Blood on the High Seas

The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 35

It appeared from our meeting that these Vampires were so removed from humanity that even the ability to carry on conversation had left them. Instead once they responded to us they simply stared into space. We did our best to learn what we could, but they were not the most knowledgeable and we decided to push on to Port Reaver and see what we could learn on the way. The only real knowledge of note we discovered, aside from that Port Reaver was now an undead pirate port, was that there was a similar trade current by Lustria to the well documented one to Cathay and that the vampires were using it to travel swiftly underwater in their submerged ships. Very interesting information, but not immediately useful.

We prepared the crew in the following days for what they were to experience. We had little idea ourselves, but if the other ship was anything to go by it would be unpleasant. I advised Lilith to Restrict crew to the ship unless directly accompanied by a vampire. This was a deeply unpopular opinion, but once we laid eyes on Port Reaver not a soul aboard disagreed with the rule. On top of this we also prepared our ship board safety by planning where we would establish guards and such and generally planning for what scenarios we could imagine.

When we came within sight of Port Reaver a couple of days later I was glad of our planning, and only wished there was another friendly port this side of the ocean. A once grand house manor stood above a crumbling ruin filled with the walking dead of all kinds. Permanent darkness dimmed the sky and the surrounding fields looked like they hadn’t seen the sun in years, which may have been true. They were still worked by the dead, which was my first clue that this settlement was run badly, it would not be the last.

Upon making port Lilith arranged our docking paperwork and the purchase of repair supplies from the dockmaster, who was a wight. Like almost all of the undead in the town aside from other vampires they only seemed animate when carrying out an immediate task or when they in conversation. Otherwise they sat lifelessly staring into space. Obviously they are treated and trained very differently to our crew undead. After arranging the repairs and docking a group of us set out to explore the town. We scouted the market but found little of interest and so headed to a small area where the living were kept to purchase food (as a market of the dead does not tend to keep grain in stock). On the way we passed hordes of skeletons and zombies shambling along, as well as many wights who were as lifeless as the skeletons. Ghouls freely wandered the streets and cowered away from us. Occasionally glowing specters passed literally through us. While disconcerting, they did us no harm and acted as though we were not there. This was a blessing as they would be deadly foes if we were to earn their ire.

As we arrived in the small area set aside for the living we saw the horror of their existence. They tried to act as though life went on as normal in their little market square, but they all looked hungry and hollow eyed. Several vampires stood making jests about the quality of the food. We approached to find out more about the town and discovered that the leader of the town and the sire of this particular group of vampires was one Captain Luthor Harkon, a Lamian from the Old Country. He was currently away with all of his trusted lieutenants digging up a lizardman tomb not far away and wasn’t expected back for a week or so. Taking a personal dislike to this group of vampires and their treatment of the living I decided to make them uncomfortable by buying some fruit from a stall and eating it while making eye contact, they looked disgusted and this brought me great joy. I was not the only one offended by their behavior. Isidore decided to also strike at them, though more overtly and effectively than myself. He insulted them directly left one of them holding the other back. A dangerous move, but I approved.

While we were there I decided to arrange the purchase of food, though most of it was worse than campaign rations. Eventually I found a stall with a huge supply of fine elven grain, but no flour. It appears that the settlement keeps the living fed by foraging and farming with the undead, but not one devoted to grinding the grain they plunder from elven shipping routes. I quickly brought up a party of skeletons and had them fasion basic quers from rocks and begin grinding. We supplied the ship for the low price of a few skeletons grinding the remaining supply to flour. Having seen that we were not like the other vampires the people started approaching us asking us to help their loved ones escape in exchange for stolen plunder. I got permission from Lilith and put a plan into motion. But first we had to introduce ourselves at the manor.

The manor was built to be defensive and it looked relatively formidable, though nothing some artillery couldn’t level in a couple of hours. It was guarded by a large number of heavily armored wights who questioned us and eventually let us in to see the quartermaster, the only person of import left in the town it seemed. He was a small living man who seemed quite surprised to have visitors and tried his best to answer our questions. He was only vaguely helpful to Lilith and eventually she and the others left me to sort out the logistics of the town while they toured the house. I quickly discovered that the plight of the living was not unknown to the quartermaster, or even unconsidered, but “The Captain” liked his subordinates hungry as it kept them raiding, and well fed people meant well fed vampires. The quartermaster had even suggested using the undead to grind grain into wheat, to no avail. It wasn’t till I suggested removing undead from the fields where they did literally nothing that I came up with anything that was new and he seemed hopeful that my suggestion might do something. With that I left and returned to the market to start ferrying escapees aboard the ship.

