting men resting and relaxing, talking openly about having hunted the peasants beyond the walls. Listening in and talking to those men fluent in Reikspiel the group starts to piece together the state of affairs in Bretonnia. A land of nobility ruled by a King, the politics of the land were in flux as many peasants were in open rebellion against the new King. The old King, Louen Leoncoeur, had been slain by a peasant uprising demanding more rights. These peasants had formed a group known as the Brotherhood of the Longbow, rejecting the nobility and rising up against the new King Mordred. The son of Louen, Mordred was only accepted by a handful of the noble houses, with some refusing to acknowledge his ascension. Parravon, home to the D'Solidor family, was one such house and was rumoured to have been consumed by the forest after denying their king. Tybalt is well treated in the castle, his writ of nobility allowing him to meet the viceroy of the castle, Lord Beataux. After a night of comfort in the feather beds of the caste the group makes for the road once again, now led by a man-at-arms hired to lead them to Parravon. Renny D'Barbette is an armsman to the duke of Quenelle, and agrees to lead the party through the nearby forest to the castle of his lord a week to the north.

The Loren forest had long troubled Bretonnia and in recent times the vast green maze had expanded far beyond her original boundaries. Renny warns the group of travelling through the forest, but the crusaders are eager to reach their destination. The small paths are lit by emerald green light as the sun barely breaks through the trees above, the nights spent in a fireless camp as howls and other strange noises fill the night. Renny warns the group that monsters and "fey folk" dwell in the depths of the forests, and the man-at-arms' halberd is never far from his hand. A few nights into the forest the Bretonnian's fears manifest as the forest comes alive to attack the crusaders! Trees rip their roots from the ground and stumble forward and strange female looking creatures made of vines and leaves swarm forward to lash at the crusaders. Renny fights to protect the carriage alongside Morgan, the Tilean peasant fighting with spear with eyes wide with fear. Leaving the group bloodied the fey creatures retreat and the tress lie still once again, but the forest is not done with the interlopers. As they travel the forest awakens to reject them, and when stopping to rest the dryads attack once again. Days blend together as the crusaders flee through the forest, man and beast alike exhausted by the days and days of travel. When the group stops they are assaulted once again, as the very ground itself seems to protest their steps. A broken carriage axle on the fifth day nearly causes their end, while horse and man alike are only kept awake and alive by the healing magics of Joachim. Hassled and harrowed through the forest the wills of the crusaders seems set to break when they finally reach the edge of the Loren. A sign nearby reads 'Quenelle' and a muddy road leads north-east to their destination. But the forest was not finished with the crusaders, even as they gasp in relief, the trees before them bulge and sprout, forming monstrous bark-skinned cavalry…

The knights collide with the thundering Fey-Lions, but as they struggle, a horn sounds from the north. A group of men-at-arms bearing the Castle sigil of Quenelles surge forward on horses, led by a man clad in the familiar stone and maroon of House Solidor! The fey fight back, smashing at the crusaders and the newcomers and breathing out noxious gases that burn through the flesh of Wolfgang and Joachim's horses. The crusaders rush to the newcomers across a gargling stream, the leader of the men charging forward with a flowing horse tabard as he fights from horseback with twin longswords. A nimbus of energy surrounds the man as the fey shy from his holy light. Securing the carriage the crusaders make their way across the final stream out of the Loren forest, hounded by the fey creatures. When the forest had retreated the knight introduces himself as Edward d'Solidor, a knight of Parravon who had heard tell of men bringing his cousin Balin's body into Bretonnia and had undertaken a quest to find them. A new ally by their side and the darkness of the forest behind them, the crusaders ride towards the famed cavalry-city of Quenelles.


Chapter XIII - Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

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Battle at The Orc Wall

The long-suffering axles of the carriage screeched and protested, jarred by roots and stones in the overgrown road. Juddering at the helm, Morgan gripped the reins tightly, looking frequently over his shoulder at the haunting forest. The had been hounded for days, sinking inexorably into the earth and gripping roots when they tried to stop for rest, tormented by illusions and the pursuit of fey creatures in waking. Though bleary-eyed with exhaustion, he steeled his courage with a glance at the bright cavalry tabards rippling all around him. Steadied by the earthy thunder of hooves and the clatter of knightly armour, the young squire lashed the reigns anew.

[Bretonnian Politics]
It takes but an hour to ride to Quenelle, the muddy forest giving way to vast grassy plains as the horses ride along the road towards the city. The men-at-arms that accompany Edward are from that city, and take their leave as soon as the group gets within sight of the vast grey stone fortress. Outside the gates pyres stand still smoking, skeletons amidst the ashes the latest victims of the war against the Brotherhood of the Longbow. Duke Pharamond is still in mourning, his children killed by assassins some month past, and as such Earl Urbaine is the defacto lord of the city. Quenelles itself is a huge fortress city, with streets wide enough for horses to ride down and large grassy areas even within the city walls. It is currently filled with bustling horsemen, troops wearing the sigils of dozens of lords and knights milling about waiting for their orders to ride out once again. Edward explains that the Earl has been recruiting a large amount of cavalry, the yellow banner of Quenelles by far the most common amongst the mounted men. Accommodation is procured at the Barking Dwarf inn and the group spreads out into the city to spend their bulging coin purses. Gold found across Tilea and Bretonnia is spent in the market district, with replacement horses and repairs to armour and weapons paid for by the Crusaders. Tybalt purchases tabards for the group, matching cloaks with the symbol of the Bright company next to personal sigils. The next morning, resplendent in their new tabards of maroon and ash, the Crusaders go to meet with the Earl of Quenelles.

The Earl formally receives the group, but quickly starts trying to involve them in his war with an enemy Bretonnian faction to the north. It seems that a vast defensive wall built to keep out an Orc invasion centuries past has been occupied by his enemies and he intends to attack it. The group informs him of their wish to visit the Grail Shrine known as Chinon, currently blocked by the forces on the wall. The Earl beseeches the Crusaders to join him, but unwilling to get involved in local political matters they refuse him. He quickly angers and bids them farewell, ordering his troops readied to march north to attack the wall. The group rushes back to their horses, intent on beating the Earl's forces to the wall, but quickly find that Adalwulf had disappeared during the night. Joachim and Tybalt ready the horses and begin riding north, while Edward looks for their missing companion. He returns from the forest some hours later, covered in mud and sporting a filthy hangover. The pair ride out of Quenelles, meeting the rest of the group at the end of a hard days ride. Renny leads the group north, rehired for the journey to Quenelles and purchased his own horse by Tybalt while in the city. The ride takes several days, with the weather growing colder and cloudier as the party gets closer to the Massif Orcal mountains. They pass spotted farms and homesteads, farmers stopping to bow as the mounted party goes past. On the sixth day of riding the part comes across a smashed cart on the road, a single man crushed in what appears to be a massive footprint. With the wine missing but other valuables present Edward suspects beastmen, and the knights dismount to track the group responsible.

The tracks are easy enough to follow, massive footprints and broken trees leading off the road and into a rocky copse. Not far from the smashed cart Adalwulf finds a bloodied and wounded man. Under Joachim's healing touch the man regains consciousness, speaking between gasping breaths the tale of a massive creature that came from the woods and attacked him. Renny carries the man back to the carriage and the Crusader's continue after the beast. The creature is massive, looking much like a man that stands almost ten metres tall. It wears raw cowskins as clothes, and wields a massive tree trunk in one hand as a makeshift weapon. It's single eye is bloodshot, and it sways as if drunk on stolen wine. Tybalt and Edward rush forward, ducking massive swings of the tree trunk and slashing at the cyclop's legs. Adalwulf runs in after them, burying his axe deep in the creature before taking a tree trunk cleanly to the chest and being swatted back with a crunch. As Adalwulf moans behind them Tybalt and Edward avoid the trunk at all costs, knowing a single blow would end their lives in an instant. Far behind Joachim readies a spell, sending forth a beam of light that blinds the creature and burns out its central eye. Confused and screaming the cyclops falls beneath the swords of the Crusader's. Adalwulf is helped to his feet, somehow alive despite the blow he sustained. Within a nearby cave the group finds the cyclops' hoard, a collection of gold and jewels and two strange sets of equipment. One is dark and covered in skull motifs, a curved shortsword featuring runes from far away Khemri. The other is fine and bright, chain and sword clearly made by elves and of the finest quality. Carrying the equipment the group makes their way back to the cart, stopping only to behead the cyclops. The injured yeoman, saved from the cyclops, agrees to go with the group to the next city or town. As they travel north, the cyclops skull mounted on the front of the carriage, Tybalt talks to the yeoman Matthias about the godliness of the crusade, and the man agrees to join them for as long as they can as a man-at-arms.

