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'Lamentations of the Cthulhu & Chivalry' Campaign

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What I got up to on my day off, By Doctor Thomas Norton aged 27 and 3/4

The Doctor staggered on his breath coming in short sharp gasps as he desperately tried to keep the wagon in visual range but as he turns the corner into George street there is no longer any sign of it anymore it seems to have disappeared into one of the myriads of alleyways that branched off from George.
"Curse it, all that effort wasted" the Doctor crumples against a nearby wall trying to regain his breath his lungs burning in the cold winters air. Lost in thought he almost misses his name being called out in a voice he half-remembers looking up he sees a stocky figure waving at him from the third alley down. Standing back up the Doctor starts walking towards the figure avoiding the debris and the occasional frozen figure still trapped in ice as he gets closer the details of the figure start to form from out of the gathering gloom and its someone he remembers "Pon my soul can it be you? by Gods grace it is you................Saul my old comrade in arms" the Doctor begins to jog forward his hand outstretched to grab Saul. "Feck off you dozy fustilarian, the bloody wagon you were so gamely chasing went down this here alley" he pushes back the slightly over-eager Doctor. Seeing the Doctors dismay he almost grins "Its good to see you to old friend but my time is short so if you want to finish this we have to be quick, explanations will have to wait" the Doctor grins "Sorry but its good to see you but you're right we have to finish this quickly" and he quickly fills Saul in and the need to catch this Martyn  fellow"
The two men stride towards the alley way making their way towards the glow of a fire and the smell of something cooking, About halfway down they can make out a smoky fire burning in the middle of the alley the shapes of two figures can be made out hunched over the fire and quietly talking amongst themselves, hard up against the alleys brick wall and just to the side of the men is the wagon it's sheeting no longer covering the crates but just piled up at the back in the glow of the fire it seems to be moving though. Saul gets his musket ready and steps to the side and out of the faint firelight he gestures with his head that the Doctor should go forward and check things out whilst he covers him. 
The Doctors smooths down his coat and heads towards the two figures "Hello gentleman could I warm myself by your fire as its a cold night?" the men turn and welcome him "Sure you can friend its not the weather to be miserly with the heat my name is Sam and this good fellow is Mathew" the Doctor introduces himself as he huddles close to the fire and they begin chatting after being offered a roast potato which the Doctor gratefully accepts and devours slightly burning his mouth in doing so but after all it had been a long day and he had not eaten since morning.  The Doctor steers the conversation to the wagon and Sam tells him that it just pulled into the alley as if the devil himself was chasing it the driver a finely dressed fellow who sounded to be one of those low Dutch folks he leapt of the wagon and pulled back that sheeting to reveal his cargo which he then said we could help ourselves to if we would follow him. Now me and Mathew here are not the following type you understand but Gregory well he was worried about his family and suchlike and seeing the crates all full of food and warm clothing he straight up said he would follow. The Dutchman smiled and grabbing a bag or two-handed us a load of strange pamphlets and then saying something to Gregory they started to jog off, not being able to read that well we just used those pamphlets to start this here fire and taking some off those warm clothes we settled down to the first decent meal we have had since the troubles. The Doctor thanks them and after rummaging around in one of his numerous bags pulls out the bottle of rum given to him by the merchant Quin Lambert as the Doctor hands over the small dark bottle he asks what direction did the Dutchman go and Mathew pointed down the alleyway towards North-quay. The Doctor thanks them again and standing up heads towards the wagon the sheeting is still moving and the Doctor can hear the sounds of low moans coming from underneath feeling somewhat embarrassed he apologizes as he clambers past. Sam calls out "Don't you worry Thomas that's just young Megs way of keeping warm" this comment is accompanied by much lewd laughter and hand gestures. The Doctor laughs along with them but continues to check out the crates and the front of the wagon seeing not much to interest him he gathers up the pamphlets and after a quick examination sees that they are covered in the strange glyphs from the island taking two he takes the rest back to the fire. Laughing he quickly makes a large ball of the pamphlets and places it onto the fire causing it to roar with flame and throw out burning embers Sam and Mathew lean back and begin to complain but the Doctor still laughing explains that its for Megs partner after she finishes with him, Sam suddenly laughs "Ahh so you know of young Meg then? she is an energetic lass and does take it out of you somewhat after a trysting"  Just then Saul makes his presence felt and all humour dies under his sullen glance "You finished here Thomas?" he snarls in a way which seems more of an order than a question. The Doctor pastes on his smile again "Do not fear gentleman this is just my er...bodyguard, yes my bodyguard a sour chap and no mistake. Well we best be off then it seems a pleasure to have met you both and Meg of course" and with that, they left the warmth and friendliness of the small gutter camp and headed back into the cold dark rows in search of a Dutchman and his fisherman follower.

The two men stalk down the smelly and thankfully dark Row heading roughly north the ground still deep with mud, snow, and other unpleasant substances,  Saul spotted a faint glow which seemed to be coming from just above the ground fearing some sort of sorcerous attack he pointed it out to the Doctor and pulled out a pistol. As they cautiously approached the faint glow resolved into a rusting lantern hanging over a basement doorway, the light shiny sickly down onto the worn steps the sound of muffled singing. The Doctor turns to Saul "So do we check this out or do we continue to the end of the Row?" Saul scratches at his stubble "Might as well see what is going on and besides I don't like leaving potential enemies behind" So the pair climb down the steps and through the unlocked doorway.
The door opens up into a small dark hallway, heavy coats and cloaks hang dripping from pegs alongside both sides a single door leads out and a faint glow can be seen creeping out from under it. The singing whilst still slightly muffled can now be more clearly heard and both the Doctor and Saul relax as the can now identify it as godly music. They open the door and the candlelight basement is revealed beyond. The candles also illuminate the congregation singing along with a stern looking  Minister who was standing on a most wondrous pulpit. This pulpit seemed to be made from the remains of ships, the dark oak beams still had barnacles and the tracery of seaweed upon them and a couple of ancient figureheads could also be made out their details though were blurred and made indistinct through times harsh caress.
The Party makes their way to the back of the congregation and after a moment or two join in with the psalm. 
This seems to be the last psalm of the service as the song winds down the congregation break up into small groups who discuss what they have heard the Party move through the quietly talking groups and head towards the Minister who has gathered up the Bible and is making his way slowly down the pulpits steps. The Doctor reaching the pulpit first calls out to the Minister who is beginning to walk towards his flock, the Minister turns around the candlelight gives him a dark brooding look his pate hairless apart from a few wisps of grey hair above his ears, his skin lays tight across his skull like face and not an ounce of fat seems to be on the elderly man but still he radiates a strange strength. In a surprisingly strong deep voice he turns and looks at the two men "Yes my friends, what can I do for you" as he steps forward he stops seeing the armour and weapon glad Party clearly for the first time "You are not of my flock, if you wish us harm you will not profit much from it" The Doctor drops his arms to his side and open his hands palms forward, "No need to be concerned Minister we are godly folk and loyal to Parliament, no bandits or traitors here, we merely heard the singing and felt the call to join in"  The Minister still a little suspicious asked a few more questions and the Party did their best to put his suspicions to rest they also asked a few questions of their own. The Ministers name was Maple and turned out to be a very intelligent and surprisingly jolly fellow and after talking with him for a little longer he does remember Gregory as a member of his flock though he doesn't remember seeing him today which apparently is unusual for him the Minister explains that like many in Yarmouth he is greatly concerned how he and his family will survive these trying times and so seeks solace in the words of the Lord" the Minister calls out to a young lady "Judith did you see Gregory Croft today?" The young lady shakes her head "I'm afraid not...oh no I almost forgot he did come in briefly with another gentleman but the other man quickly tugged him back outside" Maple tapped his chin "Now that is odd and worrying the only other place open this time of night is that diabolical so-called tea shop, Gregory is desperate to find work and food to help his family so he is easy prey for wicked men" The Party quickly get directions and promise to try to help Gregory if they find him there.
The Teashop is fronted by Apple Johns Barbershop and on Bootless John Row.The Party thank the Minister and follow the last of the congregation back out into the filth and darkness of the Row and towards Apple Johns.
The Barbershop is only a few minutes jog away the Row is dark and quiet apart from a few slightly unnerving sounds coming from a few ruined buildings further down but both the Doctor and Saul decide that it's just going to be rats, big rats maybe but just rats and so safe to ignore. The Barbershop is firmly closed, shuttered windows and locked doors but circling the property they find a short staircase leading down to a recessed door which has another lantern which seems partially shuttered only letting out a pale wane light. They nod prepare themselves and head to the door and then stop, suddenly unsure what the correct protocol is for this kind of thing. After a slightly embarrassing pause, the Doctor with a murmured "Sod it" pushes the door open and steps into a small chamber swiftly followed by Saul. 
The chamber has a door to one side whilst another sits behind a bar which has a skinny pockmarked barman standing behind it cleaning a pewter tankard. He looks up and with a terrible smile and with a short bow he opens his lanky arms wide and in a voice as thick as treacle greets the two newcomers " "Welcome to my humble establishment, come freely,  go safely and leave something of the happiness you bring. I am your ever humble servant Brandon.....and now gents what will it be?" the Doctor smiles and steps up and looks at the chalkboard "Well the house special sounds interesting so... Brandon isn't a house special for me and one of those French lemon drink for my dour friend here" 
The house special appears to be a small snuff-box containing a whitish/green powder and a small glass of gin. The Doctor recognizes the powder as a concoction from the Spanish colonies and eagerly takes a powerful snort and then downs the gin. There is a pause the Doctor coughs, sneezes and then lets out a strange moan then he suddenly lets out a loud cry "Gadzooks this is bloody fantastic" yells the suddenly energised Doctor "I feel like a sexual stone lizard thingy, you know Saul those things they dig out from those sea cliffs" Saul shakes his head and as the Doctor comes down a little and asks the barman some questions he moves towards a dark corner where he can keep an eye on things. The Doctor finds out that two men had recently turned up one of which sounds like Gregory and they had booked a private dining room. The Doctor thanks, Brandon and tries to head into the main room but he is stopped as it appears more money must change hands and there is a strict no weapons rule which is partially enforced due to the reaction of a true Englishman to accordion music. The Doctor jumping around quickly hands over all his weapons apart from a hidden dagger whilst after some heated discussion Saul with some bad grace hands over his visible weapons, keeping his hatchets and some other nasty weaponry under his cloak and voluminous fur coat. After the payment is made and the weapons stored in the cupboard the two men step past a booth and into the main room.
They are greeted by a scene straight out of Dante's Inferno, the room is large, richly appointed and has high thin windows which grace one wall, whilst a monstrously large fireplace dominates another, this provides much of the lighting for the room whilst also generating a huge amount of heat. The rest of the room is filled with large oak tables and accompanying benches which groan under the weight of all the platters of food and tankards which litter there tops. A large group of richly dressed men stands cheering, waving drumsticks around whilst quaffing from tankards at an oddly dressed man who seems to be wearing a hideous mask, this man? is the source of the annoying accordion music and he leads the clientele in a rather rude sea shanty. The Doctor takes a seat next to a group of semi-sober men and after ordering a plate of goose with all the trimmings he starts to ask questions in his usual convivial manner, his play is that he is a friend of Martyn's and that he had arranged to meet him here but due to work commitments had been unfortunately delayed and seems to have missed him. Saul meanwhile peels off to examine the main dining room with its shadowy booths and the corridor leading off from it. The last thing he hears as he walks down the corridor is the Doctor saying somewhat loudly something about how the accordion music doesn't seem too bad now and asking if anyone fancied an arm wrestle.
Saul sighing loudly stalks off exploring the rest of the club he passes a couple of serving women and follows them back to the kitchens his gruff manner keeping the staff from asking too many awkward questions.  He also hastily grabs a jug of gravy off a nearby counter and raises it up with a grin to one of the cooks when she started to walk towards him a question forming on her lips. Seeing the gravy jug she just tuts but turns back to her task of pouring sauces over the pork joints which were turning on the huge spit. 
Saul quickly notes down any other doors and with a final nod and with gravy jug still in hand he heads back out to search the last few rooms. He passes the door leading outside to the privy and then leaving the gravy on a handy side table checks out the rooms at the end of the corridor which are located right at the back and near a discrete staircase which seems to lead to the barber shop above.
The first room is empty and is one of the private dining rooms mentioned by the barman, its rather elegantly decorated with a couple of plush velvet sofas lining the rooms shadowy sides, the polished dining table is surrounded by elegant chairs instead of benches rather risque paintings grace the thickly papered walls these paintings hint at what kind of ungodliness is expected to go on within these rooms. Saul shakes his head sadly gives the room one final quick visual sweep and seeing nothing of note leaves and walks quickly to the last room hoping to find some sign of the missing Dutchman and his salty friend.
The Doctor meanwhile was having a whale of a time and could be now seen running around the main room flicking a rolled and wetted tablecloth at the posteriors of the gaggle of men running ahead of him, there seemed to be a lot of giggling involved. The Doctor had managed to keep some focus though as he had managed to find out that Marytn had been in recently and was accompanied by a rather ragged looking fellow but that Martyn seemed to be more interested in talking to Doctor Brass and they seemed to be hitting it off famously one of the Doctors new chums mentioned that he had tried to join in with the conversation but it had quickly turned to talk about something called a distillation furnace and the like and so he had quickly become bored and made his excuses he also remembered the ragged fellow had looked somewhat lost, to be honest. The Doctor with a final flick of his soggy whip suddenly remembered Saul and overcome with guilt quickly apologized to his new friends and staggered off in search of his less fun but also less forgiving comrade.
Upon entering the final room Saul had seen a figure slumped in one of the padded high backed chairs, fearing that the man was just asleep Saul slowly approached one hand on his hatchet whilst a pithy excuse waited upon his lips if he woke the man. The excuse was unnecessary though as his eyes readjusted to the gloom of the room he could just make out the man's rough clothing and more importantly his lack of movement, the man's chest was still and no eyelids flickered. Saul taking a long sniff of the fishy odour which seemed to hang in the rooms still air murmured  "Well I guess you're the  fisherman everyone's been looking for" He leans over the body and quickly examines it discovering a single stab wound that went through the back of the chair and into Gregory's right side and from the amount of the still warm blood that soaked into the chair it looked like it pierced the poor mans liver. Saul rolled the body back into place and barely had time to step into the shadows at the sound of running feet which could be heard coming from the main room.  
The Doctor skidded into the doorless room took one look at the body slumped in the chair and for some reason yelled "Tag you're it" and then turning attempted to run back out of the room he instead crashed into the armoured form of Saul who had sidestepped into the doorway. "Doctor" growled Saul placing a hand onto his oddly excitable friend "I need you to sober up and fast" this demand was quickly reinforced with a sharp jab to the Doctors stomach which winded the somewhat surprised Doctor, but after vomiting rather copiously and cursing a lot he did seem to be more focused if somewhat resentful.
Saul's apology just consisted of him  pointing to Gregory and growling "I think I've found your missing fisherman but still I can see no sign of any Dutchman" The Doctor still casting a somewhat hurt look towards Saul had started his examination of the body noting down the signs of a life lived hard and at the mercy of the elements. He wiped his hands briefly down the man's shirt and coat, looking at the glittering flecks of silver now coating his palms agrees with Sauls assessment "Yes he does seem to match the description of poor Gregory doesn't he, but why kill him? he seemed to have been an ardent follower of Martyn"  He too now rolls the body onto its side and notes the wound "The poor bastard never saw it coming did he a mercy I suppose straight through the damned chair and into his liver,  it must have been a long thin blade, more of an assassin's tool than a soldiers" The Doctor checking Gregorys clothes finds a little loose change a fee odds and ends twine and the like and somewhat surprisingly a gold pound coin with the head of the fallen King Charles still clearly visible upon one side. Saul reached over the Doctors shoulder "Come on there is nothing you can do for him and the blood is still fresh so the Dutchman can't have gone too far and since he didn't get past us its the stairs to the shop I be thinking"  As they turned to leave they spotted two men watching from the open doorway "Oh shit" said someone and then the fight was on. The two men remained silent as they rushed into the room brandishing cutlery which was somewhat unnerving but Saul wasn't too distracted as he waded into his opponent slamming down his hatchet with frightening force. The fight was a brutal affair the silent men dodged and twisted avoiding the blows of the Party but landing many a slicing cut in return. The Doctor tried to hold off his fork wielding opponent with his smuggled in dagger and he eventually managed to plunge it into the man's shoulder but the man barely acknowledged it and instead stepped forward and grabbed the Doctor in a bear hug. Saul meanwhile had got the measure of his opponent and hacked into him from left to right giving the man no room to manoeuvre and leaving him open to Sauls finishing move which ended up lopping off his head. The Doctor meanwhile was still locked in a deadly wrestling match and from the look on the Doctors increasingly puce looking face, it was a fight he was loosing. Luckily Saul now finding himself free casually spun around the turn ended with a thunk as his hatchet thudded into the Doctors attackers spine ending his life quickly and quietly. The Doctor collapsed rubbing his bruised throat and trying to control his breathing "Come on Doctor someone is bound to have heard the ruckus, we have to leave" barely had these words escaped Saul when a scream split the air, turning the Party saw a serving lady looking into the room but before she could suck in another lungful of air the Party had moved into action and were barrelling past her and into the corridor beyond. 
They quickly pass through the chaos of the main room and after a quick discussion with the barman eased with coin and a lot of luck they had just managed to recover their weapons and had just managed to get back outside before the serving lady had managed to fight her way through the patrons and tell her boss that they were now three clients down.
The Party ran away quickly moved onto the house of Brass hoping to finally catch up with their prey. The Doctor lagged a little behind as he was somewhat busy trying to rub some foul smelling goo onto his bruised and battered throat but due to having to run at the same time most of the goo ended up all over the place.