It was later in my cabin, while in conversation with a lovely girl that I was pretending to have drained, that Jez came to my room. She asked for a private word so I had the young escapee lie down and had the skeletons take her below while she pretended to be a corpse. She would join several folk who had come aboard carrying sacks of flour and never left. Once the room was clear Jez showed me something that put a chill up my spine. It was a chest that was obviously storing the trapped sould that were in servitude to a necromancer. I asked her whose it was and where she had got it. It appeared that during the tour of the house she had gone on she had slipped away and stolen it from under Luthor Harkon’s bed. I told her we needed to talk to Lilith now as what she had was very dangerous. At that moment Lilith knocked on the door to ask my opinion on something.

It appears that afternoon Isidore and William had been scamming idiots out of money at chess and a particularly confident vampire had attempted to attack Isidore when he lost. William had quickly dispatched him with his hand cannon, and not having the money on the corpse they went to reposes the man’s estate accompanied by a vampire as a witness. They had done this successfully, but the vampire’s thrall, now grieved at his death, had followed them back to the Grail and was demanding one of us become her new master. Lilith had accepted her as a crewmate, but was seeking my advice. I learned all of this later as we had more immediate concerns.

Once I had filled in Lilith we also called in Isidore and Bidnae to help us figure out how trackable it was, which it turns out is very if the Harkon finds any of the undead whose souls are in the box. We decided to try to open it and take control as they were likely to be powerful and useful, and the theft was already done. Lilith called in extra teams to work on repairing the ship and we opened the box. Inside were 40 powerful souls. All I needed was 40 lanterns and enough time to cast the correct rituals. it was now a race against time

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The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 34

As much as Hauptman was an awful man who caused this whole situation, from the reports of the crew he died bravely and saved lives. Due to this I felt it improper that he would never publish anything more, so I undertook to talk with the Tomb princes to get information about several of the less valuable items we had won from them. The information I received was both broad and deep. Hauptman’s last paper may be his greatest of them all. I also began to study the nehekarran tome I had confiscated from the wizard’s remains after the battle. It was brilliantly decorated and obviously ancient. I began to read. It apparently had belonged to someone called Nagash, though for the life of me I can’t remember where I have heard that name before.

Several days later after learning a great deal about how to preserve bodies with various treatments and rituals I was still no closer to the answers I sought than before, but had greatly added to my knowledge of fields relating to necromancy. It was then that Isidore and Bidnae knocked on my door. They had some idea that the hourglass from the giant Statue may be able to reverse aging. It intrigued me and before long we had several skeletons working to remove it. Much to our surprise and pleasure as soon as a skeleton detached it from the staff it shrank down to the size of a normal hourglass. Magic is very strange. It was covered in Nehekarran writing that read as some kind of curse about turning people to sand. We decided to test it at great distance and away from other people.

We found a peninsula not too far from the city and there we had a skeleton test it on some fruit. When turned one way it created a huge blast of sand and rotted a fruit before our eyes. The other way the fruit was restored to freshness. We also tested a caged animal and my skelton had to drag out the cage before the animal died of old age, the other way it was restored to youth. We also tested it on a dead animal, but it did not return to life. It appears it will likely do as Isidore wished, but it will not do that which I wish. Still, it has some very interesting uses as far as I can see.

Next we petitioned Lilith to be able to bring both it and the book aboard. She was suspicious, but agreed to both and required reports on our test, The next day we all turned them in. My report suggested it was too close range to use as a weapon, but could keep supplies fresh to stop ship board illness and could also be used to rebuild our crew with retired sailors who were too old to sail, restored to the prime of their youth. With their experience combined with the vigour of youth we would quickly gain a crew of unsurpassed quality. We will have to further our tests on restoring youth.

