The sounds of the guards arguing about their bets, laughing at each other and generally messing about, travel down the open staircase to Rowlocks and Werner. Rowlocks creeps carefully as he can and has a peep over the top step.
They sit round a table, playing cards.
Rowlocks and Werner plot their next move.
The rest of the team remain hidden around the ruins on the far side of the courtyard waiting to see what happens at the main gatehouse.
Right. Werner and Rowlocks will rush the guards while they are unsuspecting, and slaughter them before they have a chance to raise the alarm. It needs to work. If it doesn’t and the alarm is raised the assault on Castle Wittgenstein will probably fail and they will be trapped inside the castle.
They ready their weapons and slowly tiptoe to the top of the stairs. On the count of three, they burst up the stairs straight into the room and into the seated guards.
The element of surprise is key and it is the last thing they are expecting. It’s instant confusion mixed with fear and the guards don’t know what’s happening.
Werner hacks into the two on his side in successive hits before they can even stand. One immediately hits the floor to the right, bleeding and at deaths door. The other is heavily wounded by his axe and knocked to the left. He staggers, bleeding, but manages to stay on his feet.
Simultaneously, Rowlocks longsword is a blur of metal as he slashes into the two guards on the other side before they know what’s hit them.
It’s the perfect attack, while the guard cry out in pain or fumble for their weapons, the axe and swords are straight at them. Rowlocks runs one through while Werner drops the one that’s staggering near the stairs.
The remaining conscious guard calls out, ‘Attack! We’re under attack!!" But he’s wounded and laying on the floor. Before he can shout anymore, Rowlocks turns out his lights with his blade.
That couldn’t have gone any better. The guards lay in pools of blood on the floor while Rowlocks and Werner give each other a smile.
They must secure the gatehouse. They open the door to the adjoining room that contains the workings of the portcullis.
Once inside they kick over the unlit fires that could heat metal and water for the murder holes and inspect the pulleys and cogs of the portcullis. As long as the guards dont get up here, the outlaws waiting outside could get in without fear of getting trapped.
They head back down and outside. Thunder booms and streaks of lightning light up the sky. The storm is nearly here and rain pours down on the castle courtyard. They pull their cloaks around them and head to the main gates and into the wind.
The main gate is barred from the inside. It takes both of them to lift the massive wooden beam. They throw it to the side and push open the gate slightly.
Werner gives the signal and stands staring into the darkness.
Within seconds shapes can be seen moving in the gloom of the storm. Sigrid and her band of outlaws are ready and they swarm from the undergrowth towards the main gates.
Sigrid is on point and leads the band through the open gates.
“Well done boys,” she says as she meets them. “That’s the easy part, now let’s do this, good luck!” She slaps Rowlocks on the shoulder on the way past and her and her outlaws draw their bows and swords and flood into the courtyard.
Werner and Rowlocks head to the ruins to grab the others.
Within seconds, through the noise of the storm, shouts can be heard. This is quickly followed by the sounds of battle.
As the full party head back across the courtyard it’s a sight to behold. Sigrid has left some of her outlaws to secure the main gates, some have headed to the outer gatehouse to secure the route to the inner bailey, but the main force have headed to the keep.
The castle guards have streamed out of the keep and are locked in combat with the outlaws who are trying to push forward. Crossbow bolts fire down from the battlements, outlaw archers return fire with their long bows. The frontline is constantly shifting, screams and shouts ring out from all over, the rain and wind lash at the combatants.
The sound of swords clashing against shields and armor echoes through the courtyard as the defenders fight desperately to protect the keep and the gatehouses. Rain whips across the battlefield in sheets, making visibility difficult, as lightning illuminates the dark sky. The thunderous clash of battle mixes with the booming of thunder, and the smell of blood and sweat mixes with the scent of wet earth.
The melee is gruesome and violent. The surprise attack, from the inside of the castle, has caught the defending guards unawares, but they are professional fighting men and sergeants and lieutenants bark orders as they try to rally to a defensive position. This is matched by the determination and organisation of Sigrid and her outlaws who are fighting for both revenge and their futures.
Occasional forks of lightning flash over the castle illuminating the carnage.
To the right of the keep is what looks like a guard tower and crossbowmen are firing down on the outlaws blindside.