The mountains begin to loom on the horizon as the group reaches the wall, and the camp of the Earl of Quenelle that stands before it. The wall is a massive construction from a war long past, now occupied by men flying a pale blue banner with a three bronze thistles. There are signs of battle between the camp and the walls, bodies rotting in the mud where assaults on the wall were rebuffed. The Earl sits in his tent in full battle regalia and scoffs when the party talk of parley with the men on the walls. Under a banner of parley the crusader's ride forth, eager to pass through the gate and head north without more bloodshed. The man at the gates is a commoner, but speaks with a sharp tongue about his right to the walls and this land. He insults Edward, and many foul words leave his mouth relating to carnal knowledge of mothers. The men ride back from their parley in a sullen mood, entirely sure that the men on the walls would need to die for their crusade to progress. They discuss the matter with the Earl, agreeing to attack at dawn alongside his men and attempt to get the gate open. As the sun creeps over the horizon a vast host of mounted men are arrayed before the wall. Each knight bears his own sigil, and men-at-arms wear chain or leather featuring the sigils of their lords. As the light creeps over the far mountains the signal is given and the line of cavalry begin to charge.

Tybalt charges ahead of the group, his pack filled with various magical items from the crusader's chests. As one two dozen archers on the walls aim their longbows and fire at the lone knight. The air is thick with arrows, but miraculously none find their mark. Bouncing off his shield or armour or missing altogether, the expert longbowman fail to find their targets again and again. To those behind him a white glow seems to emanate from Tybalt, pushing arrows away as they reach him. Arriving at the walls Tybalt pulls forth a scroll from his pack, an ancient piece of vellum found long ago in the tombs of Araby. Reading the strange script a storm begins to form around him, winds whipping out and pushing the archers off their feet with powerful gusts. Their arrows are ripped from their hands by the storm, and the rest of the crusaders advance to the wall. Arrows useless the archers rush down with shortswords drawn, but are no match for Adalwulf and Joachim who meet them at the bottom of the wall. The gates creak open, a dozen calvalry bearing the blue of the enemy charging out towards the four lone crusaders. Elsewhere the Earl's men assault the walls, a hopeless task unless the gate is held. Tybalt, Joachim and Edward meet the mounted men head on, horses smashing together and lances shattering as the forces smash into each other at pace. Edward and Tybalt fight with brutal efficiency, cutting down the horses of the mounted men before finishing the knights as the struggle on the ground. Joachim needs no such tactics. His hammer glowing with the might of Sigmar he smashes knights from their saddles with single blows, ever singing praises to his warrior-god. Eventually the enemy are routed, pursued by a vengeful Edward who cuts them down as they flee.

The battle ended the carriage arrives and the men-at-arms begin to pick over the dead, taking weapons and armour that is salvageable to better use themselves. The Earl is a picture of delight, gleefully ordering his men to hang the traitors up on the walls and occupy their positions. He offers a grand feast back at his keep, but the Crusader's are already on their way north. The path into the mountains is rocky, and the air grows colder and thinner as they climb through the foothills and up into the Massif Orcal mountains. Eventually they come across the Grail Shrine. Chinon is a keep in the highest mountains, a squat structure of grey stone that holds an innate majesty and awe to those that approach it. The keep is covered in vines that flower despite the cold, and moving inside the group finds a garden beyond any they had seen before. Dark stallions are stabled within, and squires bearing no sigil care for the party's horses as they head inside. Joachim takes leave of the others, staying with the cart with looks of distaste at the religion surrounding him. The group are received within the keep, met by a Grail Monk named Hector who takes them into the chapel itself. Here a group of Handmaiden's of the Lady of the Lake kneel with two Grail Knights. The knights themselves are sights to behold, pure white tabards marked simply with a silver grail that lies over fine articulated plate armour that shines bright even within the dim room. The knights introduce themselves as Sir Anaude and Sir Clovis and extend an invitation to join them in the safety of the keep for the night. Removing their armour, the Crusader's take rest in the castle in the sky, their dreams filled with images of a fine lady standing aside a glittering crystal clear lake.


Chapter XIV - Krommeltusk

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Massif Orcal

"Setting out to slay a Dragon - that is no small thing," cautioned the Grail Knight. Only he among them had ever accomplished it, and the juvenile had taken many of his Order with it in death. "Well," said Edward, looking to his fellows. "Should we perish in the seeking, how small a thing will death seem?"

[Grail Quest]
A night of quiet contemplation is spent in the Grail temple, Edward deep in prayer with the Grail Knight Clovis. The next morning he returns to his companions, having received a premonition about the slaying of a great beast. In order to gain a Grail and resurrect Balin the Crusaders must slay a dragon that lives within the Massif Orcal mountains, a great wyrm that lives in the abandoned elven tower of Tor Estelle. The Grail knight reveals that he gained the Grail in a similar manner, killing the mother of this very dragon near a half-century ago. He speaks to Edward and Tybalt about dragon slaying, noting that a witch living in the town of Felicienne may be able to sell them elixirs to resist the dragons' flames. Furthermore an elven artefact for slaying dragons is hidden within the mountains. The Anvil of Winds was a gift from the dwarves in an age long past, and dwells not far from the tower of Tor Estelle. The party make preparations to leave, the carriage and men-at-arms remaining behind, unable to make the trek through the mountains. When Adalwulf does not return from his morning hunt Tybalt grows concerned, eventually finding in his chambers a note clearly written in the man's rough hand. Adalwulf had left, departed in the night to join a cause he deemed more noble than that of the Crusader's. Now lacking a skilled scout the Grail knights present one final gift to the group, a tracker to help them cross the mountains. Corin Delacroix is a ranger from Parravon, given to the knights at Chinon for them to investigate whether or not he is indeed blessed by the Lady as they claim. They are unsure, and send him with the group so that his deeds might dictate whether or not he is favoured.

Before they would take up the dragonslaying quest the Crusaders had made a promise to the Grail Knights to deal with a problem with the local barbarian clans, known as Wolds. A scout travelling from the Empire to Bretonnia had been attacked by a clan of Wolds and the Crusaders had agreed to track down the Wolds to either find out why they attacked or reap a bloody revenge upon them. Edward rides ahead with a glaive gifted to him by the Handmaidens of Chinon resting in a lance couch, while Tybalt's horse walks proudly as its large chainmail barding clinks beneath its new horse tabard. The group moves through the rising mist of the mountain forests led by the aged but practiced Corin. After almost a day of riding through the snow they come upon the first of the Wold holy sites but find the nearby camp empty. Corin soon spots Orcs moving through the ruins, and with a cry the knights ride into the beasts. Tybalt's horse slams into an Orc as the two forces meet, crushing the beasts skull beneath its hooves, while Edward wields his new glaive with practiced skill. Joachim moves behind the line, smashing aside any who get through while weaving his healing magic to keep his allies in the fight. The Orcs die in droves but continue to fight, driven onwards by the roars of a brutally large Orc chief wearing armour and weapons made from bones. He rallies the beasts and the Crusaders balk before their fury. Eventually Corin arrows slow the warchief and distracted his head is taken from his shoulders by a swift strike from Edward.

The Orcs are cut down as they flee, split asunder by lance or peppered with arrows. As the dust settles it appears that the Orcs were in the process of looting the Wold hideout. Corin mentions that the main Wold base is nearby and the group decides to travel there to speak to the Wold leader about why his men attacked the scout. A few more days ride through the mountains yield nights of cold and days of howling winds as the Crusaders ride through Massif Orcal. Eventually they reach a treeless hilltop with a stack of boulders, a known Wold base called "High Cleft". The Wolds are suspicious but peaceful and allow the group to speak to their leader, an ageing shaman with a vast vine tangled beard. The Great Shaman Quanna greets them, informing them quickly that the scout in question rode through a sacred Wold area. Edward admits that the Bretonnians normally avoid these areas and that the fault may have been the scouts. The Shaman Quanna has more information for the group however than the fate of the scout. He warns the group that his people intend to move out of the mountains to the north. He says that a Time of Ending is approaching where all bonds are broken and he would lead his people to the north to fight against the Horned King. He warns the Crusaders that the "Sons of the Horned King" are already roaming the lands, and the knights leave High Cleft in contemplative silence.

The ride back to the monastery of Chinon is made in relative silence, the Crusaders considering the words of Quanna. Back in Chinon ravens are sent to the forts in the path of the Wolds, warning them of the impending exodus of barbarians. The following morning the group returns to their original task, riding through the mountains to the town of Felicienne to visit the witch who resides there. The town dwells within a leafless pine forest and the townsfolk seem friendly if a little apprehensive of the armoured men wishing to speak to their mistress. The witch who leads the town is named Felicienne, but the old woman will not speak to the Crusaders. They confer instead with the witch's Elven guardian named Beil. Beil explains that he guards the old woman because in a time before human memory she was a powerful creature that helped protect the world against chaos. Although her mind was not what it was he remembered her sacrifice and protects her still. He tells the Crusaders that she only grants blessings to those she finds worthy, and asks that they plead their case to her to earn her support. Each stands before Felicienne and says their part. Corin speaks of finding his place in the world and earning glory to the Lady of the Lake by assisting those who would slay a dragon. Joachim hopes only for his brother Balin to find peace, his loathing for the witch apparent in his biting tone. Edward speaks of reaching the Grail to bring back his old friend Balin and finally Tybalt steps up to speak. He speaks of the end of the world, and the need for honourable men to play their part. The men of Bretonnia would be led by Balin the Bright north to through the Empire to slay the Horned King and end the apocalypse. The knights nod as Tybalt speaks, the words they had all been considering for days finally expressed.