Eventually the worst of the damage to the grail was repaired, though we would have to head for the Estalian city of Port Reaver on the North East coast of Lustria before we went anywhere else as the ship would not manage a cross ocean voyage. We set off with a good wind and sunshine. The fortress of Dawn faded into the distance and I wondered if we would clap eyes on her again.

Some days later Isidore noticed some troubling weather movements. It appeared someone was manipulating the weather to lead us into a trap. Lilith did her best to steer out of it and when I was alerted I put the crew to getting ready. The next thing we knew we spotted a huge ship, rotten and with ragged sails rise out of the deep moving with supernatural speed. She flew a pirate flag and she was crewed, it seemed, entirely by the dead. Lilith ran up our pirate flag and made evasive maneuvers. They responded to our flag with a request to parley. With few options to outrun them in our current state and similar with fighting we agreed to parley.

Lilith invited them aboard and their delegation was made up of several people in faded and outdated Estalian finery. That they were vampires was obvious. They made no attempt to hide it and the lack of humanity in their eyes frightened me as they surveyed our living crew. They made their introductions and we ours. Lilith answered their questions about why we were here with something about seeking our kin. They responded that word must have spread faster than they thought and we discovered Port Reaver had recently fallen to the dead. They were impressed that I was capable of animating so many skeletons alone, while at the same time laughing at the quaintness of our using living crew. I fear for the men as we repair at Port Reaver

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The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 33

We began to bombard them. I focused my fire at the wizard and at huge statue they were assembling as I saw them both as the likely biggest threat to the ship. Our initial volley killed several of the wizard’s companions and the statue took a direct hit, but neither threat was eliminated. Jez made use of her new bow and started aiming for the general of the army, though her first shot seemed to have little effect. Her second however took down the general and caused confusion in the ranks. A line of skeletal warriors and archers had positioned to face us, but we remained at too great a distance. The wizard called upon their magics and began a magical attack upon Lilith. Our second volley resulted in a direct hit on the wizard who did not survive the blow. The statue remained whole however.

Isidore did an odd, but very useful thing next. He leapt overboard, swam to shore and held his fake orb aloft and pointed at the generals. This caused panic and a full third of the army took off after him in pursuit. From what I understand they ran into a lizardman ambush and none of the soldiers survived, only Isidore returned.

The Nehekarans brought their own artillery to bear and used catapults to launch huge illusory skulls at us. The mortals among the crew were driven mad briefly and we lost several good men to friendly fire, one of those fallen was shot by Hans, a fact that continues to haunt him. At this Lilith attempted to calm the crew, and I unleashed my secret weapon. My skeletal band had been training since Altdorf and between their stirring music and Lilith’s fiery commands the crew regained their sense. Several of the smaller statues had taken positions in the shore building and were opening fire with their huge bows. William and Lillith were both pinned to the ship by volley’s and many of the crew were injured.

Unfortunately our split attentions would cost us as the statue was finally assembled and lurched to life. It fired a beam of light that struck the ship and caused one of the minor magazines to explode. The grail had a huge hole in her and we took many casualties. Dr Quinn, Vidda, Cimarron, Leon Chado, Hauptman and Reyes were the most notable. William and Lilith were both overboards and unconscious. Jeeves, Adam and little Timmy were all injured also as I would learn later. We managed one more blast of the cannons that did serious damage, but not enough. Then the dragon, bloodied and injured appeared and crashed onto the statue pummeling it to the ground and she was swarmed by armed skeletons. Seeing the opportunity to break the spirit of the generals I made my move, even as many friends lay injured or dying. I called one of my sharks and jumped onto its back and headed for shore, beginning a dark ritual in the hopes of fooling the generals into thinking I was taking control of their army. It only worked didn’t it. No idea what I would have done if it hadn’t to be honest.

They called for a cease fire and as soon as I had their surrender and the terms, which were they could go home but the matter was resolved and all of their treasures were given as tribute. I returned to the ship to help my comrades. It was to be some days till I slept again.

