It’s a grim scene.
Werner and Wandy stand in the middle of the cave, which is dimly lit by the odd beams of moonlight seeping through cracks in the roof from Morrslieb. Bodies, entrails, blood and guts cover most of the floor and the carcasses and body parts from the battle with the skaven litter the room.
Gnoblar is looking over the wounded. Corrobeth and Durak will probably be ok with some care and attention, but Rowlocks needs surgery and this is far from an ideal place to carry it out.
The conscious members of the party try to thrash out the best possible course of action.
Stay here? But one of the skaven escaped, who knows what might happen. Carry the wounded back to camp? Too far, too risky. Operate here in the blood soaked cave? Definitely last resort.
Eventually, they decide to try and remove the rock fall that’s blocking the entrance to the next part of the cave – maybe it will be a better environment?
Gnoblar needs torchlight to operate and the further in the cave they go the less the torchlight will be seen from outside.
Strange crashes and bangs can be heard out near the crater, and scratches and scrapes are coming from behind the rocks. They deduce that it must be the ghost’s companions that were murdered by Dagmar, but with the cave being sealed for what looks like hundreds of years, they’re anticipating problems when they meet them.
Gnoblar gets Corrobeth on his feet and explains what happened while Werner and Wandy shift the rocks. Corrobeth tries to heal Durak but he can’t do it. Doc Gnoblar steps in and uses his skills to tend to Durak’s wounds.
A little while later, everyone is on their feet moving rocks and boulders while Gnoblar watches over Rowlocks, he’s stable, but in a bad way.
A couple of hours and they’re making a break through. They can shift a massive rock that will give them enough space to get a man through, but caution is required, and they opt to make a small hole first to see what’s inside.
Behind the hole is darkness and a cool ancient wind blows over the group.
As Werner steps up to peek into the hole, deciding wether or not to push a torch through, a skeletal hand launches through the gap at him, behind the hole can be heard the wheezing pleas of ‘killllllll meeee’.
Right. With most of the party up on their feet they decide to heave the large stone to create a hole big enough for the skeleton to get through, and let Werner smash the skeleton to bits.
The rock is grabbed, they pull it to the side and Werner steps up, but the skeleton is straight through the hole and lunges with his sword directly at Werner’s torso.
It’s a good hit and it pierces through his chain mail, wounding him and causing him to wince.
Werner’s axe comes raining down and nearly breaks the skeletons femur. No one else can really get through and Werner stands his ground.
The undead’s sword rattles against Werner’s magical shield and Werner strikes back with two mighty blows and the skeleton is smashed to dust, eerily giving thanks as he crumbles.
Werner steps into the darkness and is immediately set upon by three more.
Werner has found his stride, and doing what he does best. He soon makes short work of the long dead members of Dagmars expedition.
The others edge in and as more torchlight fills the cavern they can see remains and debris of the long, forgotten companions.
Werner searches through and finds yet another map, more or less the same as the other two they have, with Dagmar’s observatory clearly labelled. There’s also a stash of gold, a silver flask containing a mystery red liquid, and a hexagonal key.
They quickly realise it’s the final key to the locked room at the bottom of the signal tower.
Gnoblar surveys the scene, they have little choice, he’s going to have to conduct surgery on Rowlocks here. This cave isn’t ideal either, but at least it’s not covered in dead skaven.
The clear some space, set Rowlocks down and Gnoblar gets his tools from his backpack and begins to prepare. Torches are placed around and the others stand guard at the back, apart from Wandy who stands by to watch.
Things are tense. It’s going to be a long two hours. Gnoblar sets to work.
As the operation draws to a close, beads of sweat drip down Gnoblar’s face. He’s never done a medical procedure of this gravity before and it’s not going as well as he had hoped.
Rowlock’s begins to shift and convulse, his eyes roll…“were losing him!!”
“Nooooo!!” Shouts Wandy, the others come to see, and watch the last of Rowlock’s life force drain from his body.
In the chaos, someone shouts to give him the liquid the just found in the silver flask. What if it harms him? He’s going to die anyway!