They ride from Felicienne with heads held high. The witch had provided amulets and potions to protect the group, impressed by their resolve and honour. They ride once again into the mountains, horses ploughing through high snow and ice as they continue to climb the peaks of Massif Orcal. Feelings of lingering unease are found as the group rides through an ancient battlefield, skeletons and rust giving little indication of who once fought and died here. As they get higher they can see Tor Estelle high above, the elven tower the home of the dragon "Krommeltusk". Finally the group reaches the ruins that would take them up to Tor Estelle. Massive sky bridges pass between the mountains at this height, the ancient carven stone evidence of a vast civilisation that once lived here. Passing across one the riders reach an immense arch carved into the side of the mountain, white stone that shines in the little sunlight that pierces the mountain clouds. Columns carved like dragons and a vast dwarven run announcing this place as the 'Dragonforge' tell the Crusaders that this is their destination. Stowing their horses in a long ruined stone stable the group moves hesitantly inwards, lit only by sunlight passing through vast carved windows within the tunnels and caverns within. The group seems to be passing through a forest, the columns carved to look like vast trees are holding up the dark ceiling far above. Corin moves ahead of the group, his cloak and skill making him near invisible in the darkness of the caverns. He finds a large number of dead Orcs, rotting bodies not long enough dead for him to not be concerned about their presence. Drawing weapons the group moves further inwards towards the Dragonforge.

Moving from the vast tree-column caverns into smaller rooms and passageways the light drops off and the group are forced to move by the small islands of light allowed by Tybalt's torch and Joachim's magical light. As soon as the light appears the creatures that were dwelling within lash out, blind creatures with grey skin and batlike wings swoop out of the darkness and attack the group. The creatures seem near endless and the Crusaders fight through rooms that seem to have ancient elven designs as they slay the beasts by the wagonload. Further in similar beasts leap from the ponds and riverways that dot the ruin, not winged by webbed and with long poisoned claws. Eventually the creatures are slain, and after a quick healing prayer from Edward and Joachim the group moves further into the ruin. There they find the progenitor of the foul creatures that infest the ruin. In an elven pool and garden lit by a glass ceiling they finds a hulking winged beast. It's foul grey skin seems to resent the light as it touches it, and its mouth reveals a mass of pointed teeth. The group surges forward, but their weapons seem to bounce off its thick hide. Tybalt is smashed down by the creature again and again, his spear cast aside and his white tabard bloodied. Corin does what he can from afar but finds his arrows simply ignored by the massive beast. Eventually it comes down to Edward and Joachim, who advance holding up their holy symbols and chanting incantations. As High Dwarven and Old Bretonnian are shouting across the room ghosts of bright light lash at the creature, burning its skin and ripping its flesh as winds made of pure holy power smash the creature to a sizzling mess.


Chapter XV - Dungeons Deep, Caverns Old

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Signs of Krommeltusk

With immense force, the endless torrent of water blasted free of the mountainside and into the open air. Pausing in their march, the Crusaders peered over the ledge and watched it vanish into the misting distance below."Seawater," remarked Tybalt, noticing the salty back-draft. Soon accepting the impossible waterfall as just another wonder of the ancient elven city, they continued on though another leaf-shaped arc. In a forgotten dialect of the Elves, an unnoticed waystone beside the thundering flood-chamber read 'To Ulthuan'.

[Dragonhunt]
Sloshing out of the algae green pool, the Crusaders slumped amid the gnawed bones of the Vargheist's nest. They raided it's magpie-like stockpile of shiny objects and artefacts, noticing water-damaged murals on the walls as they searched. The underground conservatory had grown wild with the centuries, but as they pulled down clinging tangles of vines and brush, they revealed a complex record of elvish history reaching back to their first landing upon the Old World. Though struggling to follow the intrigue depicted, they followed the tale of a princely, dark-haired elf as he struggled for the Phoenix Crown his father had bequeathed. Retreating in sorrow at his rival's coronation, the elf arrived in what would become Brettonia and founded Tor Estelle.

Through a hidden oculus door, the Crusaders proceeded into the Gardens of Isha. It was full of tarnished gold statues and still-flourishing roses, but venturing deeper revealed caverns flooded with seawater. Crunching crabs, barnacles and other unlikely creatures underfoot, Corin urged the party towards the sound of hated goblin-speech. In the depths, fur-clad Night Goblins were traversing the tunnels on fishing barges, snarling when the yeoman's arrows scythed one of their fellows into the drink. Gobbling down narcotic mushrooms, the greenskins paddled furiously, spearing the companions when they tried to tip the creatures from their skiff. Tybalt disappeared below the surface in a cloud of blood, but burst again from the water at the Goblin's rear.

Surprised and cornered, the creatures are finally culled, and the Crusaders briefly note the odd amulets and unnecessarily warm clothes they bear. But with a porcine screech, a grotesque sea-monster lunges out of the inky water, smashing against the skiff and throwing the companions from their feet. Part crab, part sea-snake, the monstrosity wraps it's thrashing bulk around Edward as he topples into the water. Gasping and bleary-eyed, he re-surfaces through a slick of the creature's ichor, when a woman's shriek draws the Crusaders into a flooded library. Amid the ancient book-stacks, the Crusaders confront Sea-Hags, their weapons jangling from nerveless fingers as soporific spells assail them. But gripping firm to his glowing hammer, Joachim ignites a blast of holy power that sends the witches cringing, screaming and dissolving into ash.

The witches have taken great delight in defacing the elven murals, but Edward and Tybalt soon discern the way forward using the crudely-wrought talismans. Teleported onto a frozen plateau, the companions watch as ancient spells of concealment are confounded, revealing an immense tangle of elven architecture fused with the mountainside. Far overhead, clawing into the clouds, they behold at last the smoke-wreathed tower of Tor Estelle. They climb through slanting chambers and corridors and crawl along a bone-filled heat sink, emerging into an airy vault. With mighty birds roosting overhead, they soon realise they have entered the 'stables' once used by Dragon Princes of ancient legend. Upon this revelation, two sinister elves appear, clad in rippling tabards.

The pair challenge the Crusaders in a variety of languages, demanding that they turn over the talismans to enable their escape from the remote lookout. The wary Joachim agrees to exchange the tokens for guidance to the Forge of Caledor. Learning that the pair had been magically imprisoned for war-crimes by the ancient Elven Empire - and now sought reunification with their dragons and revenge upon the dwarves - the Crusaders grow increasingly cautious. It was these elves who had sought to use magic to return to Ulthuan, resulting in a collapsed portal of spewing seawater and the fusion of architecture below. Though led to the smoke-filled forge near the apex of the city, the companions refuse to uphold their part of the bargain. As Tybalt draws deep of Myrmidia's power, the elves spring into action to take them by force.

Before the Crusaders could bare an inch of steel, the Dragon Princes' had sliced Tybalt from his feet. Scarcely had the first blood-drop hit the floor, when the companions cried out, clutching as debilitating wounds suddenly bloomed across their bodies. Narrowly avoiding death-blows, they whipped out their blades and engaged in their most desperate battle, trying to fend off the quicksilver attacks. But the elves' alien fighting style was impossible to defend against, twisting and parrying with liquid motions. None could lay a blade upon them, with Edward struck low by deep, paper-thin cuts. Joachim heaved his leaden hammer in fury, but with each stroke met only air and suffered cruel nicks in reply. As Dragon Princes raised their swords to finish the wearying warriors, one was struck in a clash of sparks by Corin's arrows. Swinging around in amazement, he could not avoid the thunderous impact of Tybalt's spear into his breastplate. The bloodied Paladin had surged back to his feet, and rallying to his display of grit, the Crusaders fought anew. Screaming at the death of his twin, the surviving Prince shuddered under the impact of arrows which burst into gripping loops of thorny vine. As he struggled in their grip, collapsing and trying to escape he was finished by a final thrust of Edward's glaive.


Part IV - Knights of the Inner Circle

"And Chaos spread across the Land, and the World was riven stone from stone. The oceans boiled, the mountains crumbled and surged anew. The Winds burst forth, corrupted, and the nations scattered upon them. All was shattered and broken, all but memory lost. And one memory above all, of him who brought forth Chaos and the End Of All Things. And him they called the Three Eyed King."

- from Necrodomo's 'Prophecies of the End Times'


Chapter XVI - The Errantry Muster

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Strife between the Duchies

Drawn by the appearance of rippling caparisons over the hill-line, Beataux and his party reigned in to greet the returning knights. “Majordomo,” called the Earl of Quennelles, his stallion prancing on approach. “What strange colours are these at the foot of my city?"
“Mercenaries my lord,” said Beataux, pointing out the banners among the encampment. “And refugees from the South.” Displeased, the Earl spurred towards Quennelles. Behind him, smoke was rising from the Massif Orcal.

