Everyone looks at each other, then looks at Werner.
It’s late evening in the Drum and Hat, just off Kemperbad’s main square, and the events of the last few minutes have everyone looking concerned.
What are we going to do about this situation? Should we try to track these guys down? Shall we get out of here and try to lose them?
A mass discussion breaks out as the party process the events and talk their way through the possibilities.
As they are about to finish their drinks and head back to the boat, they see the patrons of the inn slowly move to the side as three men make their way through the pub crowd.
Wearing a feathered, wide-brimmed hat, exquisite outfit and bejeweled rings on his pudgy fingers, a man, who seems to be well known, sits down at the table flanked by two gorilla-esque men.
“Good evening gentlemen,” he says, and swirls his fingers round for a round of drinks.
“My name is Luigi Belladonna, and I would like to know- where is she?”
Straight away everyone assumes this must have something to do with Reni…
Playing dumb doesn’t work out as it’s clear he knows she is their companion.
“We’ve had a look on the boat, so we know she’s not on there, nice dog..”
Werner is instantly annoyed that they have been aboard the Jolly Nobber, but after a testy exchange he decides nows not the time or place.
A woman comes past and thanks Mr Belladonna for his assistance and donations to the soup kitchen and he humbly sends her on her way.
The gang opt to tell the truth – if she’s not on the boat, they honestly don’t know where she is.
Things are tense yet polite and Luigi finishes his drinks and says he will see them soon with a wink.
As he’s obviously a well connected man, they see if they can get any leads on the letter they have just been given, hoping that he may recognise the symbol with the hand. They hand him the letter.
“I’m afraid I can’t help you with this symbol, but you guys certainly know how to get yourself in trouble don’t you?”
And with a smile he gets up and leaves them to it.
Drinks are finished and everyone is keen to get back to the boat.
To their surprise, although there has clearly been people on the boat, nothing seems to be missing. Unlike Reni, who is missing.
Dumpling tells them that she was here, the men came and she was gone.
It’s late, and due to recent events, a watch is set up through the night.
The next day, Durak heads to the dwarven armorsmiths and gets measured up for some chainmail. Gnoblar does some shopping at the herb based market stalls and they spend the evening in the pubs chatting gossip and rumours with the locals.
A day later and there’s still no sign of Reni, so Durak collects his armor, some supplies are collected and the Nobber is ready to make the trip back downstream to the signal tower.
It’s the height of summer now and it’s a beautiful few days sailing down the Reik. Whilst on deck, Rowlocks and Durak have the uneasy yet familiar feeling that they are being watched. They scan to forests edges on the banks of the river but nothing. Wandy studies his grimoires in his cabin while Gnoblar spends time in the lab fiddling with dusts and powders.
It’s late afternoon on the fifth day of travel when the silhouette of the signal tower comes into view.
The Jolly Nobber pulls up to the wharf beside the tower. It seems like an age since they first docked here to help those flustered dwarves months ago.
Dumpling stays on the boar with Elvis and everyone else grabs their stuff and jumps onto the riverbank. As they disembark they see two horses hitched up beside the tower. The swirling ramp which leads up to the entrance door is round the other side, and as they walk round they hear a woman’s voice call out….
“Ahhh at last! My shadows have arrived!! It’s great to finally meet you, do come round, I believe you have something for me, and I have something for you…..”
On the upper layer of the signal tower, on top of the stone observatory is a woman, draped in noble attire.
After months of tracking and chasing, numerous adventures and encounters, the party finally get to meet their quarry.
The stand for a moment taking in the current scene. Etelka has moved round the other side out of view. This is unexpected.
The party move round in single file towards the other side of the tower with Werner at the front, and as they do, they are both confused and amazed at the scene that greets them.
On the grass at the bottom of the signal tower are four dead dwarves face down in the mud. Their friend, Aynjulls Isembard, the renown engineer, is staring straight at them and he had a blade at his neck. The blade is held by, none other than, the book guy from the coach and horses, who Wandy tried to talk to on the day that our party met. This is a strange turn of events.
The man with the knife sneers an evil grin and looks up at Etelka as she looks down on the adventurers.
“And now…it’s time to hand over the keys, I suggest you do this at once or the world will be one dwarf short..”
Aynjulls looks at the the guys, terror on his face and a tear in his eye.
Rowlocks discreetly slides an arrow out of his pack under his cloak. Everyone looks at each other. Tension builds.
“We don’t have what you seek,” yells Werner.
“Now, now, don’t take me for a fool,” retorts Etelka.
The seconds that pass seem like hours. Everyone stares at each other. She’s going to kill him anyway, at least if we rush the book guy he may stand a chance?
Rowlocks shoots – the arrow whistles up into the air.
“Oh dear,” shouts Etelka, “I was hoping you were going to play nice…”
She grins an evil grin, leans over the edge of the stone tower and hurls an enormous fireball straight down at the party.
