It’s a beautiful summer’s day on the Reik as the crew of the Jolly Nobber sail peacefully past Kemperbad heading east. Still chatting about the Emperor’s decree they head up to the lock that breaks the storming waters of the Stir.
After paying the fee and heading through the lock system they proceed through the gorge and enter the turbulent waters of the Stir.
This isn’t going to be the easy summer boating they’ve been used to as the Stir ploughs through the rocks with dangerous undercurrents and swirling eddies. Spray is everywhere and it’s difficult to navigate, but Rowlock’s has it all under control with the help of Durak and Werner.
Wandy heads to his cabin to pour over his tomes, although they are not currently making much sense, and Gnoblar goes to his lab to process some of his latest fungus.
Dumpling potters about tending to this and that and Reni is in her cabin.
Later that day, Durak stands on deck peering at the cliff tops.
“I have an uneasy feeling,” he states, “any of you guys feel like were being watched?”
Everyone has a look round, but nothing is apparent. The mood darkens, and so does the gorge as the mighty cliffs block out most of the sun and give the river an eerie twilight.
Another day passes and Rowlocks still manages to guide the barge through the torrent, and opts to take it steady.
Further along they spot a break in the gorge and a small landing jetty with a path that leads up to the gorge top and across a wooden bridge. This must be the place where an ogre is terrorising the travellers and merchants of the road, this is Werner’s bounty.
They have a chat and Gnoblar consults the various maps he has and suggests that we will probably be coming back this way from the Barren Hills, and we could hit the bounty on the way back and keep up the pursuit of Etelka. They agree this is probably a good shout and they don’t stop and continue east.
The River is a beast and Rowlocks looses control but he manages to bring her round before anything serious happens.
The Nobber passes by ancient megaliths the next day, Wandy tries to read the runes as they pass through but even he doesn’t understand the markings.
The next morning, the Stir shows no mercy and rips the barge to the rivers rocky edge as Rowlocks battles to hold her steady.
This time, it’s too much for his expert boating skills and he looses control. The boat is smashed sideways by the current and the hull hits some rocks. It’s all hands on deck and panic ensues. The rigging is down and threatens to snap the mast, the barge is adrift and Rowlocks shouts commands to Werner and Durak. If the rigging is not dealt with, in a matter of moments the mast will snap and the Jolly Nobber and crew will really be in the shit.
Werner is right up the mast and trying to pull the rigging but it’s too fiddly for his powerful hands. Durak is there too and heaves with all of his might, Rowlocks braces as it looks like the mast will break at any second, but with all of his skill, at the last second Durak manages to free the rigging and save the mast, phew! The lads then set about sorting the boat back out and have a quick rum to settle the nerves.
Further along the river, they spot a dead horse in the river amongst the rocks. Rowlock’s carefully brings the barge round and Werner jumps down to inspect. Amongst other ruined items they find a sealed parchment with the emblem of a red crown. They have seen this before but can’t quite remember where.
Gnoblar inspects the document and reveals a map. After further study, he matches up notes from his other maps and concludes that the marked areas are the Devil’s Bowl and after further work, realises that Dagmar’s observatory, which is marked on the map, is indeed the signal tower that they stopped at a while ago when they helped the dwarves. It seems the map is also identical to another map in their possession but without some of the markings.
Everyone commends Gnoblar on his expert deduction skills, and they consider the coming events as they continue up the Stir.
The next day, the roar of the twin falls can be heard and the air fills with watery spray.
As they approach the mighty falls, a sheltered landing area can be seen to the left and there are two women mending a canoe. They pull over for a chat.
The ladies are friendly and pleasant, but they are concerned when Gnoblar tells them they are heading for the Barren Hills. They advise them to head to the village of Unterbaum nearby and speak to Corrobeth the druid as he would be able to help with such matters. They ask if the women have seen any other travellers pass by, but they have not.
As friendly as the villagers are, the crew opt to head up the elaborate series of locks that will take the boat up to the top of the falls, where the now know there is a pub.
They have a well deserved restful night in the Inn of the Roaring Falls, roast dinners and ales all round, and after a bit of small talk with the landlady, they keep themselves to themselves and enjoy some downtime.
The party plans to sleep on the barge and head to the village in the morning.
The next morning, Rowlocks, Wandy, Gnoblar and Reni plan to make the journey to the village on foot, while Werner and Durak take to making repairs on the boat.
It’s a trek through the forest on foot to the village and after a few hours on the trail they arrive.
Unterbaum is a pleasant, simple, rural community set in a forest clearing. It’s a warm and welcoming place and the villagers make the visitors feel at home.
They meet Vorster the village elder and Corrobeth the village druid and head into Vorsters cabin for tea and welcomings.