Once the immediate danger was passed I set about sending skeletons to recover the fallen as well as William and Lilith from the sea. I also organised the conversion of several buildings to field hospitals. Lilith awoke the next day and wished more time to rest so I left the difficult news of Adam’s injury as news for later as it was not life threatening and she needed to rest. I also brought William one of the Tomb Princes’ swords as a get well soon present. Hans also confessed his fear that he had killed a crewman in the supernatural panic. I feel greatly for him, but he knows as well as I do that it was not his fault, not that that is likely to salve his conscious much.

After several days of recovery people were well enough for the funeral. I lead the procession in silence aside from my orders for the ceremony. Lilith was Captain and she gave a very stirring speech. Following the funeral I returned command to her and retired to rest and grieve in isolation. I have lost good soldiers before, and in much worse circumstances, but the quality of good people cut down due to my failure to recognise the greatest danger will haunt me for a long time, and my grief was not swift

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The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 32

With the feast of 2 gifts upcoming I had to buy some gifts. While in thew dwarf hold I managed to buy a number of gifts that I was very pleased with. We debated staying in the hold for the feast but decided to make the long trek back and celebrate with the crew. The return trip was largely uneventful. We had our guides and faced few problems. We were once again visited by the very large lizardman that was a friend of our guides’ who was once again amazed by Isidore’s powers. Aside from that it was just a long march through thick jungle, but we survived.

It was the eve of the feast of two gifts when we arrived back at camp. We found a decorated palisade and a lot of familiar faces. It was good to be back to the grail after our long journey across southern Lustria.

After being welcomed back we rested in preparation for the next day. William surprised me first with his joke gift, my joke gift would come later. He then gave me a very nice set of bracers. I presented him with my real gift, a dwarven castle forged battle axe. He seemed to appreciate it. I organised a concert at the beach and invited the whole crew. Most showed up. In the middle I let cry that there was something approaching from the forest. I had my skeletons that were lying in wait release the presents. They were a number of clockwork monsters of various kinds I had acquired at the abandoned zoo in the captured hold. For the crew I provided several barrels of nuts and dried fruits as well as a large keg of beans that apparently re-energise the body when they are boiled in water and drank.

After this I delivered the rest of my real presents. For Isidore I gave a rangers cloak that apparently keeps you cool in heat and warm in cold. HE appeared to appreciate it. Next I gave Bidnae a castle forged dagger, a castleforged blackjack for Ezaer, a violin for Reyes, A fine scalpel for Dr Quinn, a large dwarf hold playset for little Timmy, Some nice bottles of alcohol for the officers, A castle forged composite bow for Jez. I slipped Lilith an inscribed castle forged knuckle duster among the official reports, it read “I make my own Honour”. Lastly to Hans I Gave a set of metal playing cards etched with gold showing various figures from dwarven myth. He bought me a clockwork soldier that fires a little bullet and a pocket watch with an inscription “Starboard is Right, Port is Left. Love Hans”. It was a happy day.

Shortly after we set sail coasting back round the southern coast and planning to head north up the east coast to Port Reaver. Along the way we noticed that a great storm surrounded the FOrtress of Dawn and we decided to investigate. We soon discovered an Nehekarran armada at port and an army setting up in the town. We quickly readied for battle and blew their ships out of the water before they had a chance to retaliate. It was time to teach them the strength of modern artillery

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The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 31

The hold’s reaction to our return surpassed my expectations. There were explosive celebrations and if we had not shown restraint we would have been incapacitated by the free drinks offered before we even reached the hall of remembering. Once we reached there we were ushered in and we could see the transformation taking place even here. The longbeards who had previously scowled and grumbled now looked on us with something approaching respect, a high praise indeed. Lilith stepped forward to present the volumes she had been tasked to retrieve to much excitement. It filled me with joy that I had been able to assist her in securing her honor for herself. Truly there can be no greater mark of character. Once the formalities were over we sought out the runesmiths and began to lay out the oathgold we had recovered. They were pleased we had succeeded, but swiftly this was replaced with disbelief at the quantity we had brought. I get the feeling our names will be long remembered among these Dawi.

After we had returned our prizes we were invited to feast. I saw Lilith sneak out a side door. I felt the strong desire to go after her, this feast was in her honor after all, but I knew that it was not my place and I would likely make things worse. Against my better judgement I remained, not that I was somber. I quickly sought out the engineers to discuss artillery, a topic I felt I could be on somewhat more of an equal footing on. While there I brought up the irondrake whose diary I had and was honored by being able to present it to his widow and tell her of how he had acquitted himself honorably to the end and had been instrumental in our safe escape. This tale was met with another great round of cheering and toasts to the old Dawi who had never surrendered. It was the least I could do for him.