Rowlocks, Werner, Gnoblar, Wandy and Durak decide to secure the tower.
They assume their usual order and head up the staircase to the outer door with their weapons ready. Werner heaves open the door.
He steps into the doorway and immediately stands still, rigid, paralyzed by fear- he wasn’t expecting skeletons. Three undead skeletons stand in the room. The wind from the storm enters as Werner opens the door and rattles their tattered armor. They raise their swords and head to Werner.
Werner’s massive frame blocks the doorway and the others can’t get in to defend him in his fearful state and he’s so scared he can’t defend himself.
As one of the skeletons weapons clangs against Werner’s armor Rowlocks acts. He stands forward and pulls Werner backwards out of the doorway and enters into the small outer room. He smashes into one of the undead warriors knocking him back. Durak sees the gap and enters into the doorway and cuts down one of the skeletons with his axe.
Wandy and Gnoblar stand outside, covering the rear and surveying the ongoing battle that is raging across the way. It’s difficult to see whats happening as it’s the middle of the night and the storm is pounding overhead. Flashes of lightning give glimpses of epic scenes within the castle walls and on the battlements. Arrows fly and clangs and screams can be heard, so the stay put and cover the rear.
Werner doesn’t move, he can’t overcome the feeling of dread. Rowlocks hacks down one of the skeletons with one swing and wounds another straight after, while Durak battles the last. Rowlocks and Durak are too skillful for them and within seconds they are smashed to pieces, broken on the floor.
The room is small with another door on the other side. Everyone piles in and pulls the door to the outside closed, shutting the storm outside.
They party regroups and prepares themselves for whatever is behind the next door. Werner is back in the room and takes point as usual, pushing open the next door.
They enter into the main ground floor chamber of the tower. Ancient tapestries hang on the walls and the place is covered in a thick layer of dust and heavy cobwebs cover most of the room, but apart from that it’s empty.
Two doors can be seen on either side of the room and the group see a trail of footprints leading to one of them. They decide to follow the prints and have a look.
The door opens to a circular staircase. Keen to get to the top and take out the tower archers, they head up the stairs.
The top leads to a door.
Werner puts his earlier fears behind him and steps to the front to open the door. Before he does Wandy calls him telling him to wait.
What seems like an age ago, back in Delberz, Heironymous, Wandy’s mentor, gave him a magical ring to protect against the undead. Based on what happened when they entered the tower, Wandy offers the protective powers of the ring to Werner. Werner thanks him, slips it on and flings open the door.
Werner rushes into what looks like an old barracks. Three sets of bunks line the walls topped with mouldy mattresses.
Three more skeletons turn at the noise of the disturbance, but this time Werner is ready for them, shows no fear and charges straight into the one on the far right. The first swing of his axe rattles into the skeletons side, but his return blow swings wildly past.
At this point, at the top of the stairs, Rowlocks and Gnoblar stand gripped with fear and they can’t bring themselves to move or enter to back up their friend.
Once again though, Durak shows no fear and launches into the fray, charging across the room at the one on the left. He attacks twice, but the skeleton avoids his axe and maneuvers to dodge his blows.
The unchallenged skeleton sees the paralyzed Rowlocks in the doorway and moves to attack but his sword hits the door frame.
This doesn’t snap Rowlocks out of his fear, but it does Wandy and Gnoblar.
Gnoblar pulls out Barrakul and charges at the skeleton to protect Rowlocks. The sword shimmers through his broken armor and cuts into his side. Wandy charges to join him and bashes the skeleton backward with an expertly directed down stroke with his staff. They both flank the undead soldier and take his focus off Rowlocks.
Werner continues to battle on the right, but he fails to penetrate the skeletons defense and is wounded on the counter.
On the left of the room, Durak brings his axe blade round in a perfect sweeping motions and crashes it through the skeletal warriors ribcage dropping him instantly.
Near the doorway, the skeleton has two targets. He spins and brings his sword round straight at Wandy. Wandy tries to dodge but he’s not quick enough and the rusty blade carves into his side and he lets out a massive scream. Its a deep hit and he is seriously wounded, blood soaks into his robes. He wishes he hadn’t lent Werner his ring.
Durak hears Wandy’s scream and charges the skeleton from behind and bone flies as his axe hacks through his femur. The skeleton stumbles and falls to the floor.