The night was their friend and the managed to avoid any more entanglements, the cold and darkness having driven most people off the streets. So the slightly out of breath Party following the directions given by the drunken patrons of the club make it to the other doctors house the many and rather gaudy (According to the Thomas at least) signs attesting to this fact.
A low glow from a lantern can just be made out coming from the front upstairs window so after knocking and getting no reply the Party takes time out to have a discussion on the finer points of housebreaking, eventually, they just ended up kicking in the rear door and entering the house that way.
They quickly search the lower floor just to confirm that it's clear and then head upstairs the creaking wooden stairs making a mockery of the Doctors attempt at stealth. When they reached the upper landing there was another timeout as they now discussed marching order and eventually, the Doctor sighed and opened the door into the room where the light was coming from. The Doctor jumped back a little and looked at his hand which seemed to be covered in some kind of sticky white paste "Bugger" said the Doctor before swaying slightly and then throwing up "Saul I think I've been poisoned, and I'm guessing from its effects its arsenic" panicking he rushes into the room and finding it empty immediately started to rummage around on a what appeared to be a worktable. Meanwhile, Saul leaving the Doctor to find an antidote makes his way gingerly into the room and starts to very, very carefully search the room making sure his gloves are tightly on. The room is a bizarre mixture of foundry and apothecary, shelf after shelf groan under the weight of jars and jacks full of powders and chemicals a few have rather unpleasant things floating in them, a stuffed crocodile hangs somewhat forlornly down from the soot-blackened ceiling. The room is dominated by a furnace of some kind  the Doctor looking up from the worktable to Sauls questions pauses long enough to glance at the furnace and snaps "Its a distillation furnace Saul it's used to treat maladies of the mind apparently buts its complete nonsense" he returns to his pouring and shifting of various compounds as he makes a quick emetic.
Saul notes that the desk in the corner seems oddly messy with papers covering its top and spilling down onto the floor beneath. using his dagger to shift through the papers he sees that the drawers are open and it looks like at least one somewhat large book has been removed. Finding nothing else of note he looks at the sweaty and shaking Doctor who is chugging away at a jug with a somewhat manic look in his eyes he checks out the last room. This room seems to have been the bedroom of doctor Brass, it too is messy and shows signs that someone has grabbed a few items and hastily packed them before rushing out. The Doctor staggered in and leaned heavily on the door frame but whatever he was going to say was cut off by loud knocking and shouting it seems the militia wanted a doctor. The Party had to flee once more passing through a slightly shocked clock makers house in the attempt. They managed to avoid the patrols and as the sun was rising palely in the east they finally managed to reach the gated N.M.A compound the Doctor in search of medical help and Saul in search of Zeal to pass on the information that he had collected on Mallebench.


Mallebench was a local Norfolk lad from the Wash (Kings Lynn) and had studied at Cambridge but Saul wasn't able to find much else as Mallebench seems to have made strenuous attempts to muddy the waters concerning his past.

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Edited by Butters
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A five page thread now with over 100,000 words and clocking in shortly with 6,000 views. And no end in sight to this campaign. I've never seen anything like it. Very cool people, very cool.

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Once again please note these session reports are being written by one of the players, specifically the good Dr. Thomas Norton.

Driving back the Darkness with Faith and Fire.