Werner, Gnoblar and Rowlocks are engulfed in flames and the smell of burning flesh and hair bursts round the bottom of the tower.
Wandy steps round to get line of sight on the book guy and blasts him with a wind blast knocking him and Aynjulls off balance. Gnoblar rummages in his satchel.
The man holding the knife steps forward through the wind and slices Aynjulls throat from the back. Blood pours down his beard and sprays out, he turns pale and drops to the ground.
And that’s it, it’s on. Werner storms forward in a blur drawing his axe and Durak, enraged by the deaths of his kinsman, pulls out his weapon and they both charge Aynjulls’ killer. Axe blows rain down on the guy and cut through his clothing like a knife through butter. All four blows from Werner and Durak land strong and in moments he’s dead on the floor.
Gnoblar, when he was at Etelka’s house in the Black Peaks, harvested a load of the strange mould that drained Wandy’s magical powers. In his lab on the barge he has worked on processing this into a liquid and now he is furiously dipped Rowlocks’ arrowheads into vials in the hope that they will dull Etelkas’ magical prowess.
But it’s not going well, it’s a really difficult shot, shooting upwards to the tower to hit a barely visible Etelka and the arrows are pinging off into the air.
“Fuck this,” shouts Rowlocks, grabs the vial and launches it up at the female Wizard. It also misses.
Rowlocks drops his bow, unsheathes his sword and storms up the ramp towards Etelka.
Seeing his advance, Etelka summons a sword directly in Rowlocks path on the precarious ramp and it slices into his arm as he let’s out a shriek.
Battle ensues, and the animated sword is proving difficult to hit. Rowlocks is battling the sword as Durak comes up the ramp with him, but theres not much room and Durak can’t get involved. At this point, Etelka disappears from view.
Wandy and Gnoblar take cover at the bottom of the signal tower.
Rowlocks is already wounded from the fireball and during the battle with the sword he’s been wounded further and things arn’t looking good.
The sword arches through the air in a mighty swing. It looks like it will connect and slice Rowlocks arm straight off at the elbow. In a crazy twist of fate, as it comes in, Rowlocks stumbles on some rocks, falls backwards past Durak and hits the deck.
Werner has an idea. He runs round the bottom of the towers ramp and uses his superior climbing skills to come up behind the sword.
The animated sword now has Durak on one side and Werner on the other and the tables have turned. After many clangs, parries, thrusts and smashes, Durak manages to clatter the floating weapon and it dematerialises.
As always, Werner is into the tower first with the gang following. He searches around but Etelka is no where to be seen.
What’s the plan? They’ve come all the way here to open the bottom floor, but that’s exactly what Etelka wants them to do, but they can’t find her anywhere? Can’t come all the way here and not open it surely?
Let’s do this. The mere presence of the keys in Rowlocks’ backpack cause the secret trapdoor on the floor (previously used by the ghoul) to slowly open.
Opting to leave the trapdoor open, they all carefully climb down into the lower level and make their way to the central chamber. All the while, looking behind with caution, expecting a surprise attack from Etelka at any moment.
Once on the ground floor, Werner and Rowlocks spin the bars of the central chamber and open the chamber with the mysterious symbols and the keyholes.
After a final look behind them, the last key is inserted and, click, the floor in centre swings down revealing a trapdoor and a ladder.
Once again, Werner is first down with torch in hand into the darkness.
He finds himself in a central chamber, off to the sides are six small rooms, all containing hundreds of dusty books. This is a study and a library.
Everyone climbs down and begins to look around. In the middle is a table with three books open at specific pages. Wandy takes a look drawing on his arcane knowledge.
The first is ‘Astronomical records – being a guide to the Mysterious Phenomena of the Night Sky’. It’s an account detailing the fall of the meteor and its predicted landing place.
The second is ’ Omens and Prophecies of the Seer Unserfrau’. It tells of great darkness and shadow, the coming of the great mutator and the fall of the Empire of Man.
The final book is ‘The Diary of the Wizard Dagmar von Wittgenstein’. The final entry in the diary details Dagmars planned expedition to the Barren Hills and, more interestingly, the fact that when he finds the meteor he plans to take it in a special container to a specifically created lined room in Castle Wittgenstein!!!
This is it, the information both they and Etelka have been after, the location of the lump of warp stone.
“I knew it,” says Werner, “I knew we’d have to go to that creepy ass castle we’ve been avoiding.”
Everyone takes a moment to take in the revelations.
Wandy is keen to pour over the books found in the library. With the help of Gnoblar, the pair of academics begin to search through the library. There are many ancient tomes here and it would take months to go through them all, but after a couple of hours they find a grimoire with some spells and manuscripts and scrolls.
They exit the observatory, locking the library behind them and head towards the barge contemplating what lies ahead.
Before they step back on the barge they notice that the two hitched horses are gone.
Next stop Castle Wittgenstein – keep up the good work!