[The Grail Obtained]
The enchanted apparatus of Caledor's Forge was operated by elementals, fire-spirits wrought in the shape of indentured dwarves. Speaking in an arcane rune-language, Joachim entreats them to empower the Anvil of Winds, infusing the recovered elven mace with it's flight-foiling spell. In exchange for ending their servitude, the spirits also place fiery enchantments upon the warrior-priest's armament and the Crusaders take heart as they ready to face the final gauntlet. Across the bone-strewn sky-bridge, Tor Estelle awaits. Crunching across a field of ancient elf and dwarf bones Corin leads the group across the bridge, the howling wind blowing cold air from high above down the mountain to where the icey rocks are haunted by ice Yhetis. The bridge extends across the chasm, leading upwards a plateau with arches in the now familiar elven architecture. Here fallen stones crumbled from the peak high above have been crudely carved into the visage of the dragon, a primitive sort of idol worship that causes Joachim's expression to sour. Hefting weapons and donning amulets the group makes their way out of the cold wind and into Tor Estelle proper.

The chambers and tunnels within are muggy and warm, the air filled with steam and the walls more often than not scorched smooth by dragonfire. Within Corin spots the creatures that carved the dragon idols outside, Kobolds and strange mutated humans with red body paint and wearing strange scraps of leather as armour. Adorned with bones and fetishes in the shape of the dragon the creatures are in the process of torturing what appears to be a Wuld, and the knights rush in to save the victim from the strange creatures. The Kobolds and barbarian humans roar as the crusaders charge them, the scaled creatures spitting bursts of fire from between their sharp teeth. Tybalt is smashed from his feet by a burst of flame, and it is only by the skill of Corin's archery that the beasts are slain. Rising, Tybalt finds himself drawn towards a strange tarnished mirror in the corner of the room. As he glances at the mirror it fills his mind with images of bloodshed and slaughter, a foul vision of what will come to pass in the End Times. He sees a three eyed minotaur talking to a flame that responds with a booming voice. The minotaur speaks on behalf of his master, the Three Eyed King, and seems to be trying to convince the flame to join the battle by razing Bretonnia to the ground. The Minotaur offers great rewards on behalf of his master. Jolting out of the vision Tybalt realises he had witnessed the chaos cult known as the Sons of the Three Eyed King trying to recruit Krommeltusk to join them. The room is silent as Tybalt explains the visions he has received of what would come to pass if Krommeltusk joined with the Three Eyed King, and with their sense of purpose renewed the crusaders forge upwards towards the dragon lair.

Moving up ancient stairs and freshly dug warrens the crusaders encounter more and more dragon worshipping Kobolds, cutting down the creatures wherever they appear and setting fire to their lairs. Eventually they reach the top of the mountain, a cave system burned into the rock itself by dragonfire. In a massive cave with walls scorched smooth they find their quarry, Krommeltusk swooping into the massive chamber with beating wings that buffet the heroes with gusts of wind. With a body the size of a large sailing ship and wings that fill even this massive chamber, Krommeltusk is a vast and terrifying beast. Red scales cover his body and upon his head stand two black bone horns. Beneath cruel eyes dozens of razor sharp teeth fill a mouth that could eat a horse whole. Running before the group Edward pulls from his pack the Mace of Winds, smashing the hollow weapon into the ground with a massive boom of outgoing wind. The booming of the mace tolls again and again, a bell rung far away that seems to pain Krommeltusk. As wind whips up around him the great drake finds himself pushed to the ground by monsoonal winds specifically targeting him. Pulled from his perch the dragon opens his mouth and lets forth a great gust of flame upon his would-be attackers, Tybalt's shield melted away to nothing by the heat of the flame. The amulets gifted by Felicienne glow red hot as they resist the dragons fire, and the Crusader's push through with shouts of challenge. But even without his flight the beast is fearsome, and blades and arrows alike bounce off his thick iron-like scales. Joachim stands at the back, glowing white with a holy light. As Edward and Tybalt take wound after wound from Krommeltusks fearsome claws their wounds close, Joachim's prayer of healing keeping them in the fight. As the dragon draws back to breath fire again Joachim walks forward, holding up his crusaders hammer high. The fire breaks around the holy weapon, the power of Sigmar holding back the foul flames of the beast. Krommeltusk smashes Tybalt and Edward again and again before realising the power Joachim is wielding, grabbing the cleric in his jaws and smashing him against a rock with a sickening crunch. Corin had stayed in the shadows as his fellows fought, his eyes darting across the dragons form as he looked for a weakness. Finally as Krommeltusk loomed over Edward, ready to perform the killing blow, he acted. A single arrow streaked towards the dragon, finding a loose scale beneath the creatures eye.

With a bellow of pain the dragon falls still, the light within his belly bubbling up as his body is no longer able to contain it. The magma that flows from Krommeltusk melts steel, flesh and rock alike, breaking open the floor and pouring far below onto the Elven ruins. Avoiding the beasts body those who can still walk move into Krommeltusks lair, killing the dragon wyrmlings within. Within is a massive hoard of gold, jewels and artefacts, items taken by the dragon during his years in the mountain. Edward walks away from the group, drawn by the faint smell of the Bretonnian wildflower 'grace'. In an alcove further into the dragons lair he finds a silver cup, carved with a fleur de lys and glowing with magical power. Falling before the Grail he begins to cry, the ultimate goal of any Bretonnian knight finally fulfilled and his ability to resurrect Balin the Bright obtained. When he rejoins the others he seems to glow with an inner light, standing taller and prouder than it seems any mortal man could. His friends greet him as they pack the dragons hoard into their packs, nods of respect to the new Grail Knight. As the mountain starts to collapse beneath them the group are greeted by a trio of knights flying on the back of Pegasi. Accompanied by the flapping of wings the knights set down, tabards bearing the sigil of the city of Parravon. Sent by the Grail Knights at Chinon the men had come to rescue the group from the collapsing mountain, and fly them to the bottom of the mountain where their mounts await. It is a few days ride from the bottom of Tor Estelle back to Chinon, and the grail in Edwards hands never falters as their horses gallop through the Massif Orcal mountains. Back at the monastery the group is received with a heroes welcome, some dozen Grail Knights from across the region having gathered to welcome their new Brother. Edward accepts their bows with grace, taking the Grail into the centre of the monastery where the body of Balin had been prepared. Surrounded by half a dozen Handmaidens of the Lady of the Lake the great knight is clean and wearing a plain white tabard, his holy symbol held upon his chest. As light swirls above his body water from the grail is poured into his mouth…

The crusaders hear news of the rest of the world while they wait for the Grail handmaidens to complete the ritual, talking to the gathered knights and scouts. The country of Kislev far to the north of the Empire had apparently been wiped off the map. An army of barbarians and monsters led by a beast known as the Horned King sweeping through and putting her people to the flame. This Horned King is said to have three eyes upon his helm and goes by the name of Archaon. His army marches upon the Empire, and the crusaders begin making plans for their journey to the north. They are soon joined by Balin, still wearing his simple cloth but now surrounded by an aura of goodness and light that makes all the nervous parties gathered feel at ease. Balin the Bright indicates his wish to unite all of Bretonnia to lead an Errantry war north. Gathering reinforcements in the Empire he would push into Kislev, throwing back the hordes of chaos and free the land from the corruption they bring. In the following days at Chinon the group goes through the formal affairs of founding their knight order, the Order of the Knights Eschaton. The term is one Joachim remembers from an old teaching, a group of heroes who stood against the end of times in an ancient tale from when Sigmar walked the earth. The order would start the Errantry war, throwing back chaos, but first would need to gather allies. The Grail Knights of Chinon swear an oath to follow Balin, while the few other knights who would gather would make up the majority of the orders forces. Wolfgang, recovered at last from the injuries he sustained in the Loren Forest puts out a call to his order, bringing a group of Knights who worship the god of death Morr to join the fold. These black armoured knights are silent as the grave, but truly sworn to throw back unholiness wherever they find it. With a booming voice, arrayed before the gathered Knights Balin names his inner circle. He declares Wolfgang his speaker, seneschal and left hand. To his right he places Joachim, his last remaining brother and bearer of his body across land and sea. As First Lance and leader of his armies he declares Tybalt, the knights one eye gleaming with pride as he is ascended. Corin is knight by Balin, called up from the peasantry and made into an official man-at-arms. Their order established, the inner circle of the Knights Eschaton get to work.