The Doctor and Saul made it safely back to the Listing Sausage, the current headquarters of the New Model armies Yarmouth relief effort. After making it through several checkpoints and passing the long lines of people queuing up for food and work orders they make it into the taproom and into the busy hive of activity that seems to surround Zeal For the Lord Harrison these days.
They find him almost buried under parchment and having a heated discussion with a somewhat haggard looking engineer. When he sees Saul and the Doctor he silences the engineer with a curt "Just get it done, no more delays you understand" the engineer nods and turns to leave shaking his head a little. Harrison calls out to the man's retreating back "I will instruct Davidson to give you another twenty men and all the skilled metal workers we have, I can do no more we need those facilities up by the end of the week." He turns back to Saul and the Doctor "I was expecting you back sooner" he clears away some paperwork and leans forward "Take a seat and tell me everything" After catching Zeal up with recent events he looks angry and tired "Damnation can't I trust anyone? Must I do everything myself?" He pauses as expecting an answer that doesn't appear to be coming.
With a sigh he takes Saul's written report and hands it to a nervous looking clerk "File this in the orange section" he also hands the clerk a key and turning back to the somewhat chastised Party members he taps a leather book on his desk and after a pause he pulls out a sealed message tube "Saul take this and get yourself a horse you are going on another journey this time to......well the message will tell you where and what you need to do" he pulls out a purse which he tosses onto the table in front of Saul "Here's some travelling money and a chit for resupply, I suggest you say goodbye to the good Doctor now as I want you back on the road within the hour" Saul picks up the purse and the chit nods to the Doctor "Good luck Doctor I hope you catch up with that Dastard Brass, give my regards to the others" and with that he stands and leaves the taproom already calling out for directions to the stables. Zeals hooded eyes now focus fully on the Doctor who shudders a little under Zeals remorseless gaze "I am disappointed to hear that you allowed Master Anholt to escape and make contact with this Doctor Brass. Luckily for you, your comrades were able to pick up his trail and as we speak they should be running him to ground" he turns suddenly and calls out for Jonah "Jonah! bring that blasted fen man here, Clarkson or some such" while waiting for Jonah Zeal tells the Doctor what he wants him to do.
Jonah returns with a lanky elderly man who sported a rather impressive pot belly and after being told what the situation was he thinks for a while "Yes I think I can get this man in front of his mates, the old sawmill should do it" then the Doctor had several sacks thrown at him and was told to meet up with his comrades and to finish the job. He was then bundled down to a jetty and into Jeremy's boat.
Clarkson insisted that the Doctor call him by his first name which was Jeremy saying that Master Clarkson was what people called his dad. He seemed a pleasant enough chap but he was somewhat over-enthusiastic about the new Iron horses and the rumored self-impelled carriage of Sir John Gell and so he kept asking the Doctor if it was true that the Iron horses could get up to twenty-six miles an hour. The Doctor nodded and smiled when it felt right to do so but his mind was on other things the poison seemed to be arsenic and the antidote should have worked, sure he should still be feeling sick, weak and hollowed out but leaking purple fluid? Brass must have added something else to the arsenic something otherworldly. He needed to find the others and hunt this Brass down as time was running out, the Doctor could feel his insides twist and with a polite "Excuse me" to Jeremy he turned and spewed out a bubbling steaming mass of the lord knows what over the side of the boat. Jeremy seemed taken aback by this but only for a moment before asking the Doctor if he thought an Iron horse could go faster if painted red.
Eventually, Jeremy beached the boat near a collection of ramshackle wooden buildings. "Here you go Sir, the Anderson sawmill.....well what's left of it anyhow" he quickly helped the somewhat pale looking Doctor unload the sacks and the other various bags and boxes that the Doctor seemed to carry around with him these days. "Well, there you go Sir this is where most people travelling the fens camp so with any luck you should bump into them, especially if they ran into Crazy Ivan" and with that last odd comment he pushed off and started to row back towards Great Yarmouth and was soon was lost amongst the black reeds.
The Doctor started to set up camp and soon had a small fire happily blazing away the Doctor then arranged his gear around it, he rummaged around in his medical box and eventually pulled out a thin glass tube which had something thick and evil-smelling inside it. The Doctor sighed and pinching his nose closed he downed the contents in one and then rushed to the river bank where he again hurled long and hard and after some spluttering, he could be heard cursing Dr. Brass loudly and at some length. And this is how the other members of the Party eventually found him.
After a surprised but happy reunion they filled each other in on their various adventures, the others were startled to hear that Saul had returned and then disappointed to hear that Zeal had sent him off again but glad that the old bastard was still alive. The Doctor had just got some pottage on the boil so the sober members of the Party decided to grab something warm to eat before pressing on, Giulio excused himself and went for a lie down in the skiff and even Ralph needed a tonic before he was able to settle down to a bowl. Over the meal, they got down to businesses and started to ask Neb (the guide) some questions about the area and what kind of things were out there in the fens. Neb mentioned that the next nearest dry land was fairly close and it supported a house and a bit of farmland. The house seemed a likely destination for Brass and Martyn as the owner had decided that farming wasn't for him and so had moved to Yarmouth and now just rented it out to people who wanted some peace and quiet. Neb vaguely remembered that the last person to live there was some kind of writer, maybe a playwright of some kind.
The Party packed up and the Doctor shared out the extra supplies that he had brought with him and with Neb kicking the fire out they got back into his skiff waking Giulio in the process and waited for Neb to punt them over to this mysterious building.
It was a fairly short journey down a few dark and brown waterways but Giulio was having a bad time of it as it seems he had drunk rather too much in Duns and with an apologetic burp he fell back into a deep slumber. About an hour later the roof of a fairly substantial building could be made out above a ragged tree line and it seemed that someone was home as a thin line of smoke could be seen coming out of the building's chimney.
The skiff was beached and the Party with Neb following closely behind made their way towards the front of the building, the Doctor muttering something about Dr. Brass being a sneaky git peeled off to the left to swing around the back of the building. Suddenly one of the shutters on the upper floor flew open and a shot banged out narrowly missing Ralph. Neb cried out and scurried back to his skiff and the still snoring Italian whilst Wilhelm and Ralph picked up the pace and charged towards the house seeking cover under the building's porch. Wilhelm slamming against the wall started to rummage around in his bag finally pulling out an oil flask and then an empty wine bottle smiling at Ralph's questioning look he quickly poured some of the oil into the wine bottle and the rest onto his handkerchief which he then pushed halfway down the bottles neck. Still grinning madly he started to set spark against it the handkerchief smoldered briefly before bursting alight. He then quickly hurled it up and over into the open window above "See my Englander friend now we have a distraction ja"
As thick black smoke started to pour out of the upstairs window Ralph turned to the German Witchfinder "Hey did you see how many people were up there when you tossed that bottle?" the German replied "Nein" Ralph slowly smiled and rolled his shoulders "Nine you say, well that means you'll only be dealing with three then, that sound's about fair" leaving a slightly confused German in his wake he then kicked the door in and stormed inside.
The ground floor was dusty and had a strong smell of damp, the few pieces of furniture that could seen were covered in heavy sheets. Wilhelm and Ralph quickly checked the few downstairs rooms and met back up at the staircase. Wilhelm, his head cocked to one side turned to Ralph "Our friends seem to be oddly quiet, let's change that shall we" and smiling he thumbed back the hammers on his ornate donderbus and begins to climb upwards.
Just as they made the landing there is a sudden burst of noise and activity which comes from the shooter's room the house is suddenly filled with the sound of heavy furniture being dragged across a wooden floor. Ralph rushes the door but bounces off, the door barely moving. He shakes himself and glancing back to make sure Wilhelm was covering him he calls out to whoever is in the room "Open up in the name of Zeal for the lord Harrison the Scoutmaster general" a shot rings out and zips through the closed door "Right, if that's how you want it" he pulls out his axe and starts to hack away at the door. There is some noise from beyond the door but its only the sounds of movement no demands or pleas are made and Ralph's axe continues to bite into the wooden door wrenching great splinters out of it. It doesn't take him too long to make a large hole in the door and after one final blow they wait and then wait a little longer but no cry or shot rings out so Ralph with a shrug steps up to the side of the door and slowly turns to peek into the room beyond. He can now see the heavy oak chest that is still blocking the door but nothing else as the room is shrouded in darkness and smoke puzzled he turns to Wilhelm but as he turns his head he suddenly notices a faint glow coming from the furthest corner and illuminated by this light a shadowy outline of a figure can now be seen. He tries to duck back but its too late a loud bang rings out as the figure fires his matchlock and the lead ball tears into Ralph's face causing him to yell out in pain and stagger back almost falling down the stairs. His hands clutch his head, his eyes wide in shock and a bloody torrent starts to flow from between his fingers. Wilhelm cried "Leck mich!" and swung around and shoving his Donderbus forward drops the hammers BOOM! the air is rent with a spray of tiny lead balls which smashed into the room ripping apart the walls and causing a spray of plaster powder to obscure almost everything within four meters. Wilhelm ducked back and dropping his Donderbus reached for a pistol "Herr Doctor get your verbrannt up here you fauler Hund".
The Doctor had been hiding behind the outhouse his pistol aimed squarely at the back door whilst the others had stormed the front. Hearing the boom of Wilhelms gun he had started to curse "Damn sausage smelling besbawler, I need Brass alive" he then hears the German call out for him and so he curses a bit more but moves around to the front and cautiously enters and after calling out heads upstairs.
He sees Ralph on the floor moaning quietly to himself in a pool of ever-expanding blood and Wilhelm hard up against the wall next to a severely damaged door. The Doctor hisses out a few questions and the German fills him in as the Doctor drags the heavy bulk of Ralph towards him and away from the ruined door. The Doctor begins to treat Ralph's wreaked face the lead ball had pierced his right cheek and exited out the left, taking a few teeth with it. The force of the shot had also caused his lower jaw to become badly dislocated and even as tough as Ralph was his injuries meant he was out of the fight.
The Doctor after tidying away his instruments and giving Ralph a little bottle of opium mixed with wine turned to Wilhelm "Well what are you waiting for? If that's Doctor Brass in there and you've killed him there will be hell to pay" the Doctors threat hangs heavy in the air much like the thick black smoke which continues to billow out of the room. Wilhelm shrugging busied himself with placing his hat on top of his pistols barrel he then raised it slowly up past the splintered hole in the door, nothing happened no shot or cry rang out so he carefully lowered the pistol and peeked in. He finally saw the shooter he was slumped back against the wall under the smoke and he was clearly dead as Wilhelm's Donderbus had done terrible damage to the man at such close quarters. He quickly scanned the room and seeing only the one person begins to clamber into the room after replacing his hat and tying a cloth over his face "Herr Norton was this Doctor Brass like you? the Doctor coughing loudly now angrily calls back "What are you on about man?... yes Doctor Brass is a follower of the great Paracelsus like myself, why?" the German having kicked away the shooters matchlock and throwing his cloak over the smouldering oil called back over his shoulder "No I meant did he dress like a colour blind peacock, but never mind I doubt this man is your Doctor Brass" the Doctor finally making his way past the blocked door and into the room straightens himself up and looks down to the body and lets out a huge breath "Oh thank the Lord its just some peasant" Wilhelm having done his best to clear the smoke had started to search the body, finding only a few pennies and some general tat in the mans pockets he looks up and into the Doctors obviously relieved face "Nothing to say who this man was or why he decided to shoot us. And I thought you were supposed to be the caring type Herr Doctor?" The Doctor was still struggling to regain his composure and snapped back "I tell you what Herr Wilhelm I will poison you and then we shall see how blasted jolly you are, if you had killed Brass with your reckless behavior then you would have done for me as well." Wilhelm apologizes but then spoils it by reminding the Doctor that they are at war with the forces of Satan himself and that sacrifices need to be made.
After finishing their check of the room which appeared to be a writers study of some sort and clearing away the last of the burning paper and oil the Party were at something of a loss of what to do next, so Ralph was taken downstairs and into the kitchen where the Doctor made him as comfortable as possible whilst Wilhelm went outside to check on Giulio and to ask Neb if he knew the stranger upstairs.
Giulio was still fast asleep in the bottom of the skiff his thumb wedged firmly between his lips whilst Neb was found huddled behind one of the scrawny trees. Wilhelm called out to him "Hello Neb it is quite safe now I assure you, can you come into the house now and have a look at this man as he seems to be dressed much like you?" Neb gripping his knife tightly in one hand slowly walked towards the house keeping a wary eye on the windows.
There then followed for Neb a horrifying encounter with a now late friend as he was able to identify the shooter as one Steven Dunlap a fellow guide who had recently been employed to take a couple of gentleman out into the Fens to look at some property. Neb couldn't answer the Parties question as to why Steven had decided to hole up in this house and fire upon them, especially since he should have recognized him at least, this fact understandably irked Neb somewhat.
The Party rested and the Doctor wasted a few minutes searching through the remaining scorched paperwork in the room but it all seemed to be pre-war plays and rather risque ones at that, this matched up with what Neb had said earlier about the last renter being a playwright of some kind. The trail had gone dead, it seemed that Steven had been left behind as a means of slowing down any pursuit he had been cast aside much like the fisherman Coster.
