The Hidden Thirteen
A journey through the dark; Old memories
Culwych could feel the sweat dripping under his chainmail armour as he struggled to keep up with the others ahead of him. He was the first to admit that his body wasn’t built for running, with his upper body being far too large and somewhat plump whilst being forced to balance a top of two bowed gangly legs more suitable for lifting than that of running. Culwych’s back also ached with the constant grinding of Wychesplitter against his back where the two handed hammer was kept when not in use. He hoped that the others would stop soon and seek a camp amongst the ruins of the old Merchant Quarter however until that time he would have to carry on which was something that Culwych dreaded. “Sigmar’s balls” he muttered to himself as the prospect of stopping slid elusively by as the warband reached the end of the darkened battered street and turned north onto a new road.
Culwych’s mind wandered as he ran and he remembered a road similar to this one except where the Merchant’s Quarter in Mordheim were rotted, soot covered and in a state of disrepair the one in his memory was bright and vibrant and filled with the variety of experience that only humanity could bring together in one place. Rittenburg was the harbour city and it was where Culwych had grown up and had also been ordained as a Priest of Sigmar. Culywch’s parents had been of common stock who had ground a living as dock workers within the city. Money had always been an issue and as Culwych had grown older his father and mother had quarreled over his usefulness to the family. Culwych’s father had seen the boy as plump, lazy and a locust in the home and despite his mothers objections had taken the boy to the workhouse of the priests of Sigmar and had left him at their door then left without looking back. Culwych still remembered the moment, his tearful mother giving him a stuntcorn to chew on, him asking his daddy why his mummy was crying and being told to be quiet in the angry way that his father often used on him. He remembered sitting on the workhouse stairs seeing his seeing his father moving into the distance and feeling worried as to when his daddy would return. Mummy was crying and daddy was angry, maybe he had been a bad boy? His father had never returned and years of domestic servitude to the priests had followed within the workhouse until he was inducted into the Guard then later ordained as a priest when he reached the age of adulthood. Though his family’s loss had wounded him deeply his new life had kept him busy with his studies and chores with his only solace being the trips into the Merchant Quarter to pick up food and supplies for the workhouse priests. Though he prayed to Sigmar for strength before each trip he would often be fall prey to the temptations of the city and soon be lost using money that he had skimmed during bargaining with the traders to fund his appetites for strong drink, lovely luxury foods and the company of people who shared his vices. He sighed at the memory of good food, wine and beer without end and the temptations of the flesh. Later, nursing a sore head and after his transgresses he would promise himself he would do it no more and pray in Sigmar’s chapel for strength but before long he would be back in town. Then Shannow had come and Culwych’s life had changed forever. Culwch grimaced has he remembered the moment that the bathing pool’s doors had crashed open and Shannow had strode through the door. Culwych, naked and with a small boy in each arm had frozen in place too shocked to move. Two flintlock pistols were in his hands their barrels looking huge as they pointed at Culywch. Shannow spoke;
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me besides still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for though art with me. I will lead you Priest and show you redemption, I will restore your soul.” And with that Culwych life had changed again he had left his new life behind forever.
A sharp crack of gunfire brought Culwych back from his memories his warrior instincts leading him to seek cover behind a rotting fence. Already there was Marrick, the Brettonian rapidly loading his crossbow in fumbling hands. A sizable lump of wood from the fence exploded above Merrick’s head causing him to curse. Culwych hefted Wychesplitter from her cradle and recited a prayer of Sigmar in a loud and resonant voice. He called for strength from fear and calm of the spirit. Besides him, the wide eyed Marrick took stock and as a second arrow thudded through the fence began to load his crossbow anew.
Culwych looked into the street and saw Shannow striding towards their assailants. His twin guns booming in his hands. Covering him with his shield was the heavily armoured Ulthred who still wore a bandage across his missing eye and behind them was Tobias, the tattood, scarred flagellant and also the tall lumbering Ogre. Ahead of them were a mob of red robed cultists.
Shannow intoned ;
“Thus, said the Lord, Behold, a people come from the north country and a great nations shall be raised from the sides of the earth. They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like a sea, and they ride upon horses, set in array as men of war against thee..”
Culwych stood infused by the psalm and strode to follow Shannow his great hammer held high. “Come and kiss Wychefinder” he bellowed. Around him he could see the bolts of the Witch Hunters flying at their foes. Lei Hung and Marrick raced to join the warband and at the centre of the market square the two warbands met head on. Culywch strode in the centre his giant hammer swinging wildly at the cultists, either side of him Lei Hung and Marrick both fighting with two two swords thrusting and parrying in a weaving a web of death whilst trying to protect Culwych’s exposed flanks. Tobias, the Orge and Ulthred screamed their hate and assailed a giant horned beast creature that towered over them and threatened the war bands flank.
“Though shall be visited by the Lord of Hosts with thunder and great noise…” Shannow triggered his pistols and a cultist flew backwards. Two more cultists screamed and charged. One went down with a bullet in her brain whilst the other fell clutching his belly. Shannow continued his relentless advance.
