The tunnel is cramped, damp and dark. Rowlocks strikes up a torch and the bare earth of the roughly excavated passage is visible.
With the search of the village enclosing on the physician’s house there is only one option. Durak, with his keen low light vision, offers to scout ahead while the party follow on behind. He’s perfect for the job with his mining experience and his short stature.
Rowlocks leads the party, while Wandy follows closely behind, with Werner carrying the unconscious Gnoblar at the back.
It’s not easy going, but after about 20 minutes, Durak returns saying there’s an opening up ahead to the surface.
Daylight can be seen up ahead. Werner pops his head through some bushes and discovers that the tunnel has brought them north and they are in the graveyard of the Temple of Sigmar.
Right, the plan is, hide out in the Temple until and if the guards come this way. If they do, the gang will head out into the graveyard and if necessary head into the ‘not very inviting at all’ nearby woodland.
Werner slowly opens the back door and heads into the corridor into the room where Wandy and Gnoblar studied the village records a few days earlier. Everyone follows closely behind.
Upon opening the door, Werner is greeted by a group of eight or so village beggars, although these ones look particularly scrawny, dirty and mutated and are carrying bits of bone.
They look at him and he looks at them in a few moments of confusion. One of the beggars shouts out, “You cant have anymore food!”
Werner assures them he doesn’t want their food and after a brief exchange they begin to shuffle off into the front area of the temple as both parties suspiciously eye each other.
Maybe we should kill them incase they blow our cover? But wanting to keep a low profile and not cause a disturbance they let them go and take up residence in the room, which also has the only front facing window. Werner, who is still carrying Gnoblar, lays him down and Rowlocks climbs up to take position in the front window.
The scrawny beggars can be seen leaving through the front door and dispersing, but thankfully they don’t head to alert the guards and sneak off down the river.
Werner heads to stand outside the back door to watch the tunnel entrance, Durak waits just inside, Rowlocks watches the town through the window and Wandy stands near the still unconscious Gnoblar.
The guards can be seen sweeping the town and they’re inside the doctors house. It’s only a matter of time now before they find the bodies – and probably the tunnel.
A short while later, outside the back of the temple, Werner hears a loud whisper.
“Hey, you idiots, come here, quickly, and shhh!”
The voice is coming from a secluded patch of shrubs and bushes in the graveyard.
Surprised as this, Werner is unsure of what to do. “Who is it? What do you want?” He replies in an equally loud whisper.
“Just hurry, get the others and hurry!”
He tries to shout Durak, but Durak is inside and doesn’t hear him.
Deciding he’s got nothing to lose he heads over. He’s surprised to see the woman from the mill who rudely sent them away a few days ago.
“You and your friends are really fucking things up, the guards are smashing up the village and beating the locals, hurry, get the others and follow me..”
With this, and a new sense of urgency, he heads inside and informs everyone of what’s happening. Sensing a lifeline, it doesn’t take long for everyone to grab their stuff, pick up Gnoblar and head out the back door. Before they know it they are heading into the woods at pace, trying to keep up with the woman. Although they don’t particularly trust her, this seems like the best option at the moment.
The forest is bleak and putrid fungus and strange insects can be seen. It feels dark and suffocating, the roots of the trees seem to grasp at their legs whilst never being seen to move.
After about twenty minutes or so they noise from the village disappears into the distance and the party shout, “Wait a minute! What’s going on here?”
She stops and they catch up. Her name is Hilda and she is working with a gang of outlaws that are hiding in the forest. She doesn’t know what the adventurers are doing, but it’s clear that they are not on the side of the Wittgensteins. She does tell them that she thinks they’re fools and they have brought the might of the castle down unnecessarily on the village, having killed Jean Rousseau and caused a major fuss, but she will take them to the outlaw camp so they can speak to the boss.
Spirits are elevated now and the party feel like this feels like a long overdue piece of good fortune.
Hilda moves fast through the undergrowth and is always looking behind her. After a while they reach an area that looks like normal forest, untouched by the blight that surrounds Wittgendorf, Hilda explains that the outlaw camp is protected by the goddess Rhya, although the protection won’t last forever. She tells them to stay close and step where she steps, the routes in are heavily trapped. They follow close behind and soon break into a small clearing with shelters and huts and people.
As soon as they step in bows are pointing at them from all angles. The outlaws see Hilda and relax slightly, but still point their bows.
She leads the group into the centre of the clearing and they are met by the outlaw chief.