I discovered that on the subject of artillery we had a great deal to discuss. While dawi designs are far more advanced than empire ones, Their reliance on fixed placements means that I was able to talk from a place of expertise on the use of mobile artillery, a conversation I am sure will serve them well in future against the enemies that control their lost hold. While we were deep in conversation the room was called to silence by the Dawi lord. I saw Jezebel and several lizardmen up on the dais with him. HE announced that there was now an alliance between their peoples, this was met with yet another round of thunderous applause and cheering. I noted that following this Jez was seated at the high table, hopefully only the first such honors she will receive in her life. A short time later the trumpets sounded to announce a guest of importance as a procession of lizardmen entered. For the first time I saw the mighty Saurus warriors, they were indeed imposing. As large as Orcs, but naturally armoured and possessed of great discipline. Truly warriors any officer would be thrilled to command. They were the honorguard for a skink in a huge ceremonial hat. This then would be the lizardmen’s ambassador.

Once the festivities began to calm I began to speak of some of my ideas for the future of artillery to the dawi engineers. There was another who shared my interest in more precise aiming systems and we made much progress on our joint dream that evening as we both brought new information and plans to the table the other had never even considered. May the enemies of the Dawi and the Empire tremble. Eventually though the hour grew too late and I was still weary from the road so I left the revelers to their cheer and retired to the rooms I shared with Hans.

The next day was the day of William’s operation. I longed to be by his side and assist him, but unless invited would not do so as he has asked to be left to his own path. I exchanged pleasantries with him and wished him luck. We had to prepare an anaesthetic that would work for him, so we drugged a nice bit of meat and fed it to his wolf who drifted off to slumber before we extracted a dose for William. From what I understand the surgery went well.

I had my own duties that day. Jez and I were to present our battle plans to the war council. I laid out the facts as I saw them, and stated how I would proceed were I in command. The Dawi and lizardmen seemed to find my tactics of merit and they were swiftly approved. I was also asked to convey a letter back to the old world Dawi holds. I said I must ask my captain, but was sure she would approve. Which she did. With that my official business and I had free time to spend in this wonderous city

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The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 30

We were able to quickly and quietly make our escape back up the ventilation shaft. By pushing on a few hours longer we made it back to the merchant’s house that had been our refuge 2 nights earlier. We decided not to reclaim the axe from the entrance hall as it was too likely to make noise. During the night we began to hear a great roaring of machines moving quickly, at the time we didn’t know what this meant, but assumed it was bad. We kept up our watch but had few problems that night.

The next day we were able to see down into the entrance hall and saw the cause of the noise, several very fast bladed wheels that bore enemy riders. They looked ungainly and clumsy, but having seen the effect to which the bladed wheels of a chariot can be put to effect I shudder to think how these would rip through ranks of soldiers on even ground. With the expertly crafted halls of the hold they would be able to travel at high speeds and it was only a matter of time till their search pattern discovered us, we had to move quickly. I informed Lilith and we set a quick pace that day, making it to the entrance. During that day there was a great cacophony that worried us all, till Jez realised it was the sound of one of the devices crashing, that raised my moral at least.

By the time we reached the entrance it was obvious that they had our trail. I gave tactical options to Lilith. We had 2 real strategies. The first was to blow the charges we had laid to collapse the only tunnel to the entrance and quick march and hopefully escape, though the march would e a true ordeal till we could safely cache our loot. The second was to barricade the tunnel and make a stand. The devices would be unable to overcome a sturdy barricade and they would have limited numbers so our chances would be very good, but we would also give time for greater numbers of pursuers to come, maybe even to find the entrance and trap us. Lilith picked the first option and we began our forced march, overladen with our booty, leaving our pursuers nothing but collapsed stonework to follow.

Lilith and I did our best to keep the party moving, but the ordeal was exhausting for all of us. To make matters worse it appeared that the dark magic of the enemy leader was still taking its toll, robbing those affected of sleep. Lilith recovered quickly, but William and Bidnae were like dead men walking before we reached safety.