Wilhelm wasn't to be dissuaded though and asking Neb a few more probing questions went back outside and started to go over the sparse grass at the back paying particular attention to the area where Neb said a small skiff was normally tied up, Ralph his head tightly bandaged and awkwardly sipping on the wine given to him by the Doctor was feeling oddly contented as he walked outside to see what the Witchfinder was up to. "Mmmumph" went Ralph which somewhat startled the concentrating Witchfinder who quickly realised that Ralph was perhaps a little poppy happy and smiling patted him on the back "You should not try to speak my friend, Herr Doctor will be most upset with you I'm thinking if you redislocate your jaw nien" pointing to a small patch of flattened grass and then to a few faint marks in the muddy bank near the high water mark he continued "It seems we are after a most clever of foes but they are not clever enough to escape one such as I" he paused and tapped his nose thoughtfully before continuing "See those marks Ralph they have tried to obscure their actions but always something is left for those who who have eyes to see and I am thinking that are quarry has doubled back to the hamlet of Duns or even back to Yarmouth, quickly get the Doctor and Neb we must press on while there is still a chance"
So soon the Party was packed up and back together in Nebs somewhat overcrowded skiff (The Italian was still fast asleep and even worse was now occasionally sleep singing some terrible opera of some kind and even a few none too gentle kicks could stop him for long) Neb realising the need for urgency told the Party of another more direct way back to the hamlet of Duns. It was a lot more dangerous though as the waterway was constricted in places which caused the current to change speed suddenly and sometimes dramatically there was also a couple of nasty eddies that could easily tip a skiff over if you were unwary but if they had gone that way it would explain why they hadn't seen Anholt or Brass. With the Party forewarned Neb punts along heading westwards before sharply turning into an inlet and heading back towards Dun. The water is as Neb had said treacherous and deadly, the Party has to clear a path through dense overgrowth whilst Neb fought the current keeping the skiff moving and avoiding the numerous black oily stumps that reared out of the river threatening to smash the skiff to pieces. Wilhelm pointed out a few torn pieces of cloth snagged by one of the numerous thorny vines which covered the banks on both sides "It seems I was right gentleman it looks like someone has indeed been this way recently, well done Neb"
After an hour of hard work the sweating Party came out into a fairly tranquil pool, the watercourse flowed into and around it continuing onwards towards the hamlet. Neb breathing heavily pointed up to the nearby bank "Strange I would have thought we would be seeing Van Cosser by now he has a farm over yonder" Ralph mumbled something and Neb not missing a beat replies "Well no I didn't expect him to be waiting for us but you see he has a couple of pretty decent working dogs and they bark up a storm when anyone's around normally, and I can't hear nothing can you?" Neb lands the skiff onto the nearby bank "What are you doing Neb the hamlets still a ways off we haven't time to make any house calls" asked the Doctor as Neb jumped into the shallow water and began to climb up the bank. Neb now on firmer ground turned back and said "I think you better come with me as you see Van Cosser owns that old Inn at Duns and I remember hearing that those two friends of yours were asking questions about it, so I am thinking that they may have paid him a visit since they were passing anyhow." with little option the Party minus the still sleeping Italian jump out and scrabble up after Neb.
The small farmstead is quiet and deserted looking, the front door is open and there is a faint lingering smell of cooked food coming from within. The Party draw their weapons and slowly circle the building and when ready Ralph gives Neb the nod and he calls out to the house, minutes pass and there is still no reply so the Party move into the house watching and ready for an ambush but nothing the house is empty and the table has been set a now cold plate of food sits on the table half eaten it seems as Van Cosser had been interrupted by something and had gone out to investigate. The odd thing was there was no sign of a struggle anywhere everything was in its place and intact. The two dogs were found tied up around the back and they seemed to be in a deep sleep and it was only with some difficulty that Neb was able to rouse them. There was a brief discussion on what to do next as Ralph and the Doctor (Mainly the Doctor) explained to Neb and Wilhelm that this indeed seemed to be the work of Anholt as he seemed to have the power to control people and bend them to his will this would explain the lack of struggle and indeed the strange behaviour of the dogs, time was running out they needed to get to Dun as soon as possible. Wilhelm thought it would be handy to take the dogs along as they would know their master's scent and be able to find him and surely wherever Van Cosser was Anholt and Brass couldn't be that far behind. So the dogs were thrown on top of Italian and it was back into the skiff and off back to Dun hopefully in time to catch up with the accursed pair.
The last part of the journey passed quietly each Party member hoping that they would finally catch up with Anholt and stop whatever he was up to before it was too late but they were all tired, cold, injured and hungry and did not relish having to chase Anholt again. Ralph and Wilhelm after initially suffering from a few nasty bites seemed to have become fast friends with the dogs, especially Ralph who seemed to be more or less lucid now even though he was still taking the occasional sip from the laudanum bottle.
As the hamlet of Duns finally came into view the weather was becoming cold and the dark clouds hinted of a coming storm, the skiff bumped into the jetty and a worried looking Neb quickly tied it up as the Party climbed out and onto the wooden jetty. Wilhelm looked around slowly and swung his Donderbus into the ready position "This place has changed, there is evil here" everybody could feel the ominous presence of something monstrous and inhuman. The fact that apart from a strange low buzz that was almost at the edge of hearing nothing else could be heard coming from the hamlet, no children crying, no people talking nothing apart from this buzzing that seemed to worm its way into the brain and put peoples teeth on edge. The Party quickly moved along the jetty trying to get onto the firmer ground and as Wilhelm stepped onto the bank a small group of villagers suddenly appeared from around the corner of a nearby building. The villagers all shared the same blank expression and moved as one they also seemed to be armed with a variety of makeshift weapons. The Doctor called out to them mentioning Anholt and Xaxus they responded to his questions by crying out in one voice "Those who do not share the ideas of the one should not mention his name" their voices weirdly overlapping each other and with a strange echo as if they were merely repeating the words said by another mere seconds beforehand.
The fight is brutal and bloody but the result is a foregone conclusion the villagers display a unusual tolerance to pain but they are not soldiers and they are facing brutal men who are armed and armoured for war. The Villagers are soon cut down and in one particular case cut apart the last one standing was finally brought down by the dogs and Ralph's axe . The Party catch their breath and tend to the few cuts and bruises picked up in the skirmish and are somewhat shocked when an anguished cry rings out spinning around with weapons drawn they see Neb on his knees cradling the head of one of the dead villagers, he looks up at the Party his face pale and he sobs "Why did they have to die? why did my friends attack us?" he suddenly leaps up a knife gripped in his hand. He points the shaking blade at the Party and screams "You, tell me now why are my friends dead, why are they attacking us?" The Doctor lowers his sword and slowly walks towards the trembling Neb"I am sorry that this had to happen but there is evil afoot and we are here to stop it." the Doctor reaches out a steadying hand "The Devil himself is here Neb, you can see that can't you?.......he has corrupted your friends as hard as it is to understand now we have granted them peace and they are now safe with the Lord" he places his hand onto Nebs and slowly pushes down the knife. They stand there for some moments in an awkward silence, then Neb asks "Can you hear that?..... a buzzing.....a humming? an Idea!" his eyes roll back into his head and he starts to stumble of towards the abandoned Inn the Doctor shocked steps back but then he to hears the previously low buzz much louder and he then finally understands EVERYTHING and he too stumbles after Neb. The other members of the Party look questioning at each other and then they to hear the buzzing grow in volume but it stays as a buzzing noise for them, they shake their heads as if trying to clear them and thin trickles of blood begin to flow from their eyes and noses but they resist and remain in control of themselves. Wilhelm smiles and spits onto the floor "It seems the Devil is singing for our souls Ralph but he sings out of tune, too low I think, I suggest we make him a Castrato" and with that he heads towards the old Inn swiftly followed by Ralph and the yelping dogs. They walk slowly through the large double doors and are confronted by a strange vista, the room is largely empty a few broken pieces of furniture and barrels have been pushed to the rooms edges Neb and the Doctor are sitting down in the middle of the room facing a
strange and wondrous contraption. Resting awkwardly upon stacked chairs sat a large copper bell which sprouted a variety of clockwork gears and sweating pipework which belched steam and strange coloured vapours. Sitting underneath this unholy thing was Martyn Anholt his face partially obscured by whirring cogs and gears. The buzzing seemed to be coming from Martyn and somehow amplified and strengthened by the bell. Ralph and Wilhelm crossed over the room their eyes everywhere and weapons drawn. Suddenly a figure appeared from behind the device he was muttering to himself and adjusting various clockwork parts "Yes, yes I understand I need to add a valve here and a Measunder and Meabul there" he completely ignores the approaching men so engrossed is he in his task. Ralph walks past the sitting figures of the Doctor and Neb and approaches the bell for a moment the buzzing reaches a terrible volume and Ralph and Wilhelm stagger and scream out in agony, blood begins pouring from their eyes, ears and noses Ralph screams a cry of pure rage and brings his deadly axe down cleaving through the thin copper of the bell and down into the head of Martyn.
There is a pause and then an explosion of sorts as a great pressure wave shoots out from the rent in the bell throwing Ralph across the room and knocking everybody else down. After several moments people begin to stir Wilhelm is one of the first up and he quickly checks Neb and the Doctor and seeing that they are still alive quickly manacles them muttering something about it better to be safe than sorry Ralph staggers up swaying slightly his terrible axe still gripped tightly in his meaty fists he coughs and starts to move behind the ruined bell, kicking aside piles of now broken cogs and gears he pulls a twisted sheet of copper aside revealing the stirring body of Doctor Brass. Brass opens one bloodshot eye and seeing Ralph begins to wail "You fool don't you understand the Idea was perfect and we would have been made perfect in his image" the last words echoed by the now conscious Doctor and Neb but from them it is staggered and trails off as if they are unsure what they were talking about. Ralph leans into Brass and pokes him sharply in the chest and says "Mynbgsdhnph" which shuts Brass up but leaves him looking somewhat confused. Wilhelm coming up behind Ralph leans around his bulk and smiling translates for Ralph "I think he says you're buggered mate"
The Doctor still manacled suddenly leaps up and barges past the two stunned men, grabbing Brass by the throat spraying spittle into his face as he screams "Give me the antidote you fucker" he starts to bounce Brass's head of the floor to reinforce the depth of his feeling. The other two have to pull him off and restrain him. Brass groggily reaches into a pocket and pulls out a thin glass tube which is sealed with a wax bung "The antidote is in here Martyn made a wondrous concoction it was arsenic based but oh so much more he was a gifted apothecary." the Doctor snatched the vial from Brass and with a muttered curse downed it in one coughing loudly as the liquid burned its way down. Brass continued "You must understand you are a Doctor a man like myself, a follower of Von Hohenheim you must understand it was all done for science, Xaxus could have told me everything that I needed to make my distillation furnace work and allowed me to drive away the demons that cause madness, say you understand Doctor? it was nothing personal you simply could not be allowed to interfere" The Doctor appearing calm now shrugs off Ralph's grip and walks towards the kneeling Brass "I see Doctor but I do not understand what was Xaxus doing under your contraption? " Brass looks relieved "It was amazing he saw me at that.....well lets just say club and knew all about my work he revealed to me the idea and how I could play my part in spreading the good news, you see my design with some adjustments could not only drive away the miasmas of madness but also boost his call bringing more and more people into his loving embrace, the more people who came to know the Idea the stronger the call would become and soon the whole commonwealth would be united as one in his name." as he talked he became more energised more strident Wilhelm cut him off "Ah good Doctor Brass please be telling me did you meet up with anybody else on your travels? I believe we have met Mr Dunlap and I'm guessing one of the cooling bodies outside is Mr Von Cosser" Brass stumbled at this interruption but answered the with finder "No we had work to do and time was pressing, when the furnace was ready we would soon have all the companions we would need, why do you ask?" the Witchfinder merely nodded and said rather cryptically "Oh just a matter of book keeping" the Doctor pulled out his reloaded pistol and placed its barrel between Brass's eyes the now shocked Brass struggled to move away but he had no where to go Doctor Norton asked one final odd question "Oh by the way do you know a man called Mallebeench by any chance?" Brass a look of desperate hope in his eyes looks around at the others but seeing no clue there stutters a drawn out Nooooo and dies as his brains are blown across the wall of the abandoned Inn. The Doctor lowering his pistol merely says "Pity" and walks away to see what he could do for Nep.
The Party are now left with a terrible decision they are under orders to keep this whole affair quiet the new Commonwealth can't afford yet to make enemies of their fellow Protestants the Dutch. So everything must disappear, the Anholts never made it off that ship and no one can be in a position to say otherwise. So they collect all the bodies and place them into the Black Rooster and then they start to fill it with brushwood and any other flammables they can find. The Distillation furnace is further smashed apart, Brass and Martyn are also added to the pile of villagers in the Rooster. And when all is done they stand by the shore and Nebs skiff as darkness descends they light their crude torches and cast them into the prepared buildings and slowly oh so slowly the fires grow and spread finally engulfing the whole squalid hamlet of Duns. Neb with tears in his eyes and still struggling to cope with recent events turns to the Party as his home and friends burns around him "What now? what will b...." he never gets to finish his question as Giulio suddenly appears from out of the skiff and thrusts his sword into Nebs throat yelling "I got the bastard, think you can outwit me do you?" he then bows at the shocked Party farts and then falls into the water. Neb meanwhile with a look of shocked betrayal upon his face gurgles, falls to the floor and dies.
Wilhelm finally turns to the others and with a shrug says "Well we were told no witness after all. Now lets get the Italian out of the water before he drowns, Neb into the fire before it cools and then gentleman let us get out of the thrice damned marsh.