The outlaw chief is a tall, strong and beautiful looking woman. She speaks to Hilda for a few moments and then turns to the visitors, “My name is Sigrid, welcome to our camp. Enemies of the Wittgensteins are friends of ours. Come, let us talk.” She turns and heads into a wooden hut in the centre of the clearing and the guys follow and sit down.
It’s herbal teas all round and a much needed sensation of sanctuary for the party. A long discussion takes place with Hilda and Sigrid. Sigrid explains that about 18 months ago her husband was taken to the castle. During the incident Sigrid killed a guard and escaped to the forest. Since then, people who have escaped the village have made their way to the camp and they now number about thirty. They have been hitting the guards by guerilla warfare in small ambushes but haven’t really made much of an impact. In turn our heroes explain the course of events that have led them to Wittgendorf, and that they seek to destroy the great evil that is kept there. This would in turn, free the village and end the misfortunes of the local community. Discussions continue late into the evening and eventually Gnoblar comes round.
Sigrid warns of entering the castle, it’s a place of madness and death, but the party insist they must go. She wants to help, this might be the outlaws best chance to turn the tide, although an frontal assault on a castle, particularly one like Wittgenstein, is not an option. They convince her that there must be a way. She tells them of a possible way in through a cave system she knows of, although she has been too afraid to travel far inside, but she will lead them there so that they can recon the situation.
Everyone rests up for the night, and in the morning, Rowlocks, Durak and Werner will head into the caves for a look.
The next morning, it’s another nice summer’s day and everyone has enjoyed their rest in the relative safety of the camp. Gnoblar and Wandy make themselves at home while the others pack their backpacks and get ready to head out to the caves with Sigrid.
Sigrid moves swiftly and carefully through the forest and although Rowlocks finds moving through the undergrowth reasonably easy, Werner and Durak are not so successful. After a while they are clear of the natural forest, protected by goddess Rhya, and back in the gloom of the Wittgendorf trees.
As they get closer, Sigrid gives directions and leaves them to it and heads back to camp, as she is reluctant to enter the cave network. Shortly after they find the dark, narrow, hidden entrance to the caves, which has been concealed by bushes.
The cave is dark and damp, and slopes downward into the earth. Durak’s low light vision puts him on point and Rowlocks and Werner follow close behind by the light of Werner’s torch.
After about 5 yards or so a deep grunting, bellowing sound can be heard ahead. They shuffle forward and the grunting is joined by a high pitched squeal. This sets everyones teeth on edge and the atmosphere is tense. They stick close together with their weapons drawn.
The situation is unnerving and they quickly realise why Sigrid didn’t want to come. The tunnels twist and turn, the T-junctions and off passageways all look the same.
They stumble into a open area and the remains of a human skeleton can be seen. While they investigate the area, a blood curdling scream reverberates around the caves and Werner and Rowlocks look at each other. It’s too much, they’re both overwhelmed with desire to get the hell out of here and begin to panic. Durak, who is very experienced at being underground, grabs them and calms them down. Although Werner and Rowlocks have lost their cool they manage to override the urge to flee after Durak’s pep talk and they push further on.
As they come to a tunnel crossroads, Durak steps forward and two razor toothed lash worms whip out of holes in the wall. Durak is quick to react but one manages to take a chunk out of his arm.
They opt to head in a forward but right kind of way and before long they find themselves in a cavern filled with many types of glowing fungus and mushrooms. They carefully step through without touching anything.
A few further twists and turns and Durak stops and points ahead. There’s another cavern ahead and they can see four strange luminous outlines ahead.
Weapon grips are adjusted and within seconds the adventurers are rushed by huge rats.
The battle is short as Werner and Rowlocks cut through the rodents of unusual size, but during the melee Durak sustains a bite to the face and it looks nasty. It stings a bit, but he shakes it off and they push on.
They continue through the dark, hoping to find a way up to the castle, but before they know it they are back at the first T-junction they came to.
After a few hours in the caves and with the opportunity to leave right in front of them, they decide to head back to the camp, get the others and get Gnoblar to take a look at Durak’s bite mark.
They exit the caves, much to Werner and Rowlocks’ relief, and slowly and carefully head back through the forest to the outlaw camp.
By the time they reach camp, the bite mark on Durak’s cheek is swollen, inflamed and painful. Gnoblar takes a look, and although it’s definitely infected, he doesn’t know specifically what the problem is. He dresses it the best he can and Durak has a lay down.