We buried the cache of gold by a landmark and were glad to rest. I found a plant that the dwarves claim can restore energy to the exhausted by brewing its berries. I made sure to gather a pouch full and took some clippings. I brewed it up for Bidnae and William. While it is no replacement for sleep, it did help in the short term.

The rest of our return journey was of little interest. We made good time and before long were within a days march of the hold. That night I made sure to see to my dress uniform and fold it carefully to mallow for its donning when we were close to the hold. The next day we received a heroes welcome. Few had expected our success, fewer the speed of it. I looked forward to the days of feasting and celebration that were sure to follow our return

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The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 29

Come the morning we set off again. Jez and I took the lead and we soon came upon the main entrance hall. Here we saw a great trench in which most of the fighting was taking place. It was a horrible killing field that I was glad to not be involved in. We had to proceed with caution though as now we were in active enemy territory. We quickly also found one of the items we had been looking for, the heirloom axe. Unfortunately it was in the possession of an enemy who was in a large group. It was too risky to recover it at this time. We also identified a safe way forward and gathered the others to proceed.

Once we were past the main entrance hall we came upon the engineers’ section where the object of our quest was to be located. Outside it was the remains of an enemy with some kind of advanced firearm. The others examined it while Jez and I pressed forwards. In the engineers area were many buildings to explore, but we heard movement from one of them. Together we advanced and found another enemy rooting through the papers of the dwarven engineers. We approached silently and incapacitated them before they could make much noise and kept them down until the others came and Lilith could interrogate them. They gave useful info on the numbers of enemies in the hold and the kind of equipment they had. We also got some details on guards and such and what to expect further down. The enemy and myself also had a discussion on science, but it appears the dark powers have rotted whatever brain it possessed as its points were nonsensical. After we had what we needed it was dispatched. It was too dangerous to leave it alive.

We proceeded to search the area for the items we needed. Along the way I pocketed a few more books and William gathered dwarven tools for his workshop. We eventually found it and then secured building the would be easy to defend to spend the night in.

The next day we did a bit of scouting and with the help of some of the engineers schematics we located a large ventilation shaft that was impossible to spot without the plans that should be able to get us anywhere in the hold safely and relatively easily. The others took a bit of convincing, but once it was found and appeared unused by the enemy we used it to push deeper into the hold to our final objective. It wasn’t the most pleasant trip. The ventilation shafts also were mirrored to bring in natural light and the environment was dazzling, plus we had to go in single file. Eventually though we arrived at the closest exit to the great hall of the hold.

It was at the far end of a large garden from the gate to the hall we needed to pass through. The room had a number of enemies within keeping a lax watch, while one that was obviously their leader worked at trying to unlock the door. We were able to sneak down and into position to ambush them with relative ease. Jez and William charged the leader while the rest of us formed up and fought the troops. It was a tough fought affair, magic crackled in the air as steel met steel and it looked for a minute like the magic of their leader would withstand all that was used against it, till Isidore used a silvered dagger on them and broke their enchantment. With their leader dead and their numbers being whittled down it was not difficult to mop up the remainder of the enemies.

Once they were defeated we hid their bodies out of sight and turned to the door. It appeared the enemy mage had almost finished unlocking it, it did not take long to discover how as we found a machine with a brain connected to it. It seemed the brain had belonged to a Dawi who knew the secrets of the door and the machine was forcing the information out. Not a pleasant device, though I guess many would make similar comment about my raising of the dead.

Once the machine was destroyed Broken Mithril opened the door and we found the great hall. Within was the book of grudges Broken Mithril sought, and in the next chamber was the store of oath gold. It was far more than we could carry, so we loaded ourselves with as much as we could and beat a hasty retreat through the vents, closing the door behind us

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The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 28

We decided that as there were literal armies in the vicinity we would await our reinforcements before continuing on as to do otherwise would risk them falling into unfriendly hands unaware of the danger. I spent several days brushing up on my orcish in case we followed the plan of trying to treat with or take over the greenskins. Once the reinforcements arrived we pressed on to a secret entrance to the hold. Nearby the entrance was a lookout post which Jez discovered and we used it to survey the dark elves and even a few greenskins as well as other features in the landscape. Then we detached the magnificent dwarven binoculars and went on to where Hauptman had discovered the entrance. It was well hidden and partially buried, so we set to to uncover it.