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On 01/03/2018 at 1:10 AM, jagerfury said:

Once again please note these session reports are being written by one of the players, specifically the good Dr. Thomas Norton.

You forgot to add this at the end,

Dr. Thomas Norton, A ruggedly handsome and heroic chirurgeon, a man of towering intellect and yet still so incredibly modest and humble. Surgery hours 11:00 am to 4 pm reasonable rates and a 5% discount to member of the N.M.A.

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For the wages of sin is death
Part One

The Party spends several days resting and catching up with the news from Yarmouth and beyond, the peace treaty seems to be holding and more and more people are reporting to the N.M.A compound to sign up for work details. And there was even more good news as it seems that a few more supply convoys had made it into the town in the Parties absence. The largest has arrived only hours before and had been sent from London by Cromwell himself. Food was still sparse but at least most people now got at least one hot meal a day and the extra troops helped with the issue of security, not only in the town itself but also the surrounding countryside where some people had turned to brigandship to survive, robbing and killing their neighbours just for a little extra food. There were also hard to diminish rumors of cannibalism in some of the more remote villages, it was said that Cantley has a lot fewer residents now and not all of them died in the ice or in that last desperate search for the rumored pot of gold that's guarded by the Gnomes at Callow pit. So with the increase in security and food the town of Great Yarmouth was slowly returning, it may never be the same again but homes were being rebuilt and the first few fishing boats had been patched up and were almost ready to head out and start bringing in that much needed extra source of food.
Far to quickly the break was over and the still-battered Party began to assemble their equipment, blades were sharpened, pistols and muskets cleaned and tested and stores ordered and assembled into the two hastily converted row boats which now sported crude skis attached to the sides of their hulls. These skies lifted the boats just off the ground so they could be dragged over the ice and snow, if with some difficulty. The Party were also introduced to the men that would be assisting them in their destructive endeavors, they were from Sir Bernard de Gommes Companie of Pioneers & Fireworkers so not only were they skilled in explosives but also well used to the backbreaking demands of a Pioneer. The twenty-nine men were led by a tall gaunt man whose face on the left side was a mess of red scar tissue and the eye whilst still, there was just a milky orb. Noticing the stunned expressions of the Party and Giulio's more worried one the man nodded slightly and with a wet rasp of a voice introduced himself as Sergeant Francis Sherfield "Do not be fretting Sirs" he gestured to his face "This was no fault of mine, my hands are steady and my work is true" he coughs and spits onto the floor then raises his hands "See I've all my fingers still, the face is down to some dastard who threw a grenade at me during the siege of Bristol" he smiles a gap toothed grin and continued "He won't be doing that again as he accidentally impaled himself on my sword shortly afterwards, so rest assured I knows my business, Now these fine men with me might be rogues and rascals but they are solid and dependable and will serve you well.......in whatever it is that needs doing" he coughs and again spits onto the floor then almost as if remembering that he was a red coat straightens up and salutes.
The Party is somewhat staggered by the whole thing but they must admit the men do look to be in good health and well provisioned for the task ahead. The Doctor turns to Ralph and makes his excuses to leave as it seems he had something to pick up from the Mechanical Preacher that had accompanied the recently repaired Charity and the company from the Clockwork Regiment.
Zeal for the lord Harrison stepped out of the Listing Sausage and with his gaggle of advisers, runners, and local bigwigs already in tow like some kind of slightly confused flock of sheep and walked across the courtyard towards the Party and the pioneers. Seeing Sergeant Sherfield he sighs a little but maintains his stern expression, he quickly scans the yard and noticing the Doctors absence makes a brief inquiry and then nodding steps back and addresses the men. "I am glad that Sir Bernard de Gomme was able to spare some of his best men for I am sure you will be tested during the course of this mission but keep true to your faith and follow the orders of these men and you will do yourself and your country proud. Know this, you will be doing the Lords work in these next few days and in doing so you will be an integral part of his plan, Sergeant Sherfield will lead the first section of men whilst the newly promoted Sergeant Ralph Norton," he points to a horrifically gurning Ralph his chest swelling with pride (Doctor Owen “Hacksaw” French had worked wonders but Ralph's face was still a purple and black mess of scar tissue and bruising) "Here will lead the other fifteen men, and as you can see he is already keeping up the noble tradition of Sergeants in the service of Sir Bernard de Gomme" the men smile and a few even laugh, a slight smile briefly flutters across Zeal's normally stern features "I know some of you are curious to know why we are sending you with these men and to the island that has so recently appeared off the coast but for operational reasons all I can tell you is this, you will be taken to several locations on the island where you will assist these gentlemen in the destruction of certain objects. These objects must be completely removed by fire or powder and afterwards you will report back to me and only me and if successful you will be rewarded for your service, it just remains for me to wish you well and to remind you that you are doing Gods work" he then clicks his fingers and one of his clerks rushes forwards and hands Sherfield a bundle of orders. Another clerk heads over to Ralph and hands him yet another bundle of orders these closed with the personal wax seal of Harrison. The clerk takes a few steps away mutters something and then walks back to Ralph and fishes out of a pocket a length of orange fabric and handing it over explains that it's his sash he also hands over a length of lace and pointing to Ralph's somewhat battered hat says "Erm the lace is meant to go on your hat sir to denote that you are a man of rank, but you might want to get a slightly less........ crap looking hat first, otherwise this lace is going to look pretty silly
Once all is ready and the Doctor has returned from his errand carrying yet another bag this one strangle thin the group heads out onto the frozen sea and the creaking ice. They make pretty good progress at first but the further they get from the shore the Ice becomes more unstable and their path becomes less direct as they have to sweep around the weaker sections. After several hours they pass the Juliana, The Spanish ship is being slowly crushed by the now moving ice and it's no longer a safe place to rest so giving it a wide berth they pass by, keeping a wary eye on the below. The group continues to travel onwards towards the island tired and cold but too scared to make camp on the thinning ice.
They almost make it to the islands sandy black beach without any further incident but one of the columns point man cries out "Sergeant Norton, riders approaching" Ralph halts the column and telling the others that they should leave things to him he strides out to the front to intercept the riders.
As they get closer Ralph recognizes them as Paladins of the Fall he hails them and takes a step back looking up he squints and gasps as he notices that high above the Paladins and their strange mounts a strange box somehow floated above them crackling with a strange low growl as it twisted and turned in unseen winds.
Ralph took a deep breath to steady his nerves and hailed the Paladins again the Paladins ride closer before they reign in their strange riding beasts and looking down at Ralph tell him to let them pass as their weary vigil is over.
Ralph swiftly spins on his heels and gives Sergeant Sherfield the signal to fire, Sherfield shrugs and looks a little confused but then in a loud strong voice bellows "Attention! Column will form line " and the men begin the maneuver into line with much stamping of feet which was a bit of a worry considering the ice. Seeing the armed men spreading out in front of them the Paladins speak to Ralph again in their strange crackling monotone "Will you not let us pass? our long weary vigil is over and we only seek somewhere to live out the last of our days in peace" Ralph looking a little embarrassed and worried replies as he reaches for his hatchets "You can not leave the Island there is no rest for you anywhere else" The Paladins look at each other and start to sing a weird high pitched and undulating song which causes those who hear it discomfort, the Paladin nearest Ralph speaks for the final time "Our brother was right we were foolish to hope we could trust these pale beings" and pulling out his double bladed pole-arm spurs his mount into a charge closely followed by the other rider who also pulls out a similarly deadly blade.
Hurtling towards Ralph with surprising speed who with a choked scream throws his hatchets at the oncoming riders determined to sell his life dearly, one hatchet thunks into one of the beasts causing it to swerve to the left with a grunt of pain thus narrowly avoiding it from riding Ralph down and then the Paladins are past a stunned Ralph and into the men beyond who desperately bring their just loaded muskets to bare, Sherfield cries out Aim and Fire all in one breath and twenty nine muskets bang out and the increasingly small gap between them and the riders is filled with lead and the occasional ramrod. The Paladins continue to sing as the musket balls slam into them and their beasts, their ornate armour crumpling and splitting asunder from the sheer violence of the volley. One Paladin is thrown by his beast as with an oddly human scream it collapses a yellowish liquid flowing from its numerous wound's the Paladin rolls and with a leap he sweeps his blade in a wide deadly arc which luckily misses the men, only slicing into the air but causing the nearest men to take a step back. The Other Paladin was about to slam into the line but Sherfield proved he was no fool and had placed himself just in front of the line and in the Paladins way and with a grim smile on his scarred face he lowers his symbol of rank and his Spontoon plunges into the last beasts breast killing it instantly causing the last Paladin to be hurled from its back to land with crushing force onto the ice. The men nearest don't give him a chance and without orders flip their still smoking muskets over and then down go the heavy musket stocks into the body of the still struggling Paladin, smashing into him over and over again cracking armour and bone.
Sherfield pauses lights his pipe and then walks slowly over to the men "Enough" he then drags off one of the men "I said ENOUGH! Salter you break that fecking musket and it's coming out of your wages" the men with deep ragged breaths step back forming a loose circle which has a smashed and somewhat flat Paladin in its center.
The Party leaves Ralph to explain to the men what the hell had just happened and from what little was overheard it seemed he was going down the tried and trusted devil/demon route. The Doctor and Guilio started to examine the Paladins, carefully removing their rent and bloody armour to expose their strange greyish flesh beneath. It was clear that they were far from human their eyes were golden globes, their fingers ended with golden nails, and their skin was tightly drawn across their gaunt bodies the Doctor also found evidence of surgery pointing out to Guilio the stitch marks which faintly crisscrossed the Paladins bodies.
Whilst the Doctor and Guilio tried to figure out what the Paladins really were Ralph and Sherfield had managed to calm the men down and was letting the demon and the Mongolian (Don't ask) explanations sink in.
Wilhelm meanwhile was also busy he had grabbed a small cask of black powder from the boat and had headed off to the islands black volcanic beach where he started sprinkling a healthy amount of the powder onto the islands sandy beach. Nodding to himself he then walks back over to the chatting men and has a quick chat with a couple of them, he makes some strange bird noises and flaps his arms weirdly and two of the men finally push past him and head off towards the beasts with a grinning Wilhelm following swiftly behind. All three then start to drag the strange beasts towards the beach and onto the black powder, the beasts are piled together and Wilhelm then tips a lot more powder onto them and then ordering the men back he continues to pour a thin line of powder out as he walks back towards the ice, Looking around and judging that the distance was good enough he replaces the casks cork and making sure it was clear of any loose powder replaces it back into the boat.
With a large grin he then places his unloaded Donderbus down close to the line of powder and gives spark, the powder hisses a bit as it becomes damp from the ice but it then suddenly it takes and with a spluttering fizz a flame races towards the beach and the pile of beasts. When it strikes the greater quantity of powder there is a mighty whoosh as the powder ignites and very quickly the beasts are engulfed in a raging inferno.
Wilhelm then turns and calls out to the Doctor and Guilio "Gentleman if you would be so kind to finish your examinations and let us return these demons to the fires of hell where they belong" The Doctor stands up and nods, the Paladins are swiftly dragged to the now blazing pyre and with a great cheer and with the singing of Psalm 91 the Paladins are thrown into the fire to rejoin their mounts for the final journey. With the strange Paladins blazing away and with things looking quiet for the moment Ralph left Sherfield to get the men back into column for the march inland and he went off to collect his other hatchet from the ice having already pulled his other one out of the beast. The others fell into a somewhat heated discussion about the recent events, the Doctor, in particular, seemed upset saying that the Paladins could have been pointed in the direction of France at least after all the original one had seemed a decent enough chap. The men were hustled into a marching column and Private William Frank who had suffered a nasty cut to the chest was called out by the now returned Ralph "Son, I need you to go back to the Listing Sausage and tell the Scoutmaster that he needs to send patrols out along the coast, tell him that er.....people are leaving the island and heading to England. Tell him we have stopped a couple of Paladins from making the crossing but there is no way of telling what has already made it over.