At the same time Werner uses all of his power and lands a mighty blow to his adversary, smashing him into the ground in pieces.
With the undead gone, Gnoblar immediately rushes over to tend to Wandy. He stops the bleeding, bandages him up and gives him one of his pharmaceutical capsules from his pouch. Wandy thanks him, winces a bit, and stands up.
The muffled sounds of the storm mixed with battles can be heard outside the tower. There’s nothing of interest in the room and only one door. Everyone checks themselves and gets into formation ready to go towards the top of the tower.
At the top of the stairs is a door. Werner pushes it open and it creaks loudly.
An indistinct outline can be seen in the dimness of the room, a grey figure sat on a wooden chair, amongst masses of shimmering cobwebs.
“Who dares enter my chamber unannounced?”
“Werner, and who are you?”
“Leave this place!”
“I will not, tell me what you’re doing here?”
“LeeeaVEE THIS PLACEEE!
With that, he stands creating a cloud of dust which obscure him from the party. When the dust settles, right in front of them stands a large skeleton figure, still dressed in armor, in his hand a bastard sword.
Now he’s close, everyone can see his ghostly features clearly and panic instantly begins to spread through the party.
Gnoblar takes one look, turns on his heels and bolts back down the stairs. He tries to push past Durak, who takes a look in the room and follows him.
Werner turns instantly, cries out in fear and heads down the stairs. Wandy also is overcome with emotions and runs with Werner, and they both push past Rowlocks.
Rowlocks sees nothing to be afraid of, readies his grip on his sword and steps forward.
He lunges forward at the creature and misses. The undead swings at Rowlocks, trying to knock the sword out of hands and fails, a second hit goes straight for Rowlocks but he manages to duck.
Rowlocks strikes back on the counter and hits, slicing through the chain mail. The skeleton tries again to disarm Rowlocks but fails, but his second swing clangs into his chest and is soaked up by his armor.
Rowlocks pushes forward again, forcing his move and striking twice with an expert flurry of blows. The skeletal warrior tries to dodge and parry but Rowlocks is too quick, knocking him further off balance. And again, with the momentum, Rowlocks strikes with a backswing and a foreswing. The undead dodges one, but can’t move his large sword round quick enough to parry the second, and it crunches into him. He pulls his bastard sword over his head and brings it down on Rowlocks’ shoulder cutting through his armor.
At this point, Wandy begins to creep back up the stairs. Werner has also pulled himself together and stops, turns and makes his ascent back up the staircase.
Rowlocks fights back but his swings are wild and miss completely. The skeletal warrior pushes forward with his blade swinging at Rowlocks. Rowlocks manages to dodge the first one and attempts to parry the second. He’s miscalculated and the ancient blade slices into his leg.
Rowlocks and the undead continue to battle, as Werner races up the stairs back to the room.
Taking in the scene, Werner sees that Rowlocks is wounded and on the back foot. He charges forward at the skeleton with his axe poised.
He smashes his axe, full of rage, full into the skeletons chest. The undead tries one last dodge to avoid the incoming blow, but he’s too slow. The axe smashes through his tattered armour, cracks his ribcage to pieces and he drops to the floor.
Rowlocks is hurt and Werner goes to help him. Over the next few minutes the rest of the party head back to the room, slightly ashamed at their lack of bravery.
They check over the room while Gnoblar bandages up Rowlocks. Theres nothing here apart from moldy food remains, dust and cobwebs, but Wandy does like the look of the bastard sword and picks it up.
The roof. They pull themselves together and take the final flight of stairs up to the top of the tower.
Opening the top door brings back the turmoil of the outside. Rain lashes down as thunder rumbles. Shouts, screams and clangs can be heard from the battle on the ground level.
At the top, two guards stand firing crossbows down on the outlaws below. They don’t notice the party due to the noise and darkness.
Werner and Rowlocks take one each and charge at their prospective targets. They both hit first time but miss the with a second blow as the guards turn in pain, screaming out.
Gnoblar sees his chance, with Barrakul in hand, rushes at the left hand guard. His vorpal blade sings as it flickers through the guards armor, cuts into his side and kills him.