While this was going on I drew Hauptman aside and spoke to him man to man. We are on a mission to restore the Captain’s Honor and his habit of stealing things was a danger to the mission. I let him know in no uncertain terms that if he stole oath gold he would never rest peacefully in Mor’s Garden, no matter how far he ran. I believe he took me seriously and while he will likely still pilfer valuables, he will leave things alone that are not to be treated as mere booty. I would say that I hope this quest will finally allow Lilith to bridge the gap between us, but I fear that is a foolish hope. Either way she will regain her honor, I intend to ensure it.

Once we entered the hidden tunnel we discovered that this part of the hold was completely abandoned, it did not appear any had been this way since it was lost. We brought the whole party in and set up a base camp and scouted the extent of the safe area. The others came upon a locked and trapped door, which they were able to disarm. Within was an engineers office with a library and the remains of its owner. He was dressed in full plate and carried and unusual weapon. It was later confirmed he was an irondrake, a dwarf who used some kind of flame launching device. He had several vials of unusual liquid, we think it is some kind of bile. We had no idea of its purpose. Before him on his desk was a journal of some kind. It was only one of the books I carried off from there, though in truth I felt leaving any of the books was a travesty, but I made my selection and forced myself away from it.

Later that night I read the journal, it detailed the expedition of the engineer to steal the eggs of an ancient salamander. It was a thrilling read and when my watch was done I was heartily looking forward to my next chance to read it

This upper part of the hold was some kind of science institute and there was a great deal here that would be worth study. With Lilith’s permission I set the force remaining at the entrance to scour it for useful items. As we proceeded down into the darkness I joined the scouting team as I was one of only a few that could see in the dark. We found a number of points of interest as well as the first signs of the hold’s occupants. We found a great door that led to some kind of park and the holding of a merchant. We holed up for the night in the merchant’s hold and had a strategy meeting. i advised Lilith that with three forces fighting over the hold shortly would be the best time to have the dwarves retake it, before the victors could recover from the fighting. I suggested we send a message immediately, but Lilith prefers to wait. I worry that it might be too long a delay, but there is wisdom in waiting to extract the most value from the idea. But the tactician in me winces at the possibility that this opportunity will be missed.

The others found a large cache of gold in the merchants vault, far more than we could carry home. I suggested we ferry it out and make a hidden cache ourselves to return for it late when we will not be burdened with other valuables.

I also informed Deepsworn of the park I had seen, and she was very interested. Several of us accompanied her there and we found it had been some kind of menagerie for the exotic creatures of the continent. While all the enclosures were empty, the whole place was fitted with devices that would give information of the creatures that had formerly been within. Suffice to say I listened intently to all of them. This hold was indeed a wonder, I only wished I could have seen it in happier times. I would love little more than to spend my days with other of like mind discovering the wonders of the natural world.

That night I continued my reading. It detailed politics within the hold about the use of the captured salamanders and their treatment. Many of the dwarves wished to use them for war and wanted to do so by any means necessary. The author however wished for them to be studied and raised with kindness, so that they would be loyal instead of fearful and the dwarves would gain a better understanding of them. He succeeded by making an appeal to the honor of the dwarven race. It continued with him discussing his home. The lower floor was cleared of flammable objects and the young slamanders had free rain and were happy. From the park I know that salamanders breath fire, so maybe the unusal bile that was in place of the regular irondrake fuel is of slamander origin.

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The Diary Of Klaas Jan Vlasman entry 27

There were many preparations to make for the upcoming expedition. Members of the party had much to buy, and found every shop gave them priority to prepare them. While they bought new weapons and equipment Hans and I set up in a local tavern to gather a list of item to be returned for a reward. The first item was an ancestral battle axe that is likely somewhere that battle was the thickest at the fall of the hold, so difficult to find, but a handsome reward for its return. Next came a dwarven noble named Broken Mythril. Her family had been the leaders of the fallen hoard and she wished for her party to join the expedition to recover the book of grudges and her family honor. I had to get Lilith’s consent for this one, but it was swiftly gained and we had a few more skilled hands to join us. If our quests lead us in different directions we will part to finish them, but till then we are together. An auspicious beginning and it makes me feel that this expedition will be an eventful and glorious one.