He quickly scribbles out a note and hands it to Franks explaining that it would get him past any patrols and into the Listing Sausage but placing a meaty paw onto Private Franks shoulder he growls "Now lad you are only to report to the Scoutmaster himself the report is for his ears only, understand?" Private Frank nods and taking a deep breath turns and starts to walk towards Great Yarmouth. The men are brought back into marching columns and the slack is taken up on the sled boats "The men are ready and awaiting orders" Ralph casting one last look at Franks nods and orders the men forward past the still blazing pyre and towards the island's jungle.
It seems that things have changed since they were last here the weather was no longer wet and humid but much like the weather in Great Yarmouth and the cold seems to have had a detrimental effect on the foliage as it was no longer lush and vibrant but grey and brittle and whilst this made clearing a path through the jungle easier it was still an ill omen. It was several hours of back-breaking work to drag the sled boats over the uneven ground towards the Pinnacles the men having to take regular water breaks to catch their breath all the while the CL.U.Ber's kept a wary eye on the jungle and the darkness beyond watching for any signs of an ambush or worse but soon enough the two towers could be seen looming through the trees ahead.
With one last effort the sledge boats were dragged to the base of the tower and Ralph gave the order to halt and to make camp and with an audible sigh of relief the men dropped the ropes and started to build a basic camp and soon the smell of bacon and peas was wafting around the nearby jungle from the men's small cooking fires.
Ralph and the CL.U.Ber's maintained a loose guard around the camp and allowed the men to rest for soon they would need their strength again both their physical and spiritual. After half an hour had past Sergeant Sherfield was called over and spent the next fifteen minutes with the CL.U.Ber's getting a plan of action nailed down, the men would be split into small working groups and tasked with the jobs that needed doing from guarding the camp to bringing the supplies up to where they were needed as well as the men needed to actually demolish the heathen lies that adorned the towers. Sergeant Sherfield and his chosen men would be in charge of destroying the monolith via blasting so all that it remained to do was for someone to scout the towers before the work could begin. So two soldiers were called out and told to get their light kit together as they were the lucky ones who would be going in first. The men armed with several Wheelock pistols which hung down from a wide leather belt and with sword and dagger in hand stepped into the tower of the monolith and were soon lost to the darkness within. The men left behind were kept busy though as supplies needed to be unloaded from the boats and soon plates were cleared away all but one fire was put out and the men were back in line in uniform and armed with the tools they would need for the tasks ahead. After a somewhat tense thirty minutes the scouts reappeared and reported that the towers were clear, the bodies of a man and a woman had been found and there were signs that someone had set a large fire on the ground floor recently but there was no sign of life. Ralph asked about the monolith whilst the others carefully watched the scouts reactions, the monolith was still there but from their report, it didn't seem to have done anything weird. The CL.U.Ber's were happy that all seemed well and the order was given to start work. It was early evening by the time work started and the shadows were drawing in as the sounds of pick and hammer rang out across the still silent jungle there was even the occasional bang as several charges boomed out destroying any particularly hard to demolish murals.
The work continued through the early part of the night until all but the monolith was naught but rubble and dust, the CL.UBer's kept a close eye on the men as they worked looking for any sign of possession or deviancy the Doctor, in fact, got the men singing as he thought it would not only help with the work but act as some kind of early warning as if a man suddenly stopped singing and seemed a little confused he could be whisked away and if necessary dealt with before he started to spread blasphemy. So soon the once quiet jungle rang to not only the sounds of demolition but to the strains of the Collier rant,
As me an' me marra was gannin' to wark, We met wi' the devil, it was I' the dark; Aw up wi' mi pick, it being I' the neet, Aw knock't off his horns, likewise his club-feet.
Foller the horses, Johnny me laddie, Foller them through, me canny lad, oh! Foller the horses, Johnny me laddie, Oh lad lye away, me canny lad, oh!
The work continued till all but the monolith was naught but rubble and dust and that would have to wait till morning, the weary men crawled into their blankets after a hasty meal of cheese and biscuit were soon fast asleep. They had done Sir Bernard de Gomme proud and shown why they were rated the best men in the company. As the pale sunlight crested the horizon it found the somewhat grumbling men already up and dragging the sled boats to the next destination. So far the Paladins were the only other living thing encountered by the group unless you counted the huge flocks of seagulls which now suddenly seemed to be everywhere rending the air with their strange cawing that sounded like demonic laughter as if mocking the efforts of the men below. The only ones left at the monolith tower were Sherfields chosen men and the C.L.U.Ber's who were several hundred meters away in a hastily dug pit and watching as Sergeant Sherfield backed out of the tower spoiling out a length of match cord from where it was wrapped around a wooden wheel. Carefully making his way into the pit he cut the match cord from the wheel and muttering a few calculations he finally turned to the other "Ready men? you may want to duck into the pit itself and plug your ears this might be a bit on the loud side what with the explosion being contained by so much stone and what have you" getting a nod from everyone he laid the end of the match cord down and with a grin said "Lets see how special number 5 works out" and with a spark of flint sets the match cord alight and after watching it burn its way to the towers entrance way he uses the flint once more to light his pipe and seeing the others already with their fingers in their ears sighs and shouts "Should be about ten minutes yet" Nine and a half minutes later there is an almighty boom which showers the Party in dust, debris and the occasional stunned seagull, climbing out of the pit the Party waits for the dust to settle and to look upon the damage done. Several moments pass before the dust clears enough and whilst the main body of the tower still stands the floor that held the monolith and the floor below are gone blasted back into whatever infernal realm they came from. Sergeant Sherfield coughs and turning to the awestruck C.L.U.Ber's shrugs and in a loud voice says "I may have slightly overestimated the powder in those charges, but hey jobs a good un, right lads?"
After everybody had dug themselves out of the pit and could finally hear again they quickly did a quick search of the area just to make sure that nothing larger than a shilling remained intact of those strange carvings, nothing but grit and dust was found it looked like the monolith and the strange carvings had been destroyed completely. There was nothing now left to corrupt anyone else who happened to stumble upon these unholy towers.
The column continued to plough through the jungle and its strange dying vegetation and finally made it to the shore of the bay and still, nothing, no further signs of the Paladins or any rogue Crystal children even the strange lights from beneath the waters had faded away leaving the waters still and at least looking peaceful.
The boats were set up for a water crossing and soon the cries of "Stroke, stroke" were ringing out as the Party made the crossing in style this time.
The journey across was uneventful much to everyone's relief and the boats were soon dragged up onto the opposite shore and pegged down. The Palace was only a short walk away from here so there was no real need to drag them any further. The supplies needed were unloaded, the barrels of oil, pitch, and powder were divided amongst those going to the great corpse logged marsh that surrounded the Pale ladies Palace.
Four soldiers were instructed to remain with the boats and to set up a camp they were also handed over a message tube that contained their orders if the main group failed to return by the next morning. The remaining men and the C.L.U.Ber's then headed out towards the Palace the Doctor again had his new bag strapped to the rest of his gear and was smiling as he whistled a somewhat jaunty sea shanty.
They made good time through the jungle unburdened as they were from the necessity of dragging the sled boats any longer and soon the Palace towers could be glimpsed up ahead and before they knew it the jungle began to thin out and they were soon traveling over scrubland and with the Palace causeway just ahead.
Wilhelm was on point and just as he was about to crest the final hillock before the marsh and causeway came into view he suddenly stopped and threw himself down onto the ground, the column which was about thirty meters behind him halted and the men gripped their swords tightly. Guilio came up to the front and quickly spoke to Ralph and Sherfield a decision was made and Guilio went ahead keeping low to the ground at first but dropping down to the ground and crawling the last few meters until he reached Wilhelm. Tapping Wilhelm's boot gently to let him know he was there the Italian whispered "Whats the hold-up?" Wilhelm pulled back a little bit without taking his gaze off whatever he could see up ahead and in a low whisper he filled in the Italian "There is a sorcery up ahead, one of those Paladins is floating in the air surrounded by Crystal children oh and that strange box thing is back" Guilio asks how many er.......things are ahead of them and Wilhelm crawls forward again and taking off his gloves begins to count, "It looks like there are around thirty Crystal children in groups of three surrounding the floating Paladin, the box thing is floating above them all, the children seem to be tied? to the Paladin by a strange fleshy rope?"
Guilio nods slightly wide-eyed but whispers"Let's go back we need to tell Ralph and the others"
The two make it back safely and gathering the C.L.U.Ber's and Sherfield together they inform them of what lies ahead there is some heated discussion but Ralph angrily crushes the other options seeing them as too cowardly and instead stomps off and orders the men into a loose firing line and orders them to make ready. When everyone was loaded and ready the Doctor stepped forward and gave a rousing if slightly long-winded speech in an attempt to prepare the men for what they were about to see. Ralph shakes his head and interrupts the Doctor "Enough, men there is evil ahead and it's our task to cleanse it obey your orders and you will make it through. Shoulder your muskets, prepare for combat and forward march"
The men walk forward in line the CL.U.Ber's take position on the flanks and they walk forwards to the crest of the hill. There is an audible gasp from the men as they lay eyes on the Paladin and the strange children "Steady men" growls Ralph "Make ready I want a good volley to clear this causeway" The Doctor steps out "Wait! its the Paladin we met earlier, Claymon's friend remember? let me try to talk to him at least" he starts to walk towards the Paladin his hands raised as he calls out "It's me the Doctor you remember from earlier, can we talk?" the Paladin slowly spins to face the Doctor and tilts his head to one side as from the box floating above him a loud crackling voice booms out "Truly have been betrayed our vigil has ended and all for naught, I told my brothers that they would find no help from you fiends, it is the end"
The Doctor starts waving his hands desperately from side to side "We come in peace" he tries to say something more but whatever it was is drowned out by the sound of muskets firing from behind him.
Groups of children fall from the causeway ripped asunder by the murderous volley the order to reload goes out as from beyond the musket smoke the children can be seen turning to look at the group.The strange rope that links the Paladin to the children suddenly pulses with a light that hurts the eyes and the children begin to scream out as beams of blazing blue light leap out from their now glowing eyes and whatever the lights hits immediately bursts into flames. Five men are killed in the first attack before the others run to cover, Ralph meanwhile screams an oath and instead runs forwards, across the scrub and onto the causeway itself beams shoot out but he manages to avoid them by desperately jinking left and then to the right. He slams into the children and starts striking out left and right with his hatchets aiming for the central child in each group. He slashes throats and crushes heads and it seems to be working as the other children in the cluster collapse as soon as the central child is killed. And Ralph seems to be too close to them now for him to be targeted by the blazing light.
The other C.L.U.Ber's having taken cover behind some fallen masonry which is already starting to bubble and shatter under the beams desperately prepare a cask of black powder as a makeshift petard "Will this work?" asks the Doctor as Sherfield attaches a short length of match cord to the cask he shrugs "Maybe, at least it should give us some time to pull back at least" the
match cord is lit and with a hasty shouted warning to Ralph of "Jump!" the cask is rolled down towards the causeway.
The cask rolls down bouncing up and down over the uneven ground but it was aimed well and with the cord still smoking behind it eventually rolls to a halt under the floating Paladin. Ralph looks down as it passes him and with a curse of "You Bastards", leaps off the causeway and down into the swamp below. The explosion is somewhat disappointing but it's enough, as with a crackled screech the Paladin and the strange box fall from the sky and land wetly and in several pieces onto the causeway beneath. The remaining children look up and scream as their glowing crystal infused heads suddenly explode.
 