Split second decisions are made, the flask is uncorked and the mysterious liquid is poured down Rowlock’s throat.
They all stand back and look at his lifeless body.
Those next few seconds feel like an eternity, but wait, what’s that?
Rowlock’s cheeks begin to flush with colour, his eyes flicker, his limbs move, everyone holds their breath and looks at each other.
His head wound begins to rapidly heal over, he lifts his head.
“By the gods!! A healing potion!!!!” No one can quite believe what they just witnessed. Within minutes Rowlocks is on his feet and asking what the fuck happened.
Backs are patted, hugs are recieved and sighs of relief are deep. Wow.
They collectively and simultaneously decide that they have had enough of the Barren Hills and they can’t wait to get out of here now they have the final key.
Where is Etelka? They’ve followed her all the way here. Where is the meteorite? There’s no sign of either and the Devil’s Bowl feels far from safe. Let’s go.
Back to camp, couple of hours rest and then back to civilisation.
The journey back to the canoes and on to Unterbaum is a solemn one. Everyone’s pretty quiet, no fires are lit and watches are set at night. The overbearing feeling that they are being watched is making for some uneasy travelling.
Three days later the bedraggled, wounded party walk through the clearing to the welcoming sight of Unterbaum.
The villagers greet them and they are quickly escorted to Vorster’s cabin where he has been awaiting their return.
They have tea and Vorster and the other villagers are transfixed as Corrobeth retells the events of the past week.
These are dark times and Corrobeth and Vorster thank everyone for their efforts in the fight against chaos – brave heroes indeed. If the meteorite is out there, it must be dealt with, a lump of pure evil and power.
Despite the hospitality and kindness of the people of Unterbaum, the crew are keen to push on back to the barge.
They take a small hamper of supplies, freshen up and then set off to the inn of the Roaring Falls.
The noise of the falls is a happy sound, as the inn and then the Jolly Nobber comes into view.
It’s good to be home and Elvis, Reni and Dumpling were starting to get worried.
Time is of the essence and a plan is made. Now they have all keys, they must head to Dagmar’s observatory. But first stop, Kemperbad, to get some armor and bits and bobs.
At first light they begin to make the journey back down the Stir. The late summer sun disappears from view as they re-enter the gorge and the river is as raucous as ever.
Rowlocks is struggling, despite the efforts of Werner and Durak and the journey is slowed and he has to fight the currents as they head down stream.
The next day is no better as the river continues to throw the barge around. After lunch they enter some rapids. It’s a good effort, but Rowlocks can’t hold her and a protruding rock cracks into the hull causing some minor damage.
A day later and they are nearly at the crossing where Werner is after his ogre bounty. Before they approach a silent undercurrent swings the barge violently in a circle. Rowlocks loses the rudder and is banged to the side, if it wasn’t for his lightning quick reactions he would be in the river for sure.
The gorge narrows and the bridge crossing is above them as they sail under and head for the landing area near to the curving ascending path.
The ogre has been terrorising merchants and travellers of the road as they head to Kemperbad, and Werner wants to collect the bounty for sorting it out.
Werner and Durak head up the path to scope the area. Rowlocks hangs back while everyone else stays on the boat.
As Werner peeks over the cliff edge towards the bridge, he sees a wrecked cart and a massive humanoid, armoured with an enormous club, sitting eating something, he doesn’t spot them.
They make a plan. They will head up and go towards the crossing with their robes on and hoods up to give the impression of humble travellers. Rowlocks will sneak round behind him with his bow to get a clear shot.
They approach, the ogre spots them, laughs and charges straight at them. Werner drops his hood and draws his axe and shield, but Durak doesn’t move. The sheer size and power of the creature has him rooted to the spot in fear. Luckily, Werner and Rowlocks are not scared of ogres!
The ogre ploughs into Werner smashing his torso with his club and it hurts, Werner reels. But he is quick on his feet, dodging a second blow. Werner hits back at the towering monster cutting into him with his axe.
Rowlocks makes his move and heads through the undergrowth to behind the ogre. Durak stands paralyzed while the others stand nervously on the deck of the Nobber listening intently to the sounds of battle from above.