They don’t get many visitors round this way and they are happy to meet the guys and offer them food, accommodation and whatever they require. The village is in need of iron for horseshoes and plough repairs but the party has none.
The conversation soon turns to the Barren Hills and both Vorster and Corrobeth don’t look as smiley and are now concerned and worried, and try to persuade the gang from heading that way.
Corrobeth tells the tale of the Devil’s Bowl and how the crater in the Barren Hills was created many years ago when Morrslieb, the chaos moon spat down a meteorite of pure evil, the land was blighted for decades to come and creatures poured from the bowl. The druids of old created s stone circle to hold back the tide and the whole area has been protected by druidic magic.
Despite this, the area remains a dark foreboding place where no one wishes to travel too. The party return information, talking of Etleka and her journey and how they have seen Morrslieb in all his glory during the events of Bogenhafen.
Corrobeth has heard of a fair haired woman, a dark haired man and party heading towards the Devil’s Bowl just yesterday and our heroes insist that they must go.
Corrobeth agrees to accompany the party to the crater as it would be nigh impossible to find otherwise and he doesn’t want anything to happen to the party.
They will canoe north the following morning and the guys head back to the falls and the barge.
They get their bits together for an expedition and Rowlocks, Werner, Wandy, Gnoblar and Durak get ready. Reni wants to head to the village for some peddling, while Dumpling and Elvis stay on the barge outside the safety of the Inn.
The party meet Corrobeth, jump in their canoes and head off north up toward the Barren Hills. It’s a four day journey and the landscape steadily grows creepier and less welcoming. They set watches at night and opt to not light any fires.
The air is deeply still, the land is devoid of wildlife and the trees are gnarled and warped into strange shapes. Even the grass seems to be alive. Everyone feels distinctly uneasy.
On the fourth day, they leave their canoes and trek on foot to the crater. No one likes the environment, Durak has a funny feeling and they can sense the evil surrounding the area.
Towards dusk they arrive at the Devils Bowl.
The crater is filled with sinister glowing water and the druids stone circle can clearly be seen around the perimeter of the lake. Corrobeth suggests they camp in ley of the stones where they will be safest.
It’s a tough nights sleep but everyone’s shattered from the journey. Rowlock’s takes watch and everyone gets their heads down. A couple of hours later, Rowlocks hands over to Werner and crawls into his bedding.
Werner shifts his gaze as the wind starts to pick up and he thinks he can make out a glowing figure approaching the camp. He starts to wake the others as the wind and dust whips into a frenzy and they cover their eyes.
Seconds later, it abates and in front of them is a mysterious ethereal figure, floating in front of them, torn and tattered, she has gaping wounds all over her ghostly form and deep sadness in her eyes.
She pleads, begs for the group to help her, to follow her and lay her to rest once and for all, long has she walked these hills. Corrobeth has never seen this before, and without further ado, they grab their weapons and follow the apparition west.
About a mile away she leads them to a cave entrance, concealed from the elements by humanoid tree stumps.
There, in the main chamber of the cave, is a shallow grave, poking with bones. The ghostly figure tells of her and her expeditions betrayal at the hand of Dagmar and pleas for a proper burial. Gnoblar quickly identifies Dagmar as the name on the map they found on the dead horse and connections are made. She also tells them that her companions are through the next chamber, which is blocked by a rock fall, and ‘that which they seek’.
She implores the party to find and destroy the meteorite, as it is a source of great evil.
They gather up the remains and bury the woman properly outside and Corrobeth says a few words.
Afterwards, they head back into the cavern to set about heading to the next chamber. While they do, they can hear squeaks and squeals from the entrance. They turn on their heels to be confronted with three heavily armoured man sized rat humanoids.
“The stone, the stone!!” The big one shouts, “where is the stone, give it to us!!”
Caught off guard, this is a surprising turn of events. Corrobeth looks at the party and they in turn look at each other.
“Erm, we don’t have the stone.”
“Give us the stone!”
“We do not have it!”
“Put weapons down!”
Things get tense, no ones sure what to do and the stand off continues.
“You know! Tell us of the stone!”
“A women took it, we don’t have it”
“We can help you get it, it’s through here!” Werner points to the other tunnel through the cavern.
The exchange carrys on for a few more minutes when suddenly, three more skaven appear from the small passage behind the party.
The chief skaven cackles and grits his teeth, rraaaaaaghhhh! With the party now surrounded, they charge with their weapons.
The lead skaven runs straight at Rowlocks. He swings his sword hard and it cuts deep into Rowlock’s arm, slicing through his mail sleeve and he let’s out a scream. His second sword swing just whistles past Rowlocks, but his third attack he is not expecting. The skaven’s tail lashes out from behind with its mace like end. Rowlocks tries to dodge and fails, he swings his sword to parry but misjudges the swing of the tail and the heavy end smashes into his skull.