Wandy, with his fresh new weapon, takes his chances and rushes the remaining guard. It feels good in his hands and with the momentum of his charge, he brings it round upon the wounded guard. The guard can’t move out the way as he’s already reeling from Rowlocks blade. Wandys bastard sword slams into him and he drops backward over the top of the tower, falling down to the battle below.
From the battlements of the tower they can see the action below. Sigrid’s forces are in hand to hand combat with the castle guards in and around the keep. Some of the outlaws have taken up position and secured the outer gatehouse and they are firing their long bows down on the guards in the courtyard.
Another group has proceeded to the inner gatehouse which leads to the inner bailey, exactly where our heroes are heading, and they see their chance while the outlaws have it overrun.
Before heading out they take a moment to heal up. Gnoblar heals Werner’s wounds and bandages him up. He can’t tend to Wandy and Rowlocks but he delves into his pharmaceutical bag and produces some pills that he’s distilled from herbs, which they take.
They take a last few minutes of solace as they descend the peaceful, dry tower before bursting through the bottom doors into the carnage below.
Adrenaline pumps as their senses are overloaded.
Melee battles are fought, bodies bleed out ,orders shouted, both outlaws and guards call out, shout, the wind howls, the rain pours down, all highlighted in the darkness by flashes of lightning.
It’s hard to get a grasp of what’s happening, and the temptation to wade into the battle to help their allies is felt by all, especially Werner, but with their eyes on their objective, they cross the courtyard and head for the inner gatehouse.
As they arrive they’re greeted by a few outlaws who stand over some dead guards.
“Good luck my friends, we will laugh about this in the morning,” says one of the outlaws as he grabs his bow and heads up to the top floor to give covering fire.
After a quick check to make sure everyone is still together, the party push through the gate and across the bridge which leads to the inner bailey.
A cold wind whips across the bridge that leads to the central tower. The party are plunged into the darkness of the night, as they take the full force of the storm. They push forward clasping their cloaks around them and pulling their hoods up. The sounds of battle can barely be heard behind them over the wind and rain.
The bridge leads across a chasm, and they are hundreds of feet up and on either side is a sheer drop into the darkness below.
The bridge from the outer bailey gatehouse leads across the cliffs and rocks to a central tower. The central tower sits atop an isolated pinnacle between the outer and inner baileys. On the other side of the tower is a similar bridge which leads to the inner bailey of Castle Wittgenstein.
They lean into the wind and head for the guard house.
Ahead, torchlight can be seen at the central structure. As they draw closer, they see a group of guards making a barrier across the road leading through the guard house.
The five guards stand in formation, peering into the darkness.
With the darkness of the night and the rain, they have the drop on guards.
Rowlocks knocks an arrow and everyone gets ready.
Rowlocks fires into the one who looks to be in charge and it hits him in the shoulder.
At the same time, Wandy pulls back his sleeves and unleashes a fireball which hisses it’s way through the downpour and slams into the group of soldiers.
The guards are caught unawares, they brace themselves and shout in panic.
Werner and Durak charge into the front line.
Wandy sends another fireball into the open flank.
The fight is short and within moments the guards are shot, sliced, burnt and dead.
They stand in the light in the archway of the central guardtower, sheltering briefly from the storm. They head inside and search around the tower.
There is little of interest apart from two massive winches which raise both the southern drawbridge behind them, which leads to the outer bailey, where the outlaws are fighting to control, and the northern drawbridge, ahead of them, which leads to the inner bailey of Castle Wittgenstein, and they hope, the meteor.
They decide to leave them be and they cross the northern drawbridge, across the sheer drop and towards the inner castle.
The inner bailey gatehouse is open and unmanned, and they cautiously step through.
Our heroes stand in the courtyard of Castle Wittgenstein. The walls and silhouettes of buildings loom in the darkness of the night. The rain and wind of the storm batter on.
The distant battle can no longer be heard and as everyone takes in the scene, eyes are drawn to vast numbers of evil-looking blackbirds.
They circle over head and peer down from their perches on the roofs of the buildings. Their eyes glitter with intelligence and they follow the movement of the adventurers closely, even hopping along the edges of the walls for a better view.
Lightning illuminates the inner castle for a split second as the adventurers gather a quick glimpse of their surroundings. Thunder rumbles all around as our party decide on their next move.