Another restful night around the campfire of the outlaws is a welcome respite. Although there is a slight edge, knowing that the party have been highly sought after by the castle’s guards. Sigrid is concerned that this heightened state and the death of the village doctor and the recent events at Wittgendorf may drive the search further into the forest and nearer to the camp.
The caves are discussed and the Werner and Rowlocks are keen to head back in with the others, feeling braver now they’re not in the caves. As disturbing as the trip was, finding a successful path through to the castle is much preferred to the other options available.
In the morning, the guys pack their rucksacks and head back through the forest to the network of caves, once again initially escorted by Sigrid.
Werner, Durak, Gnoblar, Wandy and Rowlocks step through the entrance, light their torches and head into the darkness.
The caves are confusing and disturbing. Straight away blood curdling screams can be heard, reverberating from all directions, strange sucker marks are visible on the walls and the sounds on rocks cracking together and splashes and drops of water seem to come from all round.
Werner, Durak and Rowlocks have a good idea of the area they travelled around yesterday, particularly Durak. They avoid the lash worms, dangerous footings and steadily bring everyone through the caves until they reach some forks they haven’t been down before.
They have the uneasy feeling they are being watched and at some points Gnoblar swears he can see a face up in the darkness of the caverns but when he looks again it’s not there.
Strength in numbers gives Rowlocks and Werner a better outlook than last time but everyone can’t wait to get out of here.
Before long they come to an underground stream. The stream is easily jumped, but as everyone is making their way across, Werner notices that the downstream opening is little bit larger than the part where the stream enters the cave.
They stop to discuss it, could this be a way through the cave that may be overlooked? Possibly, but no one fancies taking off their armor, jumping into a stream in a cave network and swimming an undetermined length underwater in the pitch black in the hope that it opens to a breathing space. Werner thinks about it, it strikes him as an opportunity, but even he doesn’t want to risk it. They push on.
They’ve been here for hours now, a few times they have ended up back at the cave entrance. They have been attacked by bats, Gnoblar has taken some mushroom samples, but they have not found a way into the castle. They sit by torchlight and map out the directions they’ve taken. They discuss the stream once again but it’s too risky. The screams and noises continue and the party are discussing maybe calling it. After a second look at the stream they head north and determine that they have not yet been right at the next T-junction.
Durak heads off into the darkness, shortly after he calls back, “Come, this way!”
At the back of the tunnel is a roughly hewn staircase that ascends. This is exactly what they are looking for and with a sigh of relief they head up. It climbs for about 200 feet. The top leads to a featureless square room. Rowlocks feels round the ceiling and sure enough, ‘click’ and a trapdoor swings down.
Werner peeps his head quietly up,and low and behold, they are in a ruined outhouse of the outer keep of Castle Wittgenstein.
Everyone quietly creeps up and stations themselves behind the broken walls and takes in the scene.
They sit in silence and remain for a while and take in as much information from the stake out as possible. A variety of buildings line the inner walls of the castle. A large inner keep, stables, workhouse and other ruined buildings. Mutated beggars shuffle round the courtyard, they look much worse than the Wittgendorf beggars. They are filthy and close to death, mumbling insanities. One beggar with three eyes and no nose wanders past their position clutching a half eaten green potatoe.
Guards can be seen on the walls and walking through the buildings from the main gate and on patrols. Its difficult to ascertain how many there are without entering the buildings, but what is clear is that they seem pretty relaxed.
After what feels like long enough, they steadily creep back down the staircase and replace the trapdoor. The findings are great news and they need to get back and tell Sigrid and the others.
They carefully note the directions that have been taken and find their way back to the entrance.
It’s getting late and the light is fading, it’s time to get back. The group moves through the blighted forest swiftly and quietly.
Rowlocks is on point and he turns and signals for everyone to get down in the undergrowth and points northwards. From their position in the trees they can see a detachment of guards moving through the forest on a small track, they are heading their way.
They see Sergent Kratz on horseback and six other heavily armoured men-at-arms. Kratz the bastard, he impounded the boat. A short whispered conversation ensues, and although they want revenge on Kratz they decide that now isn’t the time and they should remain hidden and let them pass.
As they draw nearer, what they haven’t noticed is the beastman ahead of the soldiers, sniffing his way through the forest guiding the others.
As he pulls level, he looks up, smells the air, stares straight at where the adventurers are and let’s out a bestial roar. Snarling and pointing he cries back to Kratz and the others.
They immediately stare straight at the bushes where everyone is hidden. The cover is blown.