 

 

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For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
Part 2

With the Paladin defeated and the children dead an eerie silence descended and the remaining men and C.L.U.Ber's looked around in shocked horror at the devastation surrounding them, boulders and chunks of masonry had been carved into strange alien looking objects under the children's burning lights and the ground nearby was now cratered with huge holes which still smoked and steamed in the cold winters air. 
The silence was broken by the cry of seagulls who sensing the feast below start to descend in great  swirling flocks and begin to rip into the flesh below.
Curses and oaths soon joins the cawing of gulls as the men react to the birds and somewhere someone starts to sob quietly. Ralph steps forward and turns to the men "Right you thought you were through the worst of it didn't you? well you thought wrong we have to tidy up this ungodly mess, so steal your hearts and stiffen your sinews, first of all we need to bury those that have died and treat any that are hurting" He points to several men in turn who seem mostly unhurt and holding it together "Okay you four men get your spades out and lets get the graves dug so these brave lads can rest proper like" he walks over to a slightly stunned man and gently asks if he could borrow his spade the man nods and fumbles with his pack for a moment before managing to untie the spade from the cords securing it, he hands it over to Ralph his hands shaking a little. Ralph places a hand onto the mans shoulder and awkwardly pats the man "Whats your name son?" the man who looked a good ten years older than Ralph replied "William Drum, Sir" Ralph nods and tells him to go and see Sergeant Sherfield and tell him to break out the bottle he thinks no one knows about"  Drum smiles and in a stronger voice replies "Yes Sir" and walks off to find the other Sergeant.
Ralph then takes off his coat and rolling up his sleeves heads back to the burial party and without a word starts to dig.
After a few moments a slightly unhappy looking Sherfield wanders over looks at Ralph and with a thoughtful look nods slightly then turns to the other men who are now resting in small groups and looking somewhat stunned, he also notices the Doctor moving through the groups, treating the injured and trying to answer the men's questions. "Well its said the devil makes work for idle hands and I be thinking we've had enough sorcery for one day" and with a loud shout of command he begins to issue orders. 
The men are split up into guard, lumber and retrieval parties, the men will rotate through each detail until everything had been cleansed. The guards are sent out fully armed and loaded and instructed to set up a loose skirmish screen around one hundred and thirty meters away and to shout out if they see or hear anything, the lumber detail unhook their hatchets and stripping off their cold weather gear begin chopping down the nearest of the strange trees and start to pile up and prepare the pyres. The few remaining men mainly those injured during the fight were tasked along with the C.L.U.Ber's with retrieving the bodies of the Paladin and the children those on the causeway and  those in the rapidly draining slime pools either side of it. The rest of the day was spent in these gruesome and back breaking tasks.
As the sun sank slowly beneath the horizon and the injured soldiers who were now on pyre duty finished pouring the oil onto the grey wood and the last few bodies were dragged or in the case of the Doctor and his clockwork powered automatic collector of far objects winched in the men whilst still in low spirits 
could at last see that the end was near and that soon they could return home to their loved ones and away from this haunted island but just as things were looking up a cry went up from one of the groups in the slime beds, they were just bringing in the last two bodies when Private Richard Van started to scratch himself, normally at first but soon hard enough to draw blood he kept muttering to himself "Too big, too big" over and over to himself. Some of the men building the pyres ran towards the group the C.L.U.Ber's included and were just in time to see the men with Richard run away from him and make a dash for the shore as Richard continued to mutter then yell "Too big, too big" as he somehow horribly started to shrink his voice becoming higher and higher all the while screaming too big.The men's morale fell and they as a whole they started to back away not only from the horrific sight of their friend shrinking but also from the Sergeants a dangerous air now hovered about them and hands seemed to be edging near to sheathed weapons. Ralph stomped past a furious look on his now heavily scarred face, the more recent scars seemingly glowing red from the heat of his fury and his muscles seemed to strain against his shirt. He splashed down into the orange muck and headed straight to where Richard was last seen but he now seemed too small for his clothing and all that could be seen was a frenzied movement of something under his breeches. Ralph spun around and started yelling about devilry and evil and the Lords fight against it the men on the shore paused and were drawn into Ralph's anger like moths to a flame and some of the tension left, no was.....redirected as Ralph reminded them that their enemy was Satan, the Devil and all his works, that they were doing Gods work here and now on this island so that their families, their loved ones would remain safe on blessed England and with a final curse hurled to all the demons of hell he spins back around and with a crash slams his foot down on whatever remained of Private Richard Van.

The men were still sullen but were now in awe of Ralph and so they remained under orders and with only a small amount of muttering finished off their tasks, After speaking to a couple of the others Guilio and Wilhelm recommended that the men remove any clothing stained with the curious orange slime and throw them onto the pyres along with the bodies. This  raised a few eyebrows but given the potential for becoming cursed the men quickly shed any garments so marked and soon the bodies and the clothing were burning away. Watched by a slightly bizarre group of fearful men who were wearing a mixture of winter clothing, uniform and in one unfortunate case his undergarments
The Doctor then asked if he could examine the men after they had rested and before they returned to the boats. So after they had been moved away from the causeway to let the bodies burn down to ash and had eaten a somewhat rough and ready meal and one suspects had downed several drinks the men find themselves visiting the Doctor.
Everything seemed fine until the Doctor got to Private Edmund Crew he seemed nervous and kept his shirt on telling the Doctor that he was fine, that all he had was a bit of an ache in his left arm but that's to be expected right? The Doctor led him to one side and when he was sure they were far enough not to be observed insisted the Crew take off his shirt telling him that if he didn't obey that he would be forced to tell Sergeant Ralph.
Crew swallowing hard possibly remembering the Sergeant  bathed in blood and swinging that great axe of his begins to unlace his shirt. Turning to one side he smiles at the Doctor "See Sir there ain't nothing wrong with me, fit as a  butchers dog" The Doctor stands back and grips the butt of his pistol "Turn to face me soldier" he instructs, his previously humorous demeanor replaced with cold implacable certainty "You seem to be hiding your left arm Crew and that won't do" Crew shudders and starts to weep "Its fine Doctor, I don't feel no pain in fact I feel better than I have in ages...honest" The Doctor pulls out his pistol and aims it squarely at Crew and repeats his instruction to face him. Crew finally stands square on, and the Doctor gasps as he can now clearly see what he was trying to hide numerous small white grubs were writhing into and out of Crews lower arm. Crew seemed oddly protective of them which wasn't the reaction the Doctor was expecting. 
Crew seeing the look of horror on the Doctors face started to beg and plead "Its okay Doctor, I'm fine they don't hurt none, maybe a poultice or a tonic maybe? yes a tonic that's just the thing for me" The Doctor keeping the pistol pointed at Crew just shakes his head "You've got worms growing out of your damn arm Crew, I'm going to have to cut it off" Crew looks around him desperately, and quickly takes a step back "No Doctor I can't lose my arm I needs it I can't be a cripple I would be kicked out of the regiment" his voice raising in volume. The Doctor makes a decision "Okay, calm down if you want a tonic I will see what I've got but I still think its best to lose the arm" he steps back a few steps and then walks over to his medical box and keeping a wary eye on Crew pulls out a small jack of some cloudy red liquid. Standing back up he walks back towards Crew holding the jack in front of him "Take this it should re-balance your humours it also has a few other ingredients which should help draw the worms out" Crew reaches out but stops when the Doctor steps back and says "I would prefer if you used your other hand Private Crew" nodding and smiling sheepishly nods he takes the jack from the Doctor "So how do I take this Doctor, it wont hurt the little fellows?" The Doctor shakes his head "NO its just a mixture of red wine,Vinegar, Prunella all mixed with some nightshade water, its designed to draw out the worms, what you do with them afterwards is up to you, all you have to do is knock it all back and I will have to make up some more for you when we reach Yarmouth"
Crew pauses and looks at the Doctor then smiles and downs the lot. 
Eight minutes later the sound of heavy snoring can be heard and the Doctor muttering to himself something about overdoing the P. silvaticum or some such then the snoring was replaced with low moans and grunting as the Doctor began to saw away.

The others meanwhile had started to pack up after feeding the pyres one last time Ralph had planned to march into the jungle a few miles to make camp far enough to be clear of the smoke and more importantly the smell of roasting flesh. The men were packed up and their gear stowed for the march ahead and Sherfield was chatting with Ralph when Guilio spotting the Doctor coming out from behind a bunch of bushes, he was supporting the pale and still groggy Crew who seeing the others started to scream out and staggered  away from the Doctor "He took my arm boys the bastard took my bloody arm, there was a tense moment as the remaining soldiers cast angry glances towards Ralph and Sherfield. The Doctor knowing something of his reputation cries out "Wait, lets not do anything foolish or hasty let me talk to the Sergeants" he was interrupted by Crew Yelling "There was nothing wrong with arm you all saw that didn't you lads? the mans blade happy" Ralph yelled for the men to be quiet and tells Crew to shut up and sit down before he falls down. Sherfield walks towards the Doctor his hand resting on his sheathed sword at his waist. "What is the meaning of this Doctor Norton? the man was fine he carried his musket and more importantly to my way of thinking *chopped bloody wood without a complaint*! the Doctor stepped back from the spray of spittle and then calmly placed one of his numerous sacks into Sherfield's gloved hand "Open it but do not touch" somewhat gingerly Sherfield teased open the top of the bag, let out a startled curse and dropped the bag onto the floor, hastily wiping his gloves with a rag then throwing the rag onto the floor as well. Ralph seeing the men had calmed down a little judged it safe enough to leave them and ask his cousin what was going on he arrived just as Sherfield dropped the bag. There followed a quick discussion and Ralph was shown the contents of the bag he then called over Private Derre. Deere nervously left the gaggle of men treating Crew and listening to all his wild stories of a blood mad Doctor and casting a hateful look at the Doctor reported to the Sergeants.
Ralph looked to Sherfield who still somewhat pale nodded and Ralph spoke to Deere, he talked of the things they had fought the strangeness of the island itself and all the other horrors that had appeared recently in Norfolk he spoke that they now needed to put things right and to cast out the the demons summoned by those accursed Cavaliers out of the land so that they may finally put aside the sword and enjoy the rewards of peace and of a godly land. He then told a slightly puzzled Deere that the Devil was a trickster and so would try to turn good men against each other and that he would deceive some men into thinking they were well when they were in fact effected by the worst kinds of miasmas and curses he then opened the bag and ordered Deere to look in, he did so and fell backwards vomiting whilst screaming it was very messy but after everything had calmed down and the other men were shouted back into order Ralph and Sherfield spoke to the men telling Crew to shut up and telling the men that the Doctor had saved not only Crew life but probably his soul as well and if they didn't believe them they were more than welcome to ask Deere what he saw in the bag. The men huddled up and spoke to the vomit covered Deere who nodded and hastily filled in the men it was very noticeable that Deere who was Crews best friend was now keeping a wide berth of him now, and as he finished his report the other to stepped away from him looks of horror and disgust on their faces. Crew started to sob and tried to deny everything but seeing Deere's reaction and the look on sergeants faces convinced them that Crew was mad. 
The Sergeants seeing that the men were back under orders sighed and at last the order was made to move forwards and leaving the pyres burning away behind them they headed into the jungle. Ralph walked down the line and passed  Sherfield who was speaking softly to Crew telling him to drop the issue that he would be looked after but only if he calmed down. Smiling but a little worried Ralph continued past in the gathering darkness till he found his cousin bringing up the rear he indicated that the Doctor should stop "Cousin I think the men are with us again so you have nothing to worry about there and Sherfield is talking to Crew but I would be sleeping with one eye open if I were you, at least until we make it back to Yarmouth." the Doctor smiles weakly and quietly replies "That might be tricky for me normally as I've only got the one eye but I know what you mean but  I should be fine as I tend not to sleep that much nowadays, I burnt the arm you know but we need to keep watch something is foul still and its effecting the men and potentially us" Ralph nods and asks if the Doctor knows the cause sadly the Doctor shakes his head "It could be anything the whole island is damned and full of reeking miasmas, I suggest the men wear handkerchiefs or cloth over their faces when we return to the fires for the final burial. 