The order rides first for Parravon, a western Bretonnian city that was ruled by the D'Solidor family. Parravon had declared against the King Mordred, and could be of use if the group were to ascend Balin to the position of King of Bretonnia. Balin and Edward pray for guidance before setting out, their dreams showing them that the long corrupted Bretonnian city of Moussilion must fall before Balin can rise to take the crown. The party of knights and squires rides out of the mountains towards Parravon, groups of knights on the road joining them as they pass to ride behind their Grail banner. In Parravon many knights bearing the pegasus symbol of the city join the order, with the Duke D'Solidor pledging his army to Balin's cause. In the immense towering fortress city new tabards are made and a vast banner blessed by priests of a plethora of faiths to give the crusade luck and fortune for the future. From here the crusade splits; with Balin taking the majority of the forces to the south to deal with the immoral and murderous Earl of Quenelles while the Inner Circle rides for the city of Bastonne to gather more knights for the cause.


Chapter XVII - Royal Blood

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Sir Trident wins the Melee at the Tourney d'Bastonne

"Wait a minute…" breathed Tybalt, as the lynch-mob cheered and chanted. Suddenly gripped with a cold sweat, he reached through the crowd, pulling Edward away from the spectacle of Theirn's hanging. "You said the d'Solidor's are related to the Duke," said Tybalt urgently. "Does that mean Ulysse is in line for the throne?" Edward glanced cooly at the hand on his shoulder. "I suppose," he ventured. "What of it? He would be about nine claimants behind Balin - Tybalt! What vexes you?!" The paladin was already running for the horses.

[Tournament]
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Chapter XVIII - The Sack of Mousillion

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The first Marauder is sighted within Ostland's borders

Fractured by the insurgency of the peasant revolution, the land of Bretonnia was further riven by the emergence of a new contender for the throne. Balin of Araby, a crusader returned to life by the Grail, set out to overthrow King Mordred with the aid of his newly founded Order of Knights Eschaton. The land was divided between those loyal to the King, those occupied by the Elves, and those subject to the tyranny of the Red Duke. But matters were made more urgent by news that the dread legions of Archaeon had reached the very borders of the Empire. Called by the Archmage Teclis to attend the Conclave of Light, the Crusaders had scant weeks to smash their foes and muster the armies of Brettonia behind them.

[Seizing the Crown]
The blood-splattered Crusaders delved the tunnels of Blackchasm Lodge for hours, slaying the stenching beastmen wherever they were found. Emerging at last onto a ledge overlooking the blackness below, they found a horrifying ritual site. The princess of Bastonne lay at the centre of an octogram, her head severed and blood staining the stone. Enacting the rite was a Medusa, a gruesome creature of Chaos that had once been a witch-elf. Staring into a tarnished mirror the twin of Krommeltusk's, she revealed that her curse would end the line of Gilles de Breton, preventing the return of the Green Knight in Brettonia's hour of need. So powerful was this spell, that even Joachim and Edward -distantly related to Bretonnia's royals - felt it's effects, wavering upon their feet. With a shout, the Inner Circle ran forth to destroy her, but the immense form of Sir Trident lurched from the shadows. Revealed as a mindless construction of undead flesh, Sir Trident weathered the Knight's blows and arrows with ease, his monstrous strength driving them to desperation. Only when an errant blow dislodged a phylactery from it's flesh did the construct finally collapse, shorn of the Red Duke's sorcerous control. The Knights turned their fury upon Sir Jordan, finding that the Medusa had fled in the commotion. Drawn to the scent of blood, creatures began clambering out of the Chasm below, and the Inner Circle withdrew to ride urgently for Mousillion's border.

At the Humble Chapel where Gilles had once convened his Grail Companions, the armies of Parravon, Bastonne, Carcassonne and Quenelles had gathered.Having banished the ruthless Earl Urbane, Balin had rallied the southern duchies, and now rode at the fore of a mighty force of cavalry. But the Medusa's curse had stricken many of Bretonnia's leaders, turning them and those immediately around them to stone. Amid the panic, Balin was revealed unscathed, spared by the immense power of the Grail. Chaos had reckoned without the Knights Eschaton, who appointed new Dukes and reimposed order upon the congregation. Rather than floundering leaderless, a sole rival to Mordred unexpectedly survived, uniting the lands behind him. With news that King had also survived the curse, the war-torn land was rocked by the revelation that Mordred could not be the Lionheart's true heir. At the urging of Edward and Joachim, the Grandmaster resolved to destroy the realm of Mousillion, a symbolic act that would awe and unify all the remaining duchies behind him.

As the planning continued, it became clear that the remaining Duchies would not join the effort, hedging their bets on the brewing confrontation outcome between Balin and King Mordred. So it was that Corin approached the Inner Circle with a proposal. He wished to ride out to the remaining Brotherhood strongholds, to offer the revolutionaries a place in Balin's armies. This same offer he would extend to the Wold-folk, whose northward migration continued to cause disruption and bloodletting. The proposal cause scandal among the gathered Dukes, and particularly with Sir Tybalt who regarded it as a threat to the purity of Balin's claim to the throne. A caustic exchange took place, an escalating duel of scorn and insults culminating in Tybalt drawing his blade in outrage. Only the intervention of Edward spared Corin from an unexpected death-blow, and the one-time yeoman vanished from the fortress into the wilds. Tybalt vanished too, storming off into the mountains to recruit more Pegasus Knights.

As the fullness of the four Duchies armies assembled, they were troubled frequently by raids. Camps and supplies would be suddenly fired, sicknesses spread and wight horsemen slew bands of men as their travelled. But Joachim and Edward had remained close at hand, leading the mounted counter-attack that defeated the wights in the Foret de Chalons. They likewise enforced order on the fractious nobility, acting as Balin's steely right hand. Upon the waning of autumn, the Knights Eschaton marched upon Mousillion. The swampy lands were testament to the Red Duke's cruelty, fields of impaled peasants glimpsed in the mist, and burned structures littering every roadside. The Duke's ensorcelled militia and monstrous curse-knights were grossly pale, with black veins showing beneath their skin. It soon became clear that a curse of undeath lay heavy upon Mousillion, the worst rumours of bygone years, returned. Battling through his hordes to the bone-lined walls of his fortress, the Order beheld the Red Duke's full, skeletal army. The brutal siege mauled Balin's forces, with the vampiric knights of the Barrow-Guard sallying forth to break the attackers whenever they gained momentum. After many weeks, it was only the timely arrival of Tybalt, riding at the head of a hundred Pegasus Knights, that broke through the clouds, speared the Duke's champion and seized the gates of the fortress. Sickened by all they witnessed within, the Knights Eschaton decreed that the fortress should be levelled, with Edward plunged his shining glaive into the vampire Duke he found cringing within the throne-room. Alas, victory would seem suddenly to be snatched from their grasp. As the exhausted soldiers and knights moved to tear down it down, shouts of alarm spread through the vanquished fortress.

Encroaching from the north, the Crowned Lion banners of Couronne had appeared, Mordred's army seeking to take advantage of his rival's war-weary state. The land thundered under the weight of their hooves, and looking out upon the shining formations of the fresh army, the Inner Circle despaired of victory. It was then, beyond all hope, that sheets of black-fletched arrows swept out of the surrounding trees, arcing high overhead and scything the King's knights from their saddles in droves. Flight upon flight slammed into their floundering formations, punching through armour and horseflesh at Corin and Adalwulf's order. Balin's army was astonished - it was as though the king's forces forces were afforded no protection by the Lady's prayer. Rallying to this sign, the surviving Knights poured out of Mousillion, carving deep into the flanks of the Royal Cavalry. Though still holding a vast advantage in numbers, the heart seemed to go out of Mordred's knights, pinned between the resurgent Order, the culling arrows of the Brotherhood and the frothing ranks of the Wold-folk. Quitting the field in dishonour and infamy, Mordred's army - and his claim to the crown - would never recover. In the wake of the battle, the Dukes of Aquitaine and Bordeleux arrived, wishing to pledge their armies to the service of "Saint Balin," who seemed imbued with the spirit of Gilles le Breton. This brought Balin's support up to six of twelve Dukes, and when he called a Kingsmoot, all remaining Dukes save Couronne supported his claim to the crown.

The full extent of Mordred's treachery - his collusion with a Chaos Medusa, a vampire, his murder of his father and the Fay Enchantress - was soon revealed. For the first time in Britannia's history, a noble and former King was hung, drawn and quartered by unanimous vote of the congregation of Dukes. But these were the End Times, and all knew that in the face of such darkness, worse things than this would be required. In his first act as King, Balin declared an Errantry War, and though he did not elevate the Wolds and Brotherhood -so long enemies of Bretonnia- to the Order or to the Royal Army, neither did he forbid them to support him. Indeed their ranks would swell, as Borgias' remaining mercenaries, travellers of the Crusader's Road, and survivors of the People's Crusade led by Lowenzahn flocked to rumours of a saintly King. Gravely concerned by developments, Tybalt took leave of his role as First Lance, leading a handful of like-minded veterans to ride ahead into the Empire. After scant days upon the throne, King Balin led the largest force of cavalry assembled in generations through Axe Bite Pass.