Rowlock’s lights go out, he hits the floor with blood trickling from his ear.
“Here!” Shouts Gnoblar as he pulls out the letter to Etelka, “we know who has the stone!”
“Whoah, whoah, whoah,” yells Wandy as the gang attempt to parlay. The skaven are having none of it as they rush the party.
“Steel yourself friends!” Shouts Corrobeth, “be gone foul beasts” as he side steps and unleashes a powerful wind blast that knocks two of the skaven foot soldiers off guard.
Werner ignores the three that appeared from the back and charges straight at the skaven boss smashing into his side with his axe.
Durak stands fast as a rear guard to the three incoming skaven and protects Gnoblars rear.
Werner and the head skaven go toe to toe and the brute rains blows on Werner, but his sword clangs against his armor.
Gnoblar, seeing Rowlocks critically injured, drops to his knees alongside him and attempts to staunch his wounds.
Wandy follows Corrobeths lead, takes a few paces to his right and hits the three skaven at the back of the cave with a wind blast, knocking them off balance.
Corrobeth maintains his blast but the nearest skaven is getting close.
Werner counters the skavens attack, and skillfully brings his axe up cleaving into his arm, the big rat let’s out a squeal of pain.
One of the skaven heading to Corrobeth remains off balance but, the closest one breaks free and slashes into him with his weapon. Corrobeth stops casting and draws his sword. This releases the other one, who rushes him.
Another breaks free from Wandy’s blast and slams into Durak. The blade goes through his leather chest piece and wounds him.
The head skaven is wounded and continues to release a flurry of blows to break Werner’s defense, but Werner holds his ground.
Gnoblar takes in the current situation and satisfied that Rowlocks won’t bleed out he reaches for his crossbow and begins to load.
Wandy notices the Skaven at the back are breaking through his blast as two of them square up to Durak and stops his wind blast, re-adjusts his position and let’s them have another.
Werner breaks through the big skavens defense and smashes his axe across his chest, he’s now heavily wounded and Werner pushes forward.
Durak catches one of the nearby skaven with a blow and but is hit on the counter and he’s in bad shape.
Corrobeth faces two, he hits one with a solid blow, but he’s overpowered. He’s takes a slash to the arm, the other skaven attacks from the other side.
The big skaven misses Werner, as Werner gains the upper hand, he’s hit repeatedly but he shrugs off the weakness of the blows.
Gnoblar fires his crossbow and the bolt pings off into the cavern wall.
Wandy once again readjusts his wind blast and attempts to hold as many of the rats at bay as possible, catching a couple at the back of the cave.
Werner is raging, he brings forth his axe with all of his strength and slams it into the torso of the rat boss. The beast let’s out an almighty squeak and his lifeless body drops to the floor.
At the same time, Corrobeth is hit with a blow to the head and he goes down injured and unconscious.
Durak can’t find a way past the skavens shield, and as he extends his reach, the skaven swings his sword round, slices into his leg and drops him to the floor in pain.
Gnoblar quickly tries to reload his crossbow.
Now Durak is down, both him and Wandy are exposed, but the skaven at the back are continually knocked off balance by Wandy.
The two that have downed Corrobeth, turn to enter the fray and Werner goes straight for them. Their swords bang against Werner’s new magical shield and he brings his axe, which is already drenched in skaven blood, smashing into the side of one of the skaven, his follow up blow fells the creature, Werner is on a roll!
From what was once a desperate situation, the scales are tipping into the party’s favour. With their leader down, and their numbers dwindling due to Werner’s battle prowess and Wandy’s crowd control, the skaven begin to panic.
Gnoblar fires another crossbow bolt into the wall.
Werner drops the other skaven near him, the others begin to retreat, fighting their way backwards through Wandy’s wind blast. Wandy sees Werner turn and head to the remaining skaven and drops his blast so he can get through.
Werner is unstoppable as the skaven that turns to face him, is hacked to pieces with more mighty blows.
The remaining two skaven see their morale falter and are heading for the exit, Werner cuts one down in the back but the other manages to sprint out of the cave and into the darkness.
That was intense, everyone takes stock of the scenario. The cavern is now littered with body parts, skaven carcasses and blood. Rowlocks, Corrobeth and Durak are critically injured and Doc Gnoblar needs to get to work.
Unhappy that they are still in a vulnerable position they bring their wounded friends to the back of the cave near the rock wall. Gnoblar gets his tools out and Wandy and Werner stand nervously in the middle, guarding the exits and peering into the darkness.