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Arullen struggled to discern which of the tunnels the noise was coming from, but the walls and rising waters created echo upon echo. He closed his eyes and concentrated, tilting his head down to single out the source. His senses reached out into the darkness, probing and pawing at the black. No, the monsters were not coming from a single direction — they were coming from all of them. He was trapped, surrounded by the advancing horde.
When he opened his eyes once more, the mysterious stranger was still waiting for an answer. What choice did he have?
He was as good as dancing with Isha now, but perhaps there was still some hope. Follow me and all will be well for you. You have my word on it.
The fact they chose to turn choice cuts of their victims into stuffing for sausages had added a grisly notoriety to the menu at the Seagull and Spittoon. The new owner, an impish Bretonnian called Jacques Pottage with an overbearing fondness for garlic, garlic and more garlic, had to withstand weekly inspections of his kitchens to make certain lightning did not strike thrice. As watch sergeant for the eastern end of Goudberg, Kurt was tasked with carrying out these weekly inspections.
Once satisfied with the results, he was routinely offered his choice of mains from the menu for free. He always insisted on paying, all too mindful of the slippery slope that started with taking the occasional backhander. His men had grumbled about being forbidden to accept such gratuities at first, but soon learned to live with it or move on to other, less honest postings.
As a consequence, this part of Goudberg enjoyed one of the lowest crime rates in Marienburg. Life had a habit of kicking you in the jewels when you least expected, so it was better to enjoy success when it was available. The promotion he had been pushing for the last six months had finally been approved, it seemed.
But, as always in Marienburg, gossip moved far faster than bureaucracy. It was as true now as it had been then, if not more so. Kurt sighed and took off his black cap, the headgear that gave the Watch its nickname.
Marsh-pig and mustard cress? Rat and radish? Kurt supped his ale, savouring the belligerent flavours of hops and honey while his eyes scanned the other drinkers. That one needed watching, Kurt had little doubt about it.
Kurt let his spare hand slide nonchalantly across to the heavy club secured by a leather strap at his waist. The threat of violence hung in the air, vicious and angry, like a thunderstorm rolling in from the sea. The stranger led Arullen through a bewildering maze of tunnels and passages, some so narrow the elf was forced to turn sideways before edging himself into the claustrophobically-tight gaps.
Each forward step in the foetid, deepening waters was harder than the last. Meanwhile, the sound of skittering grew louder as those hunting the elf got closer. Their stench got stronger too, funnelling ahead of them like the spray from a mighty wave. Finally, the noise and the rancid odour were too 6 much for Arullen.
He turned back to face the oncoming horde, his dagger held tautly in a clenched fist. Arullen could see movement in the dark, shapes racing ever closer, tiny glimpses of their faces chilling the blood in his veins. Grasping fingers pulled him into a gap so narrow, it tore the fabric of his tunic both front and back. The elf looked at his hands and realised the dagger was gone.
He was without any weapon to claim the enemy before it claimed him. It was over, Arullen thought. A torrent of hunters surged past the end of the passageway, racing forwards down the tunnel in which the elf had been standing mere moments before.
On and on the wave of ravenous creatures went, dozens upon dozens of them, whispering to each other in some hideous, guttural tongue of their own devising rage glinting across their black, pitiless eyes.
Arullen listened as they passed, counting the horde. More than a hundred of them had passed before the surge slowed. A hundred more passed in the minute that followed. Finally, the last of them went on its way, limping as it staggered by, the weakest of the pack.
Arullen held his breath as it went by, willing himself to be silent as the grave. Only when the skittering had become inaudible did he open his eyes. Just when it felt he could go no further, the passageway abruptly opened out into another underground chamber — and this one had a tiny, barred window set into its roof, allowing a glimpse of the night sky.
The elf looked up and felt the sickle moon bathe his face with its reflected glory. Arullen sank to one knee, his hands trying to hold the wound closed without success.
The stranger slashed at those hands, slicing them open and forcing them away from the gaping, jagged hole. Arullen slumped backwards against the slime-covered wall, his breath coming in quick gasps. He watched disbelievingly as the stranger raised his bloody hands and offered the crimson digits to the moonlight, accompanied by a hysterical voice babbling an incantation, words jumbled into each other, without meaning or sense.
The stranger stopped and listened, as if expecting the sickle moon to reply. Apparently satisfied, he shuffled over to a stone column that ran the height of the chamber. When the stranger took his hands away, Arullen could have sworn he saw blood being absorbed into the stone structure, as if it were drinking the crimson smearings.
That was my world, my place — my home. Finally, he staggered backwards, panting and breathless, all too aware of his own life seeping away from the wound at his waist. A wave of dizziness overtook him and Arullen stretched out an arm to the wall for support, his bloody hand resting against the stone column. It sucked at his skin like an infant at a nipple, guzzling the blood from his palms, hungry for more.
The wounded, dying elf managed to tear his arm away, cursing his own forgetfulness. Whatever horror was beyond that column, he had no wish to feed it further. He glanced about and chose an archway leading off into darkness. That path had been hard enough when he was unhurt, but he would certainly die now if he attempted to retrace his steps.
Arullen did not savour the prospect of spending eternity with his bones wedged between the walls, until they were finally washed out to sea. Unfortunately, it broke out just as Inga was bringing Kurt his meat and turnip sausage surprise.
Acumen User Manual
The serving wench was giving the watch sergeant her best come-to-bed smile, but she often did that on Aubentag. That left his wife alone — and Inga was notorious for liking a warm bed.
Kurt had carefully avoided her advances in the past and certainly had no intention of succumbing to her wanton charms tonight. What he got was a tavern brawl of such brutality and vigour only four people were still standing by the finish, and two of them were halflings. The other two were the brooding figure from the corner and, naturally, Kurt. The fighting had started when somebody decided to engage in a little recreational dwarf-tossing. Both uneaten sausages landed neatly in the tankards of two burly stevedores, who took no end of offence at having their precious ale sullied.
From there it took mere moments for the chaos to quickly become a particularly violent brand of mayhem. Kurt watched wistfully as fists connected with faces, boots battered bodies and benches became battering rams. He did his best to stay out of the carnage, until one of the stevedores decided to pick on someone his own size after drop-kicking a halfling into the ceiling. For a mountain of a man used to shifting weights that could cripple most beasts of burden, the stevedore was not much of a fighter and went down in an untidy pile of limbs.
His drinking companions did not take kindly to this and backed Kurt into a corner, four of them forming a semi-circle around him. The watch sergeant 8 retrieved his black cap from inside his waist belt and held it up for them to see. It is my job to keep the peace.
Kurt swayed aside from the attack, letting the charging figure run headfirst into a solid stone wall. One down, three to go. Two down, two to go. These stood at either side of Kurt, watching him warily, looking for an opening. They nodded to each other and charged, not noticing the overhead beam that ran diagonally from one wall to the other. Kurt sprang into the air, tucking his long legs up underneath him to avoid the attack.
The stevedores collided head-first with each other. The almighty crack of their skulls was followed by the duller sound of them slumping to the damp, beer-stained floor.
Kurt swung his legs back and forth twice to gain some momentum before letting go of the overhead beam. He landed nimbly on his feet beyond the three unconscious men and their whimpering companion, who was too busy nursing his shattered face to attempt another attack.
The rest of the brawlers had gone down fighting by this time, either unconscious or groaning in pain, leaving only two halflings and the brooding figure in the corner. Kurt was surprised by the softness of the voice, and even more surprised when the hood was drawn back to reveal a beautiful young woman. Her chestnut-brown hair cascaded down to surround heart-shaped features, while warm eyes glittered excitedly at him.
She tilted her head to one side slightly. Lies require more effort. As she reached the outer door of the tavern, the woman paused to glance over her shoulder at Kurt. His fingers had gone numb and his legs felt like stone, too heavy to lift out of the foul liquid that had now reached waist height in the catacombs. Still he trudged onwards, one hand clenched round the wound in his abdomen, while his other hand clawed him along the circular, slime-covered walls.
He should be dead by now, Arullen was certain of that, but something kept him going kept drawing him forwards. The elf did not want to perish in this hole, carrion for vermin and other dark denizens of the sewers.
He had come down into the catacombs with three of his brethren, lured here by tales of rare artefacts to be found in these misbegotten tunnels and chambers.
Something Rotten In Kislev
According to the myths, an elf vessel had once crashed against the rocks of Riddra and spilled a cargo of the finest jewellery into these waters. Part of the haul had been recovered, but the rest was taken by the tide. It had lain below ground for generation upon generation, waiting for elves brave enough and bold enough to venture into the catacombs and reclaim the cargo, to take it back to the elf quarter.
Arullen had persuaded three of his brethren to venture into the catacombs with him, but their quest had been foolish and tragic, not brave and bold. The others were dead, torn apart by those ravening monsters and all Arullen had to show for it was a single silver brooch, found when his hands brushed across it in the darkness. He pulled the brooch from inside his bloodied garb and stared at the fragment of stone set in the jewellery. I must get to the surface.
There was another reason to keep going: he had to warn his brethren, tell them of the coming cataclysm. Unless the alarm was raised, what lurked down here in the darkness would overwhelm all of Marienburg. It would make no distinction between elf and man, halfling or dwarf. And if Marienburg fell to these nightmares, it could loose an aeon of Chaos and unimaginable horror upon the Old World.
The Empire was still embattled by the legacy of its war against Chaos, it could not withstand another war so soon. He owed his fallen brethren that much. So he staggered on, his long, delicate features drenched in sweat, bleached white by fear and pain.
A deep, jagged pain sliced through his body, bringing an involuntary cry of anguish from his lips. He stopped and leant his back against the curving wall, closing his eyes against the hurt.
Something sharp was inside the wound, nagging at his intestines, slowly rending them apart. The tip of his dagger must have broken against a bone within him. Now it was making for the heart, working its way upwards to finish the job of killing him.
How ironic, the enchantment laid on his blade to make sure the dagger always claimed its target was now claiming his life. As always, fate was proving her right.
But this was no time for self-pity. Arullen opened his eyes once more and gasped. The tunnel was lighter than it had been before, illumination spilling along the shaft from a curve ahead of the elf. He stopped and listened for any hint of the hunters that had stalked him down here, but there was only the sound of liquid lapping at the walls.
Arullen forced himself towards the bend in the tunnel and the light beyond. Perhaps it was merely caused by another cluster of flesh-eating glow worms, but it gave him a reason to go on. The elf laughed out loud when he came round the curve and saw the true cause. A narrow, stone staircase wound its way upwards from the catacombs. The light was pouring down from the top of the steps, along with the first clean air Arullen had smelled for hours.
Arullen reached the steps and grabbed hold of the ancient metal railing that led up and around to the surface.
The Enemy Within Campaign
So the dying elf dragged himself up the steps, one at a time, crawling towards freedom. The occasional glimpses of moonlight kept him going, urging him upwards, beckoning him to its embrace. He emerged on a narrow ledge, jutting out over a narrow side canal. Arullen knew not where he was within Marienburg, and he no longer cared. He had escaped the torments underground and that was all that mattered.
The elf edged his way along the ledge to a wider path. He could see nobody on the path but that would not be the case for long. Marienburg rarely slept, the pulsing heart of its merchant economy requiring constant attention and forward momentum to sustain itself. Arullen paused, looking in either direction for somebody, anybody to aid him.
His family would pay a handsome reward to those who saved their son, he was certain of that. Heavy footsteps strode towards him from behind. At last, Arullen thought, relief surging through him. He turned to face the approaching figures, smiling at them weakly. Then his eyes saw the long, green-stained blades being drawn and the murderous, malevolent glint in their eyes. They had come up here after him, and now they were going to finish the job that warped stranger had started.
Whatever happened, they must not discover the brooch on his body. He staggered backwards, flailing one arm at the approaching enemy to distract them while his other hand retrieved the brooch from inside his garb. Once it was in his grasp, he let it drop into the shadows before running at the dark, foreboding figure ahead of him. This was not that sort of place.
In much of Marienburg a cry in the night brought neighbours and concern. Along the Three Penny Bridge and the stone-cobbled streets that approached it, nobody listened and fewer cared. No shutters opened to see what was happening, nobody lifted a finger to help Arullen Silvermoon as he died.
Of all the areas in this maritime metropolis, he had inadvertently chosen exactly the wrong district in which to be murdered.
The rule of law had no meaning near the Three Penny Bridge. Not so much the corpses themselves, more for deducing why they had become corpses. What turned a living, breathing person into an empty, barren husk? Where did their spirit, their essence go once they were dead? And how had that spirit been driven from their body? Most of all, she enjoyed the puzzle of solving these riddles, even though she knew many of them were enigmas no mortal could hope to explain or understand.
Other children would have been traumatised, horrified, emotionally scarred for life. Belladonna was simply intrigued: why had her grandfather died, and what had killed him? The Black Caps had glanced at the wrinkled, wizened corpse and immediately announced anyone who lived long enough to see their seventh decade must have died of old age. A priest of Morr was called to deal with the body, prior to Ruben Speer taking his place at the family mausoleum in Doodkanaal. Belladonna had watched the priest from her window as he anointed the body with various unguents and potions.
The bald-headed holy man noticed her interest and invited the girl to come down. Few wish to be near us, yet you display no such fear. Are you accustomed to death, my child? He lifted up the fingers of both hands and sniffed at them. But it was Belladonna who found the abandoned hipflask, a trickle of almondscented alcohol still inside it. She was about to taste the liquid for herself until the priest slapped it from her grasp. Their shouting woke me up. Is this what drastic action looks like?
Did Clements poison my grandfather? But you must not speak of this to anyone, do you understand? There were no words to describe her talent for seeing what others did not. It was more than mere instinct or intuition. She could look at a body and instantly know what had happened to it, where others only saw grief or pain. As the years passed, the priest of Morr let her observe his duties, learning from him the many ways of slaying a person.
As a woman she could never become a priest of Morr, but she had little wish to spend a lifetime in drab clerical robes that frightened everyone else away. She loved life too much to lock herself away in a temple or a mausoleum for the rest of her days. Of course, her fascination with killings and manslaughter did not go well with her family. Young women from wealthy merchant families were usually destined for a choice from three roles in life: wife, mother or mistress.
Some managed to pursue all three activities with equal vigour, but most kept themselves to one or two of these choices. By comparison, she was a troublesome child, a worrisome young lady and, finally, a woman of uncommon beauty who refused to abide by social conventions.
Not for her a lifetime of flower arranging and child rearing. Instead Belladonna had horrified the rest of the Speer family by joining the Black Caps on her twenty-first birthday. In a city where women were expected to be wives or whores — and sometimes both — Belladonna Speer was busy creating a new destiny, reinventing herself afresh. Well, that was the theory. In fact she had spent the past three years working as a messenger and private secretary for the commander.
She was his eyes and ears on the streets of Marienburg, reporting back to him any and all observations made during her travels. Belladonna had seen things few other women ever witnessed, and that had satisfied her innate curiosity for a while. But now her patience was wearing thin. She had learned all she could from these occasional excursions on errands for the commander.
Now she wanted to put her theories and observations into practice, out on the streets and canals of this magnificent city. The problem was convincing the commander to forgo her. The chiming of the dawn gong shook Belladonna from her musings. She was already up and dressed, standing by the single window of her private room in City Watch headquarters. The chamber was no larger than a monastic cell and as sparsely furnished, a stack of leather-bound journals the only truly personal possession.
Belladonna made a mental note to come back here and collect the journals after seeing the commander. They contained observations and notes gathered over more than a dozen years, the fruits of her labours to learn all she could about the many methods of administering murder. In truth, the contents were as familiar to her as the city itself, but the journals were a comfort against doubt.
If all went according to plan, those volumes would have a new home before the end of the day. She strode from the room, not bothering to look back. When you possessed a fascination for corpses and how they came to be dead, the luxuries of the living held little interest anymore.
The sound boomed along the long, empty corridor, sustained by the high, vaulted ceiling and walls of stone. The headquarters of the City Watch was a grand, spacious building in stark contrast to the places where lowly watchmen worked. Most stations were humble buildings in obscure corners of the city, often sited in converted homes or warehouses that had been seized from lawbreakers as part of their punishment. Space was always at a premium in Marienburg, little surprise in a city constructed atop a collection of islands across the outlet where the Reik met the sea.
Homes and businesses grew ever upwards, upper stories wider than those at street level, looming above the canals and cobbled passageways. By contrast, the headquarters building was warm and dry, sunshine filtering through stained glass windows, tinting the corridors with a friendly, cheering glow.
Kurt had been here once before, the day after he stumbled into a job with the watch. It was a requirement of induction that all new recruits be presented to the commander before taking their oath of office.
Like most of the men who survived that conflict, those who saw the face of the enemy and lived to tell the tale, Kurt rarely spoke of his experiences on the battlefield. Seeing your brothers in arms struck down by a foe of such ferocity and unalloyed evil left deep wounds, buried far below the surface in places from which a few ales would not prise them free. Only cowards and liars bragged of their war exploits. Had it been worth the sacrifices, the losses? Kurt knew he could never recover all he had lost back in Altdorf, all that had perished on the battlefields of the Empire.
So Kurt determined to make a life for himself in the here and now, putting aside the memories, the pain of what had happened. He had no wish to relive those dark days again. Kurt looked up to see four men approaching in uniforms of the watch, all bearing the insignia of captains. He recognised them within moments, as much by reputation as by their appearances. The man who had spoken first was Bram Quist, a scarfaced veteran of twenty years in the Black Caps.
He was responsible for keeping the peace in Noordmuur, to the north of Marienburg. On his left was a barrel-chested behemoth with a bushy red beard and jovial face — that could only be Titus Rottenrow, who ran the districts known as Rijkspoort to the east.
He led the watch in the Tempelwijk, to the west of Suiddock. Even so, he had little doubt who it could be. But everybody knew who the golden boy of the watch was, the prime candidate for the succession: Georges Sandler. Sure enough, when the quartet reached Kurt the last man was revealed as Sandler, a luxurious mane of brown hair swept back from those aristocratic features, the hint of flab around his jowls giving the face a curiously boyish aspect.
Kurt snapped to attention. Some of us had to earn our commissions, instead of having our parents download them for us. They were still guffawing when the doors to the antechamber opened and the captains were beckoned inside. Here it comes, he thought, resisting the urge to lie. By the time Quist had entered the antechamber, he was muttering curses under his breath so violent they would have shocked any passing sailors.
The tall, forbidding doors slammed shut, and the disgraced son of Altdorf was left alone once more in the corridor. Kurt closed his eyes and waited for the wave of shame to pass.
Would he never be free of the past? All this stood atop a raised dais, supposedly constructed to support the vast weight of the desk. It was a large, ornately decorated chamber, created to intimidate and unease all entering it. Few left the better for having visited this place. The current commander needed no architectural affectations to impose his authority on anybody.
He had a rasping voice and piercing, intense eyes that could unsettle the sternest of men. He was prone to laughing at the pain or discomfit of others, particularly when it was most inappropriate. Others claimed he had made some pact with the Dark Gods, no doubt signed in his own blood, as it was the only way to explain his irresistible rise from lowly gatekeeper to commander. But everybody agreed on two things — he was an incredibly shrewd judge of character, and a bastard in every sense of the word.
She was standing in front of his desk, hands clasped behind her back, steadily returning his gaze.
Meeting his eye was the best way of earning his respect, she had learned through bitter experience. I used the coins you gave me to start a bar brawl at the Seagull and Spittoon last night. Schnell had already been on duty for twelve hours by that time, but he bested four men far larger than him with ease. Had no trouble fending off the advances of an overly amorous serving wench, either.
Inga seemed determined to live up to her title of serving wench. The commander frowned for a moment.
Give us five minutes before telling Schnell to join us. But his face had hardened and his eyes betrayed seething anger at her request.
I doubt things would ever be dull on his watch.
A Murder in Marienburg (Warhammer Novels)
If you still wish to go where I am sending him, then you are fool enough to deserve that fate — I will not stand in your way. Kurt had assumed she was merely a messenger, but it seemed she acted as adjutant to the commander. A curious arrangement in a city where women wielded the most power as matriarchs at home, or holding sway in courtly circles. Few females were seen in law enforcement, and fewer still in the watch. Whatever her true function, Kurt sensed she was sympathetic to his cause.
Belladonna smiled at him kindly. The four captains were split into pairs, Rottenrow and Wout on one side of the dais, Quist and Sandler on the other. Kurt chose to ignore them and concentrate his attention on the commander. Deal with them first and the others will be easier prey.
The brave warrior fights the hardest foe, even if it costs him dear — that is the mark of bravery. Most people in this situation cannot allow seven seconds of silence to pass without caving in and asking for more information. You show remarkable resilience of will. Some might even describe it as a meteoric rise through the ranks.
Richard has worked incredibly hard on this and the hard work shows. Keep an eye on Rogue Dispatches for announcements.
It was the title that got people excited: The Enemy Within. The new Enemy Within is not an adaptation or an updating of the original, but a whole new campaign that explores the same themes through new adventures. The entry I wrote about it back in March remains the most-viewed entry on this whole blog. After the frenzy that greeted the announcement, there was a long, long silence. Based at least in part on my feedback when I saw the galleys, The Enemy Within went through a lot of editing and development.
Now, at last, it has been released. When I started writing my part of the campaign, I worried about how I would top the completely unforeseen success of the original Enemy Within. I came to the conclusion that nothing could ever top the fond memories that many people have for the original adventures, memories that are tied up with where they were in their lives when they first played them.
Since the new Enemy Within was announced, a few people have asked me about running it with 1st or 2nd edition WFRP, and also about running a mash-up of the old and new campaigns.
I think both are possible. When I was writing, I made a conscious effort to write a good WFRP adventure, rather than focusing on the 3rd edition rules.He was not a native of Marienburg but he knew the reputation of Three Penny Bridge all too well. The chamber was no larger than a monastic cell and as sparsely furnished, a stack of leather-bound journals the only truly personal possession.
It sucked at his skin like an infant at a nipple, guzzling the blood from his palms, hungry for more. Finally, he staggered backwards, panting and breathless, all too aware of his own life seeping away from the wound at his waist. Jacques, Joachim and I will now show you how we deal with those who would make a mockery of our station. Deux Archivist.
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