Chapter XIX - Altdorf

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The Empire

“You cannot pass,” came the high-pitched shout, echoing in the narrow mountain gap. It prompted gruff laughter from a thousand throats, and the impatient stamping of hooves among the assembled might of Brettonia’s Errantry army. Smiling patiently in the light snowfall, the King of Brettonia gestured for the royal standard to be raised. Mutters broke out amidst the ramshackle barricades, and a ragged-looking mercenary captain slapped the back of the clarion’s head. “Sorry, Highness,” called Charles ruefully. “Come on up.”

[Beastmen & Nurgle]
The twelve Dukes of Bretonnia led their armies through Axe Bite Pass and into the Empire. The army's goal was the "Conclave of Light", a gathering of forces summoned by the legendary elven Archmage Teclis. The immense army of mounted knights and yeoman passed is challenged at the bulwark of Hochpoint Castle, a massive fortress that marked the border between the realms. The castle was held by a battered group of mercenaries in the employ of the Countess of Nuln, and King Balin walks forward with his inner circle to discuss terms of passage. The crown of Bretonnia glistens on his head as he meets with the battered mercenaries at the base of the walls. The mercenaries were given orders many weeks ago, and having not been paid for a month are happy to come back to the Empire to help against the hordes of chaos. Their leader, a mercenary captain named Charles the Beastslayer, negotiates for his men to be paid by the Bretonnians and secures himself a spot in the order as part of their payment. As the weary sellswords mount up and join the Bretonnians, the army rides onwards towards the Conclave. The Conclave of Light is held in a scorched field once called Bogenhafen. Hundreds of tents, pavilions and makeshift wooden building dot the area, while a huge stone tower glows white at the centre. Rumoured to have been drawn from the ground with magic, this was the epicentre towards which the rulers of each nation were called to Conclave the following morning.

The army of Bretonnia is approached by factional heralds as they enter the camp. The men bearing the Griffon and Hammer of Karl Franz, the Cannon of the Countess of Nuln and the Wolf of Boris von Todbringer eye each other with disdain, the three claimants to the throne of the Empire vying for advantage even in these dark times. Another herald bears the banner of the Colleges of Magic, twelve towers on a blue field, while an Elven representative bears a simple silver tree sigil. Each of the Imperial Elector Counts has declared for one of three Imperial claimants, and the Bretonnians establish their camp near to that of the many mercenaries that had flocked here from Tilea and other vanquished countries. During the day Balin meets with emissaries from the Magic Colleges, the Dwarves, Elves, Ar-Ulric and even the representative of a man named Valten who many claimed was Sigmar reborn. Joachim falls before Valten and offers his service, and the young blonde man touches the priests cheek in thankyou for his sacrifice in the name of Sigmar. The Wolds and Brotherhood set up camp beyond the borders of the other areas, next to a camp of fanatic sigmarite zealots. The two groups fight during the night, but within the borders of the Conclave the Bretonnian camp is peaceful and well protected.

With all rulers present, the Conclave begins. Banners are unfurled, drums beaten and armies assembled as the delegations go to the central area to meet with Teclis. Brettonia alone has a surviving ruler, with the Empire still locked in a contest for the throne. Grudgebearer of the Dwarves has been slain by an assassin's poison, replaced by Ironfist, the Slayer King. Astonishing intrigue at the High Elves Court had seen the Phoenix King Finubar hang Prince Tyrion for adultery with the Everqueen, even as the corruption of magic set Ulthuan sinking below the waves. The only survivors were pulled board the awaiting Black Arks of Naggaroth, with Malekith now crowned the undisputed Eternity King. As he lounged unchallenged astride his coiling dragon his half-brother Teclis arrived in a blast of wind and lightning.

Welcoming each faction, the Archmage speaks of 'Warp Gates' opening across the land, spewing forth daemons and corrupting the Winds of Magic. He speaks of the Vortex of Ulthuan, a now-vanished artefact that once preserved the world against the encroachment of daemons. With the loss of the Vortex, he claims that only destroying the Polar Gate can spare the world an endless, polluting tide of Chaos. This can only be accomplished by one of the weapons of legend, whether the Sword of Khaine, the Axe of Grimniri or the Hammer of Sigmar. With some regret, he admits that the resulting explosion will destroy the vast majority of life on the world, with only powerfully warded regions likely to survive. There is outrage in the room, shouts of disdain and anger as leaders stand up to protest Teclis' plan. None want to let their people die, and fewer still fight in a battle that would see most of the world destroyed. Teclis speaks at length about the merits of the plan but some remain unswayed. A few agree to aid him in riding for Middenheim and destroying the warp gate there, while others plan to charge the forces of Archeon and end this without the magic and promises of the Elves. Argument rages on for hours before eventually the Conclave disbands. Teclis intends to go through with his plan even without the support of some of the Conclave, and teaches the Lords of the Colleges of Magic how to use rituals to create small bubbles of reality. They would save who they could and pray the rest were lucky or blessed enough to survive.

The forces disperse as the troops assembled begin preparing for the coming battles. As the soldiers settle in for the night the Inner Circle meets with the King in his large tent. They talk strategy and discuss the Conclave, but are interrupted by the blowing of horns in the surrounding darkness. The high pure notes of Elven horns are heard alongside the deep booming dwarven horns and the brassy flat notes of Imperial musicians. All the sounds meant the same thing - the enemy was here. Swarming out of the forest came the horsemen of Chaos, massively muscled men in spiked black armour that bear banners of human skin. Infantry move alongside them, blood-smeared bereserkers bearing massive axes and swords. They swarm into the camps, slaughtering drowsing soldiers and setting fire to tents. The forces of Bretonnia rally to their King, with the Inner Circle cleaving a path through the horde. Joachim draws upon the energy of Sigmar, calling forth holy spirits to fight by his side. Swinging two-handed hammers the glowing spirits battle alongside the Warpriest, slaying chaos in bursts of radiant energy. Edward fights at the front as always, spinning his glaive with expert skill and slaying marauders as soon as they enter the camp. Corin and Charles stand behind, unleashing bow and pistol fire at enemies who break through the line. With the camp aflame, the various factions struggle to form up their forces, with men and women slaughtered in the confusion. The marauders are fearsome foes, but they pale in comparison to that which emerged next. Hulking beasts in runic plate armour bear spiked axes the size of a man, swinging them with contempt at any warrior that crossed their path. Far more skilled than mere humans could be, it takes all the skill and luck of the group to down these champions of chaos. Wounded and exhausted the group reunites with Balin and the surviving Bretonnian knights and are forced to flee into the forest as the forces of chaos slaughter the army of the Light.

The exhausted few who remain of the Bretonnian knights are led by Balin into the dark forests of the Empire. Turning back the Knights Eschaton get a final glimpse of the despoiled campsite of the Conclave of Light, and the vast foul banner made of human skin being raised over the clearing. The group rides for many days towards Altdorf, desperate to reinforce the capital city of the Empire against the hordes of Crom the Conquerer. By Corin's skill and Charles' knowledge of the land they avoid most chaos patrols, unable to risk the time taken to destroy these splinter forces. Eventually however the jaws of the beastmen close in, and the knights are forced to turn and fight their pursuers. Led by a fearsome minotaur mounted atop a spiked chariot the beastmen flood out of the forest and into the assembled knights. The minotaur charges alongside beasts fused with horses, foul centigors that whoop and holler as they charge towards the forces of light. The Knights countercharge, lances broken against beast flesh as battle is joined. As Joachim and Charles join the fight with the centigors Edward and Corin battle the foul minotaur. The chariots bladed wheels cut down horses and men as they pass, with the Minotaur and Edward weaving around within the melee, each trying to land the killing blow on the other. Despite his skill with a blade Edward is unable to best the creature and eventually as the majority of his troops lie dead the beast turns his chariot to flee. He slumps as he flees, a single arrow from Corin lodged in his spine. The creatures pulling the chariot keep running, unaware their master is now dead, and the knights regroup before pushing on into the forest.

Approaching Altdorf the acrid tang of gunpowder can be smelt on the wind. As the remains of the Order breaks out of the forest a collective gasp goes out. Altdorf is besieged! Everywhere the sounds of screams and the crack of blackpowder weapons can be heard as the men of the Empire try to defend the capital. It's immense towers are shrouded by shrieking winged beasts and around the base of the walls a massive horde of hideous slouching zombies claw at the gates. Here and there they are supported by pus ridden chaos warriors, all bearing a banner with three overlapping circles. Only one gate still holds, and they are soon to be overrun by the mass of zombies. Nearby the marauders bring a giant battering ram to bear on the centre gate, its dwarven magic barely holding against the hell thrown at it. The order splits. Balin takes the majority of the men to the far gate to slay the bannerbearer, while Joachim leads the mercenaries to assist a gate nearly overrun by undead. Edward and Corin would take the remaining knights to destroy the battering ram and the many legged serpent that pulls it. Joachim and Charles reach the city first as the holy priest holds up his symbol of sigmar before him and simply rides past as undead deanimate in front of him. Glowing with holy light the necromancy holding the monsters together is simply undone, and the gate is retaken with little more bloodshed. Leaving their troops to guard the gate Charles and Joachim join a group of Rieksguard knights riding into the city to counter enemy insurgence. Corin and Edward find their path more difficult. As they ride towards the battering ram the creature pulling the ram turns, opening its glowing pale blue eyes and glancing at the charging knights. As its eyes glow with power men and beast alike find themselves transfixed and turned to stone! Corin's horse is petrified and many of the Knights Eschaton are dehorsed or themselves slain. Only Edward rides forward, his glaive held low before plunging it deep into the skull of the creature. As it topples over it crushes the battering ram, and the rest of the marauders flee back towards their army lines. Cutting down the rest of the plague ridden barbarians Edward and Corin enter the city.