Werner and the ogre go toe to toe exchanging blows and snarls. Werner is light on his feet and is using all his agility to dodge the massive swings from the ogre’s studded club.
Werner’s axe pings of the ogre’s helmet as Rowlocks starts to bury arrows into creatures back.
Werner takes another crushing blow to the side but continues to hold his ground.
Durak overcomes his fear and springs into action charging at the ogre. No sooner is he into combat when, after scoring a hit on the ogre’s side, he is hit with a single return blow that is so powerful it takes him clean off his feet, nearly killing him.
The ogre is aware of Rowlocks but chooses to deal with the immediate threat of Werner. They are wearing him down, he’s hurt and beginning to fatigue.
He begins to shout, “Brunt! Brunt!”
This makes everyone nervous but the melee continues. It’s a great battle between Werner and the ogre and it could go either way, but Rowlocks puts another arrow into him and he begins to stagger.
At that moment, the bushes to the north start to move, thumping footsteps can be heard and another ogre bursts onto the scene. Shit.
They’ve got problems now, they have to put him down. Werner cuts into the first ogres leg and he looks like he’s going to drop. Rowlocks fires straight and true from the undergrowth. It’s a headshot, the arrow buries itself into the ogres thick skull and he slumps to the floor with a bang.
Werner turns on his heels and runs to meet the second ogre. Durak heads in too but a bit more tentatively as he is hurt.
Luckily, this one is not as heavily armoured as the first and Werner’s mighty blows strike hard. A few arrows from Rowlock’s elven bow and he’s already looking hurt.
Werner continues to dodge like a cat and the big, slow ogre is finding him hard to hit. Werner’s dwarven shield soaks up some hits as his trusty axe, already covered in ogre blood, continues to hack away at the ogres flesh.
Durak and Werner are hurt, but so is the ogre. Rowlocks takes aim, deep breaths, holds steady and let’s one fly. It whistles through the air and strikes the ogre in the neck, killing him instantly. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
Werner walks over to the other unconscious ogre and stands tall, then brings his axe down chopping off his head.
The ogres heads are severed and bagged, ready to collect the bounty.
They search the area, hoping to find the stash of all the loot the robbers have taken from travellers but they find nothing.
Their friends cheer as they see them alive and well as the head back down the sloping path to the barge. Werner takes a well earned rest as he is exhausted from the battle.
They cast off, and continue the tricky journey towards Kemperbad, all the time they feel the sensation that they are being watched, maybe the recent events are making them paranoid?
A day and a half later, they see the familiar sight of the clifftop town of Kemperbad and everyone is happy to be back to civilisation. All but Reni. She doesn’t seem overjoyed to see the place and immediately locks herself in her cabin, stating that she will remain there until they leave.
It’s heading towards teatime and the gang head up to the lifts to go to town.
Once inside, Werner collects his bounty. He tries to get double pay for two ogres heads, but the watch official isn’t having it and he walks off with his 100 gold pieces.
They need to shop and get supplies but it’s late and places are closing. As they are round the marketplace, they decide to head to their local Kemperbad inn, the Hat and Drum.
After the week they’ve had it’s great to be back, sat in a nice warm pub, with roast dinners and ales on the way!
As they relax, laugh and tell tales, a small boy approaches the table. He hands Werner a rolled up parchment sealed with a symbol. Werner, puzzled by this, opens the note and a lock of his own hair, which was taken from him a while back drops out.
The note is a final warning, demanding payment of 20,000 gold pieces, if it is not paid, death will swiftly follow. It has the symbol of a purple hand with a strange symbol inside of a twisted like worm.
They ask the boy where the note came from, he points across the crowded inn to a group stood near the door, he then vanishes into the crowd.
As Werner begins to stand, the hooded figure who stands inbetween four thugs moves his hands in a swirl and begins strange gestures. Werner’s hands pulsate and flicker with purple, but he draws on his willpower and mentally fights off the overwhelming feeling.
With that, the hooded man and the thugs, turn and disappear through the pub doorway into the night.