The Enemy Within

Session 21

A storm on the horizon


The beastman lets out another blood curdling bestial roar and the hairs on everyones necks stand on end.

Immediately, adrenaline pumps through the concealed party’s veins. The plan to stay hidden and let them past is gone, and Kratz and the detachment of guards stare straight into the patch of undergrowth where the guys are buried.

Rowlocks, ranger of the woods, is in his natural environment and silently, with his elven bow in hand, peels off to the left through the trees hoping for a vantage point.

Gnoblar stands firmly behind Werner and weighs up his options, waiting to see what the guards do.

Sergeant Kratz pulls out his flail and draws his horse up next to the beastman, peering into the trees.

Wandy sees his opportunity while the remaining guards are all stood together on the little forest track, closes his eyes for a second, focuses. An almighty fireball comes bursting out of the darkness of the tree cover and winds it’s way through the trunks and smashes into the group.

They are caught completely off guard and were not expecting it, but they are lucky this time and, although dramatic, the fireball causes little damage.

Cover is now completely blown and four of the six guards brush off the magical attack  and head towards the source of the fireball, whilst the other two hang back with their crossbows searching for a target in the trees.

Werner takes a step forward and braces for the incoming attack, hoping to take the heat ahead of Wandy and Gnoblar.

At that moment, the beastman heads into the group with his spear held high. Durak steps forward alongside Werner and smashes the beastman on the intercept.

Rowlocks nocks an arrow into his elven bow and let’s loose, but it whistles through the trees and past the crossbow man he’s aiming at.

Before the four men-at-arms reach Werner and Durak, Wandy takes another chance at hitting them with a fireball. Once again, it comes raging though the trees and smashes into the group but causes almost no damage, and they head straight into Werner.

Werner and Durak and fighting side by side against the four guards and the beastman, with Kratz incoming on his horse. Two of the guards hang back with crossbows loaded.

It’s at this point, now they’re in close quarters, that they notice the stench. An overwhelming, putrid stench eminates from the soldiers from within their black plate mail. It’s stomach turning and distracting, almost making the melee fighters sick and affecting their game but they continue to battle.

The archers at the rear spot Rowlocks in the trees firing from the flank. One of the crossbow bolts skims past Rowlocks and slams into a tree trunk, the other does not. The other is a perfect shot, it flies true and with all possible force and blasts into Rowlock’s arm finding a gap in the chain mail links. Rowlocks staggers backwards and reels in pain.

Kratz now drives his horse into the melee and cracks his flail down on Durak’s helmet, almost knocking him off balance and hurting him. Werner swings again at the two guards in front of him, but his bulk and size amongst the trees are making it difficult, and he misses with both blows.

Before the Beastman is able to thrust forward with his horns and spear, Durak swings his hand axe in a clean backward and forward series of blows. The axehead slices open the belly of the beast, and the beast drops to the floor on top of his emptying guts.

Kratz rears his horse round to face Werner and delivers a series of swings with his flail. Werner is able to dodge one but is caught on the back foot as the metal flail heads crash into his shoulder.

Wandy and Gnoblar are just behind the frontline and take their chances to fire on the crossbowmen at the back. Gnoblar has been loading his crossbow and fires at the archer who shot Rowlocks, but it flies off into the trees. Wandy unleashes another fireball and this time it hits its target causing some serious pain.

The guards to Werner’s right, continue to pound away, looking for a gap in his defense, but most of these attacks clang away on his magic shield or glance across his chain armor.

With the beastman down, and although he’s wounded, Durak faces Kratz, who in turn, is attacking Werner. Being a dwarf is not helping Durak and it’s difficult to hit Kratz who is heavily armored and riding a horse. With this is mind, the plucky dwarf decides to slash into the horse in an attempt to bring it down.

With blood pouring from his bolt wound, Rowlocks drops his bow, draws his sword and charges at the closest crossbowman. He swings in vain and the sword edge does not connect.

Werner rains blows at Kratzs whilst holding the guards to the right on his shield arm. Kratz manages to parry an incoming blow and he’s now on the defensive.

Wandy sends out another fireball from the back to the lone crossbow man, hitting him again and knocking him back, he’s singed and wounded.