As Joachim and Charles thunder through the city at the head of the Reiksguard contingent they pass a group of fleeing citizens, screaming in terror as they swarm away from the entrance to the Imperial Zoo. The knights soon find the source of the fear, one of the Altdorf griffons had been horribly mutated by the warp energy. It now sports three heads, each marked with foul symbols of chaos. The creature reeks of corruption, and as it opens its three jaws a flood of flies and pestilence is born forth onto the knights. The Reiksguard scatter as Charles blocks blow after blow on his shield. He slashes at it futilely, while Joachim smashes it again and again with his holy hammer. The creature is massive, but eventually its wounds are too much and it falls to the ground, the final blow dealt when Charles jams his kite shield into one of the creatures' eyes. The knights remount and follow the sense of corruption deeper into the heart of Altdorf. The two groups meet up, Charles and Joachim leading their Reiksguard to meet with Edward and Corin. United the knights ride towards the centre of the city, the pave stones here mossy and plague ridden. In gardens at the centre of Altdorf they find the leader of the daemonic forces. Outside the golden temple of Sigmar, a massive rotting walks amid the garden. His taloned hands caress plants and statures, spreading blemishes and decay with a touch. Swimming in the putrid waters around him, dozens of tiny plague-daemons mew and cry. As the knights move forward massive fly wings sprout from the creatures back in a burst of pus and he swoops forward, bringing a rusted scythe to bear. Joachim and Corin are driven back, waves of corruption pushing them away from the beast. Charles engages the nurglings, smashing them with shield and blade but unable to stem the tide. Meanwhile Edward walks alone. Protected from the corruption by the Grail blood flowing through his veins he is struck down by the creature again and again, but rises time after time to continue his battle. Plague scythe clashes with grail glaive with arcing sparks until finally in a burst of holy energy Edward slashes down the Tallyman of Nurgle.


Chapter XX - Here At The End Of All Things

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[Tzeentch & Khorne]
The Gardens of Nurgle had emptied into Altdorf. The Konigsweg was rendered a putrid swamp, its proud statues tarnished with rust. The Great Cathedral of Sigmar seethed with flies, the largest of them the size of stock-horses and ridden by chortling Plaguebearers. Accompanied by the Eschaton Inner Circle, Karl Franz, Elector Count of Riekland, had battled into the Treasury Vault, wherein the sceptre of the Emperor, the warhammer Gahl Maraz, awaited him. Seizing this symbol, he claimed command of all surviving forces.

Around the walls of the world's greatest city, a sea of carrion and rotting corpses carpeted the earth. Though the forces of Light had spent much of their strength, they saw with dismay that the majority of the horde had been plague-afflicted peasants and daemons. Knowing the Chaos army still marauded southward unchallenged, the gathered leaders began to comprehend the true scale of the threat they faced. Their determination to defeat Archaeon on the field had been rattled. Railing against despair, the young blacksmith Valten strode forward and demanded possession of Gahl Maraz, in order to unite the forces of the Empire as Magnus the Pious had done. But the unproven "incarnate" had no real claim to it, and was refused by the Elector Counts. Taking his rabble forces, he stormed out of the meeting, swearing to confront Archaeon at Talabheim. But such is the destruction wrought by the Three Eyes King so far, that none have survived to report his whereabouts. The forces of Light divided, moving off to defend the major cities still in the grip of the enemy. Though concerned particularly for the fate of Nuln, the Inner Circle are bound to follow their King to Middenheim to enact Teclis' desperate plan. All present agree to try to meet upon the Fauschlag, "at the end of the world".

Travelling north through the Great Forest of the Empire, the Knights note warping changes to the trees and landscape, signs of the sorcerous influence of Tzeentch. Feathered bat-creatures with luminescent eyes harry their progress, and whooping, war-painted mutants surge out of the woods to die in fluorescent splatters. The stampede of cavalry fights near-constant skirmishes for days, joined by a force of elven Eagle-Riders as they struggle northward. When the stunted city-fort of Delberz emerges on the horizon, they see that the full extent of the changes wrought by the magical storms. New mountains have emerged, volcanoes belch smoke in the distance, and rivers have burst their banks to form haunting swamps and lakes. The earth grumbles continuously underfoot, and the returning Eagle Riders report a force of dwarves defending a locomotive bound for Delberz. In a show of suicidal dedication, the northmen are hurling themselves in from of the train to slow it with their bodies, or latching on with chains. Meaning to destroy the Tzeench-held city with a rune-weapon, the dwarves shout for aid.

Galloping alongside the strange machine, the Knights lance into the oncoming force of Marauders. They carve deep into the ranks while harpies duel with the Elves overhead. A bellowing roar booms across the battlefield as a fist of Dragon Ogres smash a path through the Bretonnians, but they are brought crashing down when they collide with the Inner Circle. Corralled and smote by Charles, they bleed lightning into the seething air. This attracts a flight of Screamers, led by a horrifying Chariot of Tzeentch. Struck by gouts of twisting fire, many of the Knights are hurled from their suddenly mutating steeds and the momentum of the charge is lost. Spurring ahead of the locomotive, Corin looses an unrelenting torrent of arrows at the disc-riding Flamer, until it breaks apart, spurting multicoloured fluid and ash. The tracks clear of foes, the orange-crested Runelord rides the train into Delberz' tunnels, the reverberations of his Anvil of Doom ringing out long after he vanishes from sight. The explosion, set from deep below the fortress, sends a cascade of stone and mutant flesh hundreds of feet into the air, and deafens the survivors for hours.

The one unchanging point in a shifting landscape is Middenheim, the Ulricsberg spearing into discoloured clouds. For Balin and Joachim, many months in the saddle, with friends and allies slain in endless battles with undead, greenskins, mutants and monstrosities, would culminate at the Fauschlag. They had crossed the scorching deserts of Araby, plied haunted seas, and reaped treasures in the howling jungles of Sartosa. They had crossed lances with invaders on the grasslands of Tilea, run a blockade into no-man’s-land and foiled poisonous plots in the swamps of the Ratmen. They had witnessed a war-dragon in full flight, and slain one in a ruined tower on the peaks of Massif Orcal. They had mustered the Errantry armies of Brettonia, seized the crown of the Lionheart, and now stood at the head of the greatest force of cavalry ever assembled. The glistening Reiksguard spurred alongside snapping Cold One Knights, and Grail Knights saluted their swords to war-painted Elk-Riders. Massive Demigryph lancers jostled with the pure-white stallions of the Ellyrian Reavers, and the Order of Knights Eschaton charged in splendour, as figures of legend rode Grand Dragons through clouds above. With beams of sunlight piercing the storm, Life’s last great army roared it’s defiance in the face of oblivion.

A legion of blood-drenched savages surged around Middenheim, but the sea parted before the fury of the charge. Bestial chants cut off in startled death-screams, as the cavalry blasted through the Chaos lines and onto the Skyway. Though they were bled for each step, the unstoppable momentum sent them surging into the city, where the corpses of siege giants stood as testament to the defender’s fury. Through the ruined gates, the Knights found northmen engaged in a joyous butchery, and they vented their outrage with immense violence. Creaking juggernauts came lumbering for Balin, but his champion Edward speared them ruthlessly. In a furious duel, Charles cast down a frothing Chosen of Khorne, opening a path to the pinnacle where Ulric’s Axe was said to have fallen. They were awaited there by the monstrous Chaos Rift, a howling, eye-watering smear of congealed blood and immateriality.