Hans and I also Convinced Lilith to make a deal with the rune smiths to gain access to the blueprints of the hold, in return we needed to return the lost holds oath gold, or at least give them information on why our group couldn’t get there so that a future expedition can be planned around the obstacles we find. Lastly we sent word back to the ship to bring up more supplies and reinforcements to follow us on to the hold. With these and other more mundane preparations completed we were ready to start our quest.

We decided to take the lowland path as it would, we thought, tire the troops less. It turned out to be very pleasant and had formerly been a nature trail of some kind. The dwarven road, to no one’s surprise, still remained as good a road as any in the empire even without maintenance for almost a century. Reyes spent the first couple of days ahead of us, but his lantern was quickly spotted by the dwarves and Lilith didn’t want to let our secret slip yet, even if it would be safe under the contract, so we sent him home. Lilith pushed to make use of him in ways I found distasteful ,by treating him as cannon fodder like a mindless skeleton. I assured her that it could be done, but she would need to order it herself as I would take no part in the waste of a skilled and valuable member of the crew. This surprised me as I had always though Lilith did a good job looking after her crew, though I think maybe the events of the past few days weighed heavy on her.

After some days of journeying we came upon an injured elf running down the road towards us. They looked terrified and we quickly tried to assure them they were safe. It appears they were being pursued by druichi corasairs. We laid in ambush while I treated the elf’s wounds, and sure enough they came down the road. A small party, but still more druichi than I would choose to face if there was a choice. I however was busy doctoring the elf as his condition was critical. I heard the fighting, but finished and drew my sword just in time to see the last elf fall. It appears to have been a short but brutal fight as the many injuries showed. I patched folk up and we made camp soon after.

The elf, when they had recovered somewhat, told us their story. They are a dark elf mage, who had worked with the corsairs till his magic was discovered and then they turned on him and beat him almost to death before he escaped. There was an army of dark elves besieging the hold we were going to. Also an army of greenskins was gathering in the mountain. It appeared this would be even more dangerous and memorable than I had thought. I relished the challenge ahead

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Scenes From Lilith's Youth

Growing up in the Matthesius household, Lilith worked for the payment of shelter and, provided she did not act dishonourably, food. Lilith learned how to act honourably through trial and error, slowly coming to understand which acts were not such as:
– Slandering the young Lords
– Insulting the older maids
– Being seen by the Master of the house
– Working too slowly
– Others working too slowly
– Looking disgracefulin front of guests

Such acts often warranted punishments as well, such that Lilith would avoid these acts no matter the cost.

On days that she wasn’t receiving punishments her main duties were being trained by the maids and entertaining the Young Lords, her brothers. For instance, it was Lilith’s job to help the Young Lord Oscar on the days he wished to train for his future knighthood.

“I hear Beastmen don’t need weapons cause they have claws and horns!”

Oscar Matthesius was 6 years old when he saw his first Duel and found his calling to join the army when he grew up.

“Stand up! There’s no point if you just fall over like that!”

He was 12 when he was first allowed to be trained in the art of swordfighting. But he was gifted his first wooden sword when he was 8 and encouraged to use it as he wished to get used to its weight and prepare for that day.

“A Beastman wouldn’t die yet, they’d fight back even if they were on the ground!”

Lilith raised her arms to shield herself once more. She shielded her head and scrunched up her face to stop herself from crying. Because it was dishonourable to slander the Young Lords.

She would return that day to the scolding of the maids for not cleaning the garden as she was told to. They claimed they were the ones who would be punished if she didn’t pick up the slack. Lilith thought that she had never seen one of them dragged into the basement but said nothing. Because it was dishonourable to insult the maids.

By the end of the day Lilith got ready to walk to the nearest town. She had not been fed today due to her work being too slow, but was able to steal a pair of small jewelled earrings that she could sell to one of the vendors. Thankfully, the guards cared too little to prevent her from leaving the estate, and allowed her to begin her long walk as the sun melted into the horizon.

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