Durak tries to lay another hit onto Kratz’s horse, he misses the horse and wounds Kratz in the leg.

Rowlocks thrusts his long sword at the crossbow man he’s fighting. The blade goes straight through his defense and runs him through, piercing into his chest. Rowlocks withdraws his blood soaked sword as his foe drops to the ground.

Gnoblar sees the remaining, smoking crossbowman, draws his vorpal blade and charges straight at him. Barrakul, ‘Hope of the Mountains’ does not let him down. With all his might the blade shimmers in and out of reality, flickering through his opponents helmet and coming back into reality inside his skull. He slices the head clean off, and it drops to the floor in pieces.

Wandy, with Rowlocks and Gnoblar dealing with the crossbowman to his right, turns his attention the four guards who are trying to overpower Werner’s flank. He manoeuvres to the side and hits them with a wind blast, knocking them off balance and giving Werner an opening.

Werner takes his chance and his axe whirrs into Kratz’s plate and he let’s out a deep growl. Kratz attempts to return the blow but Werner dodges to the side.

Durak is struggling with the overpowering smell but also sees his chance, and with Kratz busy with Werner he buries his weapon deep into his horses hind legs and it drops to the floor, blood gushing, he jumps aside and Kratz rolls onto the ground and Durak slashes him on the way past.

Rowlocks, invigorated by his kill, charges into the fray, he swings twice at a guard but the arm wound is taking its toll and he misses.

Kratz is up and goes toe-to-toe with Werner, the massive powerhouses square off and Kratz smashes an almighty blow with his flail right at Werner’s chest. If it connects it will surely open him up, but Werner is too quick and brings his magical shield round to deflect the blow. What Werner isn’t expecting is an even mightier backswing following the parry. He’s not quick enough for this one, time seems to slow as the heavy metal ends of the flail head straight for his face. At that moment, by the freak chance of fate, Werner catches his foot on a rogue tree root and stumbles back and onto the floor, an accident that has surely saved his life, as the deadly ends of the flail nick the edge of his chin.

Kratz stands for a moment in disbelief. Durak is in a battle rage, covered in blood and screams right into Kratz’s side delivering a series of powerful blows that the sergeant can’t deal with. His axe finds it’s way through a gap in the black plate and lodges itself into Kratzs hip. He screams, drops his weapons, staggers for a moment and falls to the floor dead. Durak isn’t finished yet and his next swing cuts into one of the remaining guards killing him too.

Wandy wind blasts the final two guards into place as they try to power themselves out of the blast. Werner gets to his feet tries to finish them but misses, his swing affected by the wind.

Rowlocks and Gnoblar head over to the last couple of foes, but its Durak who has the final say. With two almighty smashes of his blood stained axe he drops them to the floor. It’s over.

Each of them stands for a moment and takes stock. Everyone is battered, bruised and bloody, but still standing. Werner, Rowlocks and Durak are heavily injured. Adrenaline wears off and they look round the massacre. What a battle.

After Gnoblar checks everyones wounds and they look over the carnage around them, they are keen to get back to camp as quickly as possible. They pile the bodies and weapons under trees and make note of where they are. They grab what weapons they can carry and Rowlocks guides them as quickly as they can go back to the outlaw camp.

The heroes stagger into camp and are quickly met by their outlaw friends who grab their packs and weapons and help them to comfort. They’re wounded and dazed, but safe. Their pains are tended to as best as possible and the exhausted party get some rest as Sigrid says they can talk tomorrow.

The sun is up and the camp is busy by the time everyone gets up. They head to Sigrid’s hut and everyone gathers round for a serious debrief. The party tell all: the trip through the caves; the reconnaissance inside the castle; the battle with Kratz and his detachment and making it back. There is much to discuss and they spend most of the day talking to Sigrid, Hilda and the other outlaws about what they have learnt.

Sigrid sends out some outlaws to retrieve what they can from the fallen soldiers, they return some time later with their helmets. It’s obviously been quite disturbing removing them as the soldiers had literally melded with their armor.

It will take a few days at least for everyone to get their strength back, and a multitude of different plans are made about how to infiltrate and invade the castle.

Maps are drawn, plans are made, scrapped and remade, options explored and many things are discussed. Could we open the gates to let the outlaws in from the inside with the new secret route? Could we dress as guards with the helmets and move around unseen? Beggars perhaps? Could we get to the walls and lower ropes? Should it be stealth or all guns blazing?

A few days pass while the party heals up. A fully formed plan is on the horizon. The plan is for the outlaws to hide in the trees outside of the main castle gates, while everyone else enters through the secret staircase into the outer bailey. Once inside, stealth will be used to secure the outer gatehouse, once secured and set, the outlaws will flood into the outer castle and overpower the castle soldiers.

Sigrid always has her outlaws safety at the forefront of her mind, and she is happy with the plan. Working together with the party is her best bet on having an impact and hurting the Wittgensteins, the time is now.

The next day, as sunset approaches, everyone will load up, get themselves ready and into position at nightfall, using the cover of darkness to aid in their attack and give them the element of surprise. From their reconnaissance mission, it looks like the guards are not expecting an attack at all.

As the sun fades, dark clouds can be seen on the horizon. The mood in camp is sombre. Everyone is checking their bow strings, sharpening their blades and tightening their armor buckles.

The once clear blue sky has now turned ominous, and the cheerful chirping of birds has been replaced by the distant rumbling of thunder. Slowly but surely, the wind begins to pick up, causing the leaves on the trees to rustle with increasing intensity. The fighters in camp can feel the cool air prickling their skin, as the temperature steadily drops. The storm is approaching. It’s time to head out.

Backs are patted and the two groups wish each other luck, promising to see each other, shortly, on the other side.

Rowlocks takes point and leads Werner, Wandy, Gnoblar and Durak through the woodland towards the cave system.

Once inside they take their known route to the staircase. It’s still a foreboding place, blood curdling screams and strange noises echo from every direction still. They press on, with strength in numbers, at a rapid pace.

Now at the top, inside the castle walls, they take up hidden positions amongst the ruins.

The initial plan is for Rowlocks and Werner pull up their cloaks around them and masquerade as beggars and scope out the gatehouse. The pull over their hoods, pull the cloaks around them and step out into the darkness of the castle courtyard.

Guards can be seen via torchlight on the towers and the castle walls, but they take little notice of the shambling figures down near the ruins. It’s dark and the guards are used to beggars shuffling around.

Rowlocks and Werner do a lap of the area, taking note of what they can see through the windows of the buildings, estimating what they may contain: coach houses, stables, etc. Everyone else lays hidden around the ruins at the top of the staircase and waits for what might happen next.

So far, so good. Lightning flashes in the distance followed by thunder.

They approach the gatehouse and inconspicuously walk around. They see that the outer gate is barred, a portculis is raised and the inner gate are open. They need to make sure that the portcullis cannot be dropped after the gates are open. This would trap the outlaws inside, preventing any retreat.

Things are tense and Rowlocks and Werner push open the left hand side door of the gatehouse and head inside. They find empty unused rooms and stores, then they follow a ladder up to the top floor. Once on the top floor their path is blocked by a locked door. They decide to head back down and enter back through the bottom floor door on the other side.

As always, Werner enters first. Once inside
he sees a large room with an open staircase to the left. Sitting behind a desk is a guard. He glances up,
“You know you’re not allowed in here, now fuck off!”
Werner stands still, cloaked, with his hood low and his cloak tight. Rowlocks stands behind him in the shadows of the doorway.

“I’ve told you filthy bastards to get out of here, theres no food for you in here now get gone before I break your jaw!”

The guard stands, now irate, “For fucks sake. Right, looks like I’m going to have to teach you a lesson you’ll not forget”

With this he storms over to the ‘beggar’ and pulls back his fist.
In one swift movement, Werner pulls his axe from under his cloak and swings upwards towards the guards chest. He’s not expecting it and theres nothing he can do and a second later he drops to the floor dead.

As Werner and Rowlocks stand for a moment looking at each other, wondering what to do, they hear the sounds of more people eminating from up the staircase.

Rowlocks creeps up a couple of steps and listens. It appears to be a group of guards, four maybe, arguing about some kind of bet, they’re playing dice or cards or something.

Rowlocks looks at Werner, Werner looks at the dead body on the floor and looks back at Rowlocks. 

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