The Polar Gate

Through the Gate, a nightmare landscape of surging, hirsute flesh and rivers of blood, boiled in every direction. Tightly surrounding King Balin and the Runefang of Riekland, the Knights could feel themselves being inexorably pulled apart, warped by the intolerable forces of the Abyss. They knew they were going mad, beyond all hope in the face of the mountainous, half-seen entities slouching towards them. But just ahead, an immense arch of rotted, primordial stone reached into the sky, the guttering Polar Gate constructed by the Old Ones. It was surrounded by Dwarven Slayers, innumerable high-crested warriors cleaving a path for High King Ironfist of the Dwarves and the Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson, towards it’s base. Swooping through the rift behind, three ancient Dragons and their riders crashed into the Greater Daemons who had emerged from the surrounding hordes, followed by armies from every corner of the Empire. With all the world aflame behind them, every warrior knew they were already dead, already poisoned by the corruption of this place. But with every sinew, with every spark of vitality, they strove towards the great, malfunctioning mistake of the Old Ones, knowing that any hope, hope that some shred of reality might survive, rested on their few remaining moments. They would slam the door shut, and in so doing they would damn and save the world.. A mountain of heaving, crimson muscle, bleeding smoke and bat-winged, a Bloodthirster of Khorne tore out of the sky to bar their passage. Unhesitating in the face of certain oblivion, the Inner Circle raged against their doom. Sir Corin of the Crossways, a lowborn who had found unexpected honour in the service of his King, loosed an arrow into the Daemon’s eye. He was parted like tissue paper by the creature’s nightmare whip. Charles – all his life a sellsword and cynic, sacrificed himself to spare a foreign King -seeming so beloved by his countrymen - a death blow. The Daemon’s blade ripped through his upright shield, armour, flesh and bone, bisecting him in a shower of sizzling fluid. With a vaulting leap, Edward, the last Knight found worthy of the Grail, plunged his spear into the Daemon’s thigh. Muscles boiled off the bone by it’s superheated hide, he splattered apart at a brush of it’s claw. Joachim, holding white-knuckled to his faith through a harrowing journey, was struck into ashes by the fiery blade. His shining aura guttering against the tide of darkness, the defiant healer was last to fall, never knowing whether his actions had been enough, never knowing whether his nation, his people or his God would survive. None who strove that day to end the threat of Chaos could know whether history would remember their names, nor whether any rock or tree would remain upon which to record it. There at the End of All Things, where the stroke of an unknown weapon fell upon the Polar Gate, no vestige of man, elf, daemon or dwarf would survive.


Campaign Appendixes


Dramatis Persona

  • The Crusaders: Descendants of a heroic tradition, four warriors bound by blood and loyalty.

Notable Persons:
Part I

  • Lord Reynard Von Solidor: Lord of Martek, father/patron to the Crusaders.
  • Sir Gregor Gebhardt: Former crusading knight, now master-at-arms for Lord Reynard. White moustache and a two-handed battle axe.
  • Sir Harald the Clarion: Scoutmaster and Seneschal to Lord Reynard. Sports an Araby-style beard and fights with twin Scimitars.
  • Sir Louis: Brettonian Questing Knight, seeking the wisdom of his ancestors. Upswept moustache, white hair.
  • The Lector of Sigmar: High Sigmarite of Al Haikk, patron of the Cruciform Covenant. Conservative and narrow minded. Spindly & bald.

Part II

  • Captain Calogos: Estalian 'merchant'. Not hugely generous, but reasonable. Captains the Ares.
  • Pirate King Jaego Roth: Flamboyant pirate, peg-leg, parrot, big hat. Captains the stolen Man-o-War Heldenhammer.
  • Gutto: Dwarven pirate and acquisitionist.
  • Captain Longdrong Silver: Dwarven Slayer pirate captain of the ship Freya.
  • Borgias the Besieger: Wealthy general and ruler of the city-state Miragliano.
  • Prince Vespero: Ruler of the city-state of Luccini. Rumoured to be unstable.
  • Francisco the Interloper: Estalian would-be conqueror and Myrmidian.

Part III

  • Morgan: Tilean peasant yeoman, later squire to Alaric.
  • Tybalt, Questing Knight: Formerly of Copher, bears the Hawk standard back to Talabheim following the fall of Imperial Araby. A loyal Myrmidian, he is focused on the protection off innocents and the upholding of justice and truth in her name.
  • Lady Isos: Ruler of Ebino, from an ancient and distinguished noble house. Considered noteworthily sensible for a Tilean noble.
  • King Mordred: The crowned King of Bretonnia after the death of his father, Mordred is a divisive character within the Bretonnian nobility.
  • Earl Urbaine: Ruler of Quenelles while the Duke is in mourning.

Maps and Documents

Locations:
Part I

  • Martek: Mountain city of Reynard Vol Solidor. Dusty city dominated by the massive Solidor Keep.
  • Al Haikk: Mighty cosmopolitan port, known as the City of Thieves. Home to the Cathedral of Sigmar.
  • Baskra: Port town on the coast near Al Haikk built on ancient Arabic ruins.

Part II

  • Sartosa: Pirate port off the coast of Tilea, ruled over by the Pirate King Jaego.
  • Luccini and Remas: Mercenary city-states in Tilea, the two are currently involved in a civil war with Miragliano that engulfs the region.
  • Riffraffa: Tilean town, known for its corrupt officials and excessive drug use.
  • Miragliano: Northernmost Tilean city this principality is ruled by Borgia the Besieger and is currently at war with Luccini. The city is built on a swamp and has been famous sacked and retaken a number of times by the Skaven forces from the western swamps.

Part III

  • Ebino: Fortified city within the principality of Miragliano. Ruled by House Isos.
  • Toscanea: Town in the north-east of Tilea, centred around a manor house long abandoned by its owner.
  • Summersfall Castle: Bretonnian keep in the Duchy of Quenelles. Guards the mountains to the south of the country.
  • Loren Forest: A mysterious and dangerous forest seldom travelled. Occupied by many beasts as well as rumoured Sylvan Elves.
  • Quenelles: Fortified Bretonnian city in the south of the country, famed for its horsemen. The Duchy is bordered by the Loren forest and a sight known as 'the Wall' to the north.
  • Chinon: A grail chapel in the mountains of Bretonnia, home to the Grail Knights Sir Clovis and Sir Anaude as well as various grail monks and Handmaidens of the Lady.

Part I:

[1] Map of the Al Haikk Region:

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[2] Note from the Wizard Arkhan to his associate Mahmoud:

Mahmoud,
I have learned much here in Khemri, foremost about the fascinating magicks used by the ancient Nehekarans. Believing, (as is quite evident) that their civilisation would be the greatest empire in history, they went to their graves fully expecting to reawaken to serve their great pharaoh Settra anew. I know my old teachers would be horrified, but I find that I am a quick study in Nehekharan history and necromancy. Of course i am being cautious - if i raise too many skeletons they appear to gain a mind somewhat of their own, marching off who knows where in the desert. But i find that the thought of my masters disapproval means less to me, and the thrill of new magical frontiers outweighs the risk. And the greatest discovery - Sultan Jaffar’s lamp - is within my grasp. The Devil Men of Ben Aliad have agreed to allow me to study it, in exchange for a few simple necromantic spells. There is such an abundance of dead crusaders on the battelfield it is scarcely a favour. With luck, Jaffar’s last remaining wish will still be intact. The Devil men, for whatever reason, are either unaware of it or unable to use it. Mahmoud - you know that I have never been a reckless man. So believe me when I say I am fully in command of this new, wonderful magic. However I fear i would never convince you that I have not lost my mind. Thus have i laced this letter with poison, and I hope that in death you may understand, and continue your loyal service.
Your master,
Arkhan, of the School of Metal.

[3] Map of The Journey Across the Southron Sea

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Part II:

[4] Map of the Island of Sartosa

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[5] Map of Tilea

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[6] Note from Borgias the Besieger to the Ogre Krusk

Krusk,
I write to you for a final time, to demand that you turn over the spoils of your raiding.
I paid you a fair wage for killing that old Orc, and save for lounging on the treasure the tribe has amassed, you have upheld the terms we have agreed upon.
As I have explained to you very clearly, I need all the gold this country can offer, to make one crucial purchase that will end the centuries of civil war.

When I am Caesar, I will shower you with titles and Riffraffa will again by ruled be Ogre nobility. But in the meantime, you have played a part in my plan, and you are still under my employ.
That means you are withholding my treasure.
If you do not make contact within 30 days the deal is off and I will send my assassins for you.
Borgias the Besieger

Part III:

[7] Map of Bretonnia

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[8] Note from Adalwulf to the Crusaders, found the night the party made it to the Grail Shrine Chinon

To my dearest companions,
It is with a most heavy heart that I must take my leave of the company of Balin the Bright, for a new cause has struck at my heartstrings with the force of a thousand sword-blows. In our adventures I was entranced by the tales of Sir Balin the Bright - of his nobility, his courage, his sense of justice and righteousness. I had figured that all in the lands of Bretonnia would be of a like character, the very exemplar of honour. Alas I was mistaken. Bretonnia, though her lands are fertile and green, harbours a vicious and cruel caste of lords and knights who care naught for their charges, treating them like common chattel. As a man of the people who faced similar treatment at the hands of the Great Hunt in my home of the Wissenland, I can no longer stand idly by and allow such atrocities to continue unchecked and unchallenged.
I do not ask that you understand, nor forgive me for what I set out to do. All I ask is that you do not follow or try to stop me, for to face any one of you on the field of battle would break my heart.
Dutifully yours,
Adalwulf von Gebhardt of House von Solidor

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