“…and great noise, with storm and tempest and the flame of devouring fire.”
The downed cultist raised his arms against the pistols, covering his eyes. Shannow fired twice, the shells smashing through the outstretched hands and into the face beyond and the cursed creature pitched back.
The fight was short and vicious, butchers work. The beast creature lay dead, the cultists withdrew. Tobias in turn lay unmoving on the floor. Culwych leaned over him uttering a prayer of healing. Tobias’s breathing was deep and steady indicating that he had been knocked out but was still alive.
“Suffer little children come unto me” said Shannow standing over the unconscious Tobias and indicating the Ogre to pick him up. “We move on, the market is ours”.
Tender mercies; Towards the grail
Uthred tried to get comfortable but the heavy armour and pain in his eye from where the arrow had scored it’s deep wound kept him from peace. Around him, hidden in the ruins of the burned out inn were the others of the warband. A small fire lay smoldering giving little heat but its glow giving a small reassurance to him. Uthred nudged Marrick whom lay next to him working on his blade with a whetstone.
“Who’s on lookout?” he asked.
“The Elf.” answered Marrick without looking up and motioning to the roof of the inn.
Uthred grunted reply. “At least he is able, I’ll sleep better now.”
“Amen to that” whispered Marrick his gaze wandering over to where Lei Yung lay, a fact not unnoticed by the burly Northman.
“You should go to her brother” Ulthred motioned towards the Niponese girl in sympathy.
Marrick bridled, acting both shocked and defensive.
“Let it go Ulthred, you beat at the wrong stick.”
“Back where I come from little brother we claim what is ours. You never know what the Norn Queens have in feat for you.” answered Uthred allowing himself time to slip into memory of Gisa.
“I can’t claim those that would slit my throat without blinking.” smiled Marrick as he gazed fondly at Lei Hung.
“Amen to that” smiled Uthred in return.
Letting the fire dull his nerves Uthred relaxed his nerves still tense after the fight with the cursed cultists. Though the fight of the market place had been won, Shannow had led them on towards the East Gate of the city and into the territory of the followers of the Dark Gods. It had been a hard and scary night of dodging patrols and constant movement which had seen Culwych the priest collapse in an exhausted heap once a safe place to stay had been found. In a burned out inn, overlooking the eastern gate where a constant reinforcement of unnatural creatures moved slowly through its large and corrupted doors the witch hunters had settled down for the night under the protection of the elusive elf. Shannow himself was sitting to the yonder reading from his book of Sigmar, content and inspired by its words and severed from the tattered warband around him.
“I hope he knows what we are doing” Uthred nudged Marrick and indicating to Shannow.
Marrick followed Uthred’s direction seeing Shannow.
“The Interrogator and him been speaking. That last prisoner talked of an abandoned temple of Sigmar. Cut the beggar bloody so he did but he talked in the end.”
“Sigmars balls. ”
“Yup, its past the eastern gate, Shannow will want for it so he will.”
“Damn, and I thought we were on our way out.”
“No chance. Like a moth to a candle Shannow wants the temple and we’re going with him.”
With that Uthred settled into his bedroll and dozed his mind returning as it did to Gisa, his one love, his only love.
He had been serving as a Houscarl to his Jarl Alfred when he had met her, the raven haired village girl who had stolen his heart. With a long angular face and bright blue eyes she had swept him from his feet and he had promised her to settle down and become a fisherman and raise children with her and defend her hearth. But his Lord had been a giver of gold and there was always one more fight to be had before the promise of gold and renown. Whilst his Jarl had been campaigning to capture pasturelands to the south a Chaos warband had raided in from the north and had slaughtered the village leaving none left alive. Poor Gisa had been amongst them, her raven hair splatted with red, her body sullied. When word came to the Jarl’s ships they had sailed back with all haste and they had seen the smoking rising from the village long before the ships grounded against the shingle. Uthred had leapt from his ship and into the summer surf in his haste to find Gisa but as he and the others explored the village the devastation around them bore fell news.
He found her crucified against the wall of her hut, her body used and abused before death. He wailed into the summer sun. From there he fell apart.
The Jarl’s war band lasted little longer after that as without a village he was no longer a gold-giver and Uthred in his grief had no Lord and drifted south from there. He remembered arriving in a new city, of being drunk, of fighting and of hurting but not much else, his mind numb from the pain. Then one day he came across a man whilst in a blurry hazein an inn who’s eyes were more dead than his own, who promised death and revenge to those that had robbed Gisa of him, his name was Shannow and Uthred had followed him ever since.
Dawn allowed a little light, the Elf unmoved since his night on watch led the warband north towards the grail that was the Temple of Sigmar between the patrols of the Dark Gods issuing from the northern gate. Tomorrow Ulthred would face riches or death neither of which he cared much for.
In summary one battle each between Lano and Neil. Neil is running away with it with regards to experience. Now all we have to do is work out how to end the campaign!