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If you don't remember, it didn't happen, Old Leg Humper
Part 3


During the night the men's sleep was interrupted by screams and roars which seemed to come from the nearby mountain range the guard was doubled but after several hours the roars died down and finally, some men were able to get some much-needed sleep. It was a grey and sullen morning the next day the men were tired and troubled by the previous day's events and some of them needed a quiet word from the Sergeants before they would get up and ready. Ralph explained what the day's tasks were the pyres should have burnt down by now but the remains had to be disposed of the ash and bone and whatever corruption remained had to be buried the men were not happy but as Ralph explained the sooner it was done the sooner they could get off this thrice-damned island.
The morning passed quietly the men wore soaked handkerchiefs as they first dug a long shallow trench and then used improvised gaff hooks to drag the bulk of the bone and ash into it a few men waded into the rapidly draining swamp to collect a couple of crystal children that seemed to have been missed in the previous days sweep and the bodies were dumped into the pit and quickly set alight it wouldn't be an enough to reduce the body to ash but it would have to do.
By mid-afternoon, all was done the pit was filled in and the rest of the ash and burnt wood were scattered around. The area now had an eerie look that matched the feel of the place it truly now was a haunted, blasted heath. The Doctor was leaning on a shovel as one of the men came up to him and asked if he could have a quick word with him the Doctor picking up his sword belt nodded and indicated that he should walk with him. The Doctor leads the man into the jungle and finding a fallen tree sat down on it and gestured next to him "Take a seat friend it's been a grim task but it is behind us now so tell me what ails you" The soldier is nervous and keeps looking around him and tilting his head to one side as if hearing something he turns his worried face towards the Doctor "I...I can hear the men they are unsettled and worried. I can see their thoughts its as if my head is full of voices all shouting at the same time" the Doctor smiles a sad smile and reaches for his sleeping draught again "Nothing to worry about its just a reaction to this place, take a strong pull of this and it should stop the noise" The man grabs greedily at the bottle and drinks, the alcoholic mixture going down easily . The Soldier smiles "That's pretty powerful stuff Doc no wonder you're so jolly" the Doctor grins and tells him to finish the bottle and watches as the last of the tonic is consumed he then chats with the soldier and watches as he slowly falls unconscious I'm sorry son but this is for the best and leaning over he covers the mans mouth and then pinches the mans nose closed, the soldier jerks around a little and struggles but never wakes up, the Doctor waits a few minutes more and sadly stands up places a couple of pennies onto the mans eyes and walks back to the rest of the Group.
Ralph and Sherfield meanwhile had organized a demolition group to collapse the Palace entranceway just in case it didn't sink beneath the swamp completely as the Doctor approached he saw Ralph leading another soldier to the one remaining tent that was used to store the powder and oil. Oddly enough the man wasn't seen again having disappeared in the jungle or so Ralph informed the Doctor when he inquired about it sometime later.
Sherfield had set the charges with the last of the powder and played out a long length of match cord which with some fanfare was lit and fizzled into the Palace. There was a pause then an almighty explosion as the charges went off, everybody picked themselves off the ground where they had been knocked down onto by the force of the explosion and after making a few mwoop mwoop noises all glared at Sherfield and it looked bad for the Sergeant until he shrugged and with a wicked grin said "Well you didn't want to be carrying all that powder back to Yarmouth did you" there was a dangerous pause then Guilio started laughing "No Sergeant I did not those casks and barrels were far too heavy to carry much like your wife no?" the tension of the last few days were swept away with the explosion of laughter at this poor joke but it was enough and then Ralph and Sherfield gave the order to march for home, the much-releived men cheererd and within twenty minutes all was made ready and the march home began.
During the march through the jungle, one further man had to be dealt with after reporting that his eyes felt funny and Ralph saw that the man's eyes now closed like a serpent. After Ralph returned to the column wiping something off his hands he seemed deep in thought and then called the Doctor over "I think I know what the cause of all this corruption is everyone affected was covered in the orange slime from the deep swamp" he looks down at his own stained clothing a strange look on his face "I guess we completed the mission but have been damned for it none the less" just then we break through the jungle and finally meet up with the men guarding the boats, Ralph looks at the clear water in front of him and suddenly shouts "You lot smell of shit and smoke, everyone strip and wash up I won't be taking a filthy rabble back to Yarmouth" seeing the stunned looks on the faces of the men he shouts again "I'm not fecking joking get in that water NOW!" he smiles but in a serious voice whispers to the Doctor whilst we are in the water I want you to burn any stained clothing we should be able to make good on th missing clothing by mixing and matching" he then strips off and with a loud whoop he runs into the cold waters and begins to splash around like a big kid.
With some pushing and shoving from Wilhelm and Guilio, the rest of the men are soon in the water and horsing around with Ralph.
After half an hour and several bars of soap later a pale, soggy body of men was assembled on the shore in a bizarre mix of clothing and looking at the Doctor who was in front of a bonfire "We thought it would be funny but it got a little out of hand.......you know how Italians are"
The journey back was uneventful and it was a much-relieved band of men who marched back into the N.M.A compound the men were debriefed given enough scrip to buy several jugs of Old Leg Humper and a knee trembler or two if so inclined whilst the C.L.U.Ber's had a less fun reward and instead had to report to Zeal for the Lord Harrison on what had happened during the mission and why so many men were missing.
The Debrief was a painful affair but Zeal nodded and congratulated the C.L.U.ber's on a nasty job done well he steepled his hands and softly started to talk "Well Gentleman it's time we left Yarmouth the ice is melting and soon the ships will be fishing again bringing in much-needed food. The disparate groups are now working with one purpose and I will be leaving the Charity and a company or two of the Clockwork regiment here as well to make sure everyone remembers whose really in charge of things now" Wilhelm asks about the island he mentions the loud roaring they had heard coming from the mountains Zeal shakes his head and tells him not to worry and that another group will deal with that. Seeing the C.L.U.Ber's shocked looks he smiles a thin tight smile "You didn't think you were the only special group employed by Ireton and myself did you" we fade to black with the sound of Zeals laughter echoing in the falling darkness.
 

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Norwich Necessaries
Part 4!

The initial meeting with Zeal was fairly brief and to the point but unfortunately it was followed by several other much longer meetings afterwards with representatives from a variety of civilian and military departments all wanting to know how the island could be used to benefit their particular group, so it was already getting fairly dark by the time the Party made it back to Norton mansion and the comforts of home that they so desperately needed. The Doctor's Father still wasn't home as it appeared that he was still busy sorting out the flooded mine and performing good works with Katrina and Jane in the local villages. His Mother though was still in her darkened rooms and it seemed that she was pleased to see her son's return but only it seemed because she needed someone to fetch little Doris for her. Doris was her favourite scrubbing maid but who was for obvious reasons currently hiding and Mother did so hate it when she missed one of her twice-weekly bed baths. The Doctor fell back into his old household rituals and oddly enough he seemed much happier with the world as he chased down Doris and sorted out the rest of the numerous other small household issues which had mounted up during his Fathers prolonged absence.
So whilst the Doctor got busy with the household chores and dealing with his Mother the others returned to their rooms and began preparing for a welcome rest in the comfort and relatively safety of the Norton mansion, Hot baths and changes of clothing were ordered large and hot meals accompanied by several bottles of wine were sent for and so the household swung into action and soon the mansion rang out with the sound of industry for the first time in a long time. After the initial burst of chaos, the household soon returned to a more normal tempo as the servants busied themselves with the demands of their returning guests. Some of the servants were a little concerned the following morning though about the screams and sobs heard coming from the from the young Masters room during the night and concerns were raised even higher over the reports of weird grunting sounds heard coming from the rooms occupied by Master Ralph, in fact young Eric the kitchen boy claimed that he had seen Master Ralph running around the grounds bare chested in the early hours of the morning which was strange enough but he also went on to say said that Master Ralph was muttering angrily to himself as if arguing with someone but he couldn't make out what he was saying possibly due to Ralph's facial injuries. Eric said he felt scared and after Ralph had run past his hiding spot for the second time and he quickly grabbed the kindling he needed and fled for the safety of the kitchens.
So some of the servants were a little worried after hearing all of this especially after seeing poor Doris return from the room of the Mistress, she seemed to be in something of a daze which whilst it wasn't a total surprise, after all, she had spent several hours waist deep in a tub of warm soapy water armed only with a large broom for protection it did add to the staffs general feelings of unease.
Though if a little uneasy the servants as a whole seemed happy enough to see the young Master and his strange friends back if only because it would distract their increasingly bored and angry Mistress. So it was a somewhat subdued breakfast that the CL.U.Ber's sat down to the following morning but it went fairly well apart from a few nervous ticks and twitches on the part of poor Doris and there was a much needed there was some tension-releasing embarrassment on Ralph's part as he dribbled out a lot of the porridge whilst trying to eat it seemed that he hadn't quite got used to the numbness in his mouth yet which made eating a messy though somewhat comical affair.
After breakfast and a change of shirts for Ralph the Party had the rest of the day ahead of them to rest, repair and restock before heading out to their next assignment, the Doctor decided to spend time at home with his Mother much to the relief of the servants though after he received a dinner request from a certain Dr. Browne he did light a fire under them as it seemed that he wanted to really impress this fellow medical man, so staff were sent out to scour the shops and markets for any half decent ingredients. This the staff knew would be a right royal pain in their arse as even though supplies were now coming in from the south-east supplies were still fairly scarce and so good ingredients were at something of a premium. This scarcity was compounded by the fact that Norwich now had many extra mouths to feed as the town had become the headquarters of the somewhat hated Overseers of the Poor so Norwich was now was one of the few places in the county that people could still receive poor relief.
The demands of the war, the failing harvests coupled with the effects of the blight had hit Norwich pretty badly and although the flood of starving peasants had slowed now to a trickle the narrow winding streets of the county seat were still clogged with people begging for alms making travel difficult and in some areas deadly. The area outside the closed and locked St Augustine’s gate was now filled with a huge stinking shanty town full of dangerous miasmas and desperate people so the servants had their work cut out for them but on the bright side, it at least got them out of the house and away from the Mistress.
The other C.L.U.Ber's finished their breakfast and had wondered off on their own mysterious errands, Guilio and Wilhelm decided to head towards the Norton foundry, Wilhelm said he just wanted to have a good look around an English Ironwork's though Guilio did overhear him muttering something about Panzers and Gepanzerte Fausts whatever they were but with a shrug Guilio dismissed them as Wilhelm was a German Witch hunter and so was already pretty weird as far as he was concerned and besides which Guilio thoughts were elsewhere as he wanted to source a replacement arm and if nothing was available he still had hopes that someone at the Ironwork's could at least construct something for him if necessary . So off the two went and headed out through the press of heaving humanity pushing and shoving past them only when it was absolutely necessary to do so (Honest). And as they walked they chatted about their recent experiences and how they as foreigners were finding the English it seemed that the general consensus was "Bloody weird" even with all the pushing and shoving needed the stroll down to the riverside was fairly relaxing and soon enough the noisy foul smelling foundry could be seen squatting behind its high stone walls and what looked suspiciously like several new guard towers, even with the Charity fixed and assigned to policing duties in Great Yarmouth the military involved in Norton Industries still seemed to be taking it's security very seriously indeed. The foundries thick gates were open but guarded by a couple of deadly Ironsides who stood at attention either side of the gateway. Ironsides were Cromwell's own men who wore clockwork powered armour and wielded a variety of deadly and experimental weapons these two, for example, seemed to be carrying the fearsome rotating halberd. The CL.U.Ber's both swallowed suddenly unsure if this was such a good idea and were about to turn aside when a voice called out to them "Hello!" the voice suddenly dipped in volume as if the unseen person had turned his head to ask someone close by a question "That is those two fellows Willy and Guilio isn't it?" this was followed by another somewhat unhappy voice which muttered loudly "Well its certainly the Italian fellow my Lord" Looking around the CL.U.Ber's finally notice a black carriage which appeared to be heading down the road towards them and the gates, the beaming face of Doctor Browne suddenly appeared at one of the side windows and he started to wave at the CL.U.Ber's. Doctor Browne banged on the roof of the carriage and instructed the driver to stop as the carriage slowed down he quickly stepped out and quickly headed towards the two bemused CL.U.Ber's "Ahh Hello gentleman, its good to see that you two are alive and well" he tapped his nose and winked he continued his face becoming serious "I was just speaking to young Harrison this morning and it seems that you performed admirably under somewhat trying circumstances, you've performed a great service for the Republic" he pauses and suddenly he smiles again "Now are you here for the dreary Ironwork's or could I perhaps tempt you, two fine fellows, away to a Portuguese tea-house. It has some rather splendid snuff you know all the way from the New world you know" Guilio grinned guessing this Tea house was somewhat similar to the one that Saul and Thomas had stumbled upon during their chase of the cultist Arnholt "Ah Signore if only we could take you up on such a generous offer but I'm afraid time she is against us, and we have but only the one day before we must be heading out again and I had hoped that I could pick up something to replace by lost arm" he waves his stump for emphasis. Doctor Browne nods and suddenly leans forwards and in a stage, whisper replies "Excellent I was hoping you would say as much please get into my carriage and allow me and my new friend to escort you inside and show you something wondrous" his eyebrows raise to somewhat disturbing levels. Guilio somewhat startled reckons going in with Browne would at least make getting past the guards and possibly getting a replacement arm a lot easier so he nods and with a short but flamboyant bow climbs into the waiting carriage and finally meets Browne's mysterious fellow passenger.
Guilio clambers into the shadowy carriage and looking into the corner furthest from the door he sees someone he recognises he quickly recovers from his momentary shock and greets him warmