Tzeentch Plotting

Confused and worried for the peoples of the Fastness and the Mere, we rush through the city to the Council of Forgemasters. Flagging down a young worker, I ask after Runelord Shot Anvilbreaker. He says they are looking for him, too. He has been missing for a tenday, and the truth begins crashing on our heads. I ask to speak to any member of the council and takes us up to a meeting room and hurries away.

After a few moments of wondering just how badly we have been tricked, another man enters. Forgemaster Altair Teranoc introduces himself and we in turn. Morbash explains what has happened, and after a few questions and explanations back and forth, he pales. He steps out and begins shouting, and the activity in the building begins to ramp up. He steps back in and ask what became of the soulpods and when Morbash says they were cut out, he steps out and shouts some more. The building is in a near panic state, now.

He thanks us for the information, and says that Tree Lord Pale Oak held the truce with them, but the will of his Goddess. The offering is usually left at the edge of the swamp, no envoy would dare venture in. He tells us that the city is in great danger because we were tricked. If someone had killed but a few, it could have been smoothed over, but the stealing of the soulpods, and of Pale Oak, their religious leader’s, will bring war. He insists they are capable of defending the city within these walls, but the cost would be great.

He asks us to get to the bottom of this trickery. If we can find out who this was, find the people behind this. Defeat them and recover the soulpods to return to the Sylvaneth, war might yet be averted. In the meantime, he must speak to the other forgemasters, they must prepare for the worse. He then gives us a writ to convince any we might need to give us aid and resources.

Anvilbreaker is the key, so we head back to the tavern where we met him. I ask the tavernkeeper if he knew the man we met and where we might find him. He says it was Shot Anvilbreaker, and he has a writ promising payment for our food and lodging from the council. I ask to see it, and something seems off, but I can’t quite tell what. I tell him that if he lets me keep it, I’ll see that he gets paid, and he agrees. Morbash asks where Anvilbreaker lives, and we head off with the address he provides.

It is a large stone building, steel reinforced, near the tavern. There is a small gated wall around it, with redrock for a yard and metallic plant sculptures. We walk up to the door and knock. It is answered by a tall human male in servant’s livery. Morbash tries to bully his way in, but I politely explain that we are looking for Runelord Anvilbreaker, and may we come in and speak with him about the last time he saw his master. He allows us entrance and escorts us to a sitting room.

The last time he saw Anvilbreaker was a tenday ago, he was heading out for the evening, alone, to drink at one of the nearby taverns. We ask about any troubles he might have been having, but the young man knows of none. Morbash, who had been poking around, asks where the tobacco is kept, and he, confused, suggest the office. Morbash, ever an orc of action, immediately leaves the sitting room and enters the private office of the Runelord.

The rest of us follow and find a beautiful rendition of the realms, done all in metal. The desk is covered with papers, mostly schematics for a new gun. Morbash starts removing painting from the walls, looking for a safe, and I hand over the Council writ to smooth over his objections. Morbash finds what he is looking for, and reading the writ once more, the young servant opens it for us. Unfortunately, it only holds currency, lots of different currency, but no evidence. We ask for a list of the taverns he may have gone to that night, and he gives us one. I think he just wanted us out of the house at that point.

Making a round of the taverns, we find that he did not make it to his drinking place that night. None of the tavernkeepers saw him that day. Morbash thinks he must have been grabbed off the street and taken down the sewers for no one to have seen it happen. He finds on near the second tavern on the list. There is a strange burning smell here, and a new pile of trash. Moving this aside, there’s a lash shaped scorch on the wall and part of it has been melted together with a mouse. Fjul thinks it might have been Tzeentchian magics.

Morbash opens the sewer grate and we head in. I know they sent me to this group to be more grounded, but fetid swamps and now sewers might be a bit much. We trudge on through the slime and there is barely enough room for me to spread my wings. There are strange scratches on the tube at regular intervals, so we follow them. It almost seems like shod hooves, but in intervals of a yard each. We wind through several tunnels as the taint of chaos grows, heading towards the city center.

Footsteps ahead, and strange, birdlike conversation stops us. Morbash sneaks up to look, and whispers back to us that it’s Chaos people and I wave him on to attack. We rush into the sluice and I fly up into the center. Fjul burns down the three Kairic Acolytes on the second level, I shoot down the three on to third. Morbash takes down two on the first level. There is a strange wooooting noise from the tunnels as three Screamers enter the fray. This foe is more formidable and they shred both Morbash and myself before we can bring them down.

Fjul patches up our wounds as we head down another tunnel with the scratch marks, and it is not long before we hear more footfalls. This time the discussion is happening in a strange language, different than the Acolytes. We try to sneak forward, but not quietly enough. They are ready when we emerge on another sluice room, this one with a rope bridge to a stone platform on the far side. There are three Tzaangor and an Ogroid Thalmaturge waiting for us here. The battle is full of magic and fire, and the mage eventually burns the bridge and disappears through a door as we cut down the last of his guards.

I ferry Fjul and Morbash across the sluice and they force our way through the door. There are more Acolytes here, and Runelord Anvilbreaker. His form shimmers, however, and shows its true self, a Chaos Sorcerer Lord of Tzeentch. He orders his minions to destroy us, and the fight begins anew. Sticky fire, and backlashing spells, as we fight and shoot our way through the Acolytes and the Thalmaturge. Fjul keeps us armored and healed while we work our way across the room. I focus fire on the Sorcerer, until Morbash is able to get through and cut him cleanly in half.

Heading up to the ritual circle, Fjul says it is still active. Morbash, every straightforward, smashes the circle itself, destroying a handful of the runes and the magic winks out. Runelord Anvilbreaker’s body lays off to the side, dead this whole tenday. The soulpods are in the center of the circle, so we quickly gather them up and head for the surface.

Rushing to the Council building, we find Forgemaster Teranoc. He is armed, armored, and organizing his forces. We quickly tell him what we found and he bids us deliver the soulpods that we might yet avoid the battle. Turning on our heals we run out of the city, the same way we had gone the day before. The gates are shut tight behind us, and we are surrounded as soon as we set foot in the swamp.

A tall, thin, lithe revenant with a scythe steps forward. “Why have you come back into the woods, we plan to make war, even Soulbound would no be exempt. Unless you have come to join our side? The righteous side.” I hold forth the soulpods and we explain that it was a Tzeentch plot to bring war to the Mere. “It matters not. They are as much a blight to our swamp. Even if we stay our hand, how long until they are tricked again?” I bid her think of the wisdom of the Tree Lord and his truce. Begging her not to throw away her forces this day against the metal and stone walls. She insists they can regrow, but the humans do die forever. Morbash says that if her people were to die, then the birdfolk would just take their pods and do what they were trying to do anyway. I explain that they were performing a ritual with the soulpods they had taken.

Pale Oak’s soulpod begins to glow ever so slightly, and she stops to consider our words. “Very wall, for now, there is peace. You tell your humans, that they are to send an envoy to the edge of the wood, at the next high point of Hysh in the sky. We will renegotiate the deal.” We quickly agree and head back to the city, to report and get them to stand down. The Forgemaster thanks us, on behalf of the council and the city, for stopping the war and rooting out the Tzeentchian cult. All in a day’s work, especially when it was us who created the problem.

The Fall of Pale Oak

In the end, it was our fault. Too eager to please and do right. Wanting to protect humanity from the Chaos. We wanted it to be true, and so we did not ask questions. We wanted to be heroes, strong and proud, and we nearly destroyed the peace and lives of so many. This is how Tree Lord Pale Oak fell, but worry not, for from even just a seed, he shall rise again.

We were sent to Greywater Fastness, myself, Miska Lightningstrike, Fjul, and Morbash. Fose was supposed to go with us, but they fell ill. Perhaps it would have gone differently, if the priestess had guided our way. It was not long, in a city such as that, for word to travel of our arrival. The people were glad to see us, and soon we were greeted by our contact.

Runelord Shot Anvilbreaker said we had arrived just in time, and we should come have a drink with him to learn of our mission. The urgency is what go to us, thinking back on it now. He told us of the tentative truce between the city and the swamp beyond. That in order to keep trade routes safe, the city sent offerings every year, but something had gone wrong. This year’s offering had been sent a week ago, but the envoy had not returned. A group from the very council, missing. He was worried both for their safety, and the safety of the entire Greywater Fastness, if the offering did not arrive. He asked us to go into the swamp, to find them and complete the offering if we could, and to bring their bodies back if the worst had happened. He drew us a rough map of where they had gone. Again, it was conveyed with such a sense of urgency, Morbash was ready to leave right then and there. But the Runelord paid for our food and drink and a room for the night, so we stayed, to leave at first light.

If you have never been to the Ghoul Mere, do not go. It is more than a swamp, but a corruption of the land. Sewage and waste pours out of the Fastness, and the lands are thick with decay and stagnant, stinking water and mud. There are no tracks to follow here, and we have only a crude map to guide us. It is no wonder that soon we see skeletons picked clean poking up from the waters. And only slightly surprising when Chain Rasps rise up to attack, but such things do not stand in our way for long.

Deeper we travel, through tangle and muck, and begin to see bone fetishes hanging from various trees. The small creatures which had surrounded us earlier have gone quiet. Carefully, we approach a mound of earth, certain that this had been the envoy’s destination, in our foolish pride. Spiked Revenants emerge from all around us, hungrily circling, but not attacking. Morbash steps forward to greet them, explaining that we are looking for an envoy from the council, gone missing.

Deep, thrumming footsteps approach, and the massive Tree Lord Pale Oak steps into the clearing. He recognizes my companions as Soulbound and asks why we have come to his lands. We explain that we are looking for the humans who were bringing him gifts,. He says they may have gotten lost and were taken by the creatures of the swamp. Morbash asks where he thinks we might look. He tells us that his people have not seen them, but that there is a darkness in the swamp. One that he cannot push back nor clear.

Morbash asks if he speaks of the Rasps, but he says their weapons are anathema to the dead. There are other things here, that worship twisted, dark life. Things that ravage his kind and that they dare not fight. Now Morbash is even more interested, itching for a fight, as always. Tree Lord Pale Oak says they are twisted things, life, but with a darkness, a taint upon it. Morbash is ready to rush right off, but I ask where we might find them, and Tree Lord Pale Oak scratched a rough map in the mound. He warns that they are twisted beyond recovery, beyond all but the goddess’ touch to cleanse, and allows us safe passage from his children.

We head off in a new direction, oblivious of the damage we have caused. The swamp is worse, now, if more fecund. Thick mold, moss, and fungus cover every surface. There are no animals here, just corpses covered in maggots. Everything is dying and living on death. I lead the group through this tainted landscape until we happen upon a dozen Zombie Dryads. Fjul sets them on fire, as I shoot one down, and then we are surrounded. They pose slightly more challenge than the Rasps, but Chaos does not stand against Stormcast nor Soulbond long.

As we continue on, the parasitic life grows even thicker, and flies feeding on corpses fill the air. As does a strange throaty singing of a disturbingly jaunty tune. I send Aswisa forward to take a look, and she sees bloated, rotten creatures with their guts falling out. A dozen of them, in a circle, singing their simple song. We sneak forward, but the Plague Bearers hear us coming and turn. We send them back into the swamp, to rot like everything else, but our enemies grow in strength with each step we take in this putrid place.

The trees thin out as the fungus takes over, and I am able to fly higher out of the muck to keep watch. Fjul does not seem to be taking the swamp well, but Morbash keeps an eye on him. We hear singing again, but deeper, ringing through the swamp. Aswisa scouts ahead again for us, to a large clearing with a pool on a hillock, covered in squirming maggots and bile. In the center, a stone ring of small menhirs and clear water in the center. Three figures stand around this pool, bloated figures with mouths in their stomachs and exposed wounds with small creatures inside. The Blight Kings are mixing together some liquids in a small bowl as we sneak near.

They fall, as all creatures of Chaos must, into the foul twisted nature they wished to commit us to, singing to the Great Grandfather. When they have fallen and we investigate what they have done, we find that they were trying to make Grandfather Essence, to pollute this sacred well. They will not have it this day. We move the bodies away, and sit to take our rest. We will spend the night here, to be sure no others come. The envoy is surely lost to these creatures, we will have to return and get a new offering to present. Or so we think, in our arrogance.

The morning dawns and we head for the city, back the way we came. When we escape the tainted lands, back into Sylvaneth territory, we find what our folly has wrought. The remnants of a great battle. The Revenants are scattered, and Tree Lord Pale Oak has fallen, killed by guns and larger munitions. Not only that, but all of their soulpods have been ripped from their chests. We hurry on, afraid of what this might mean, and find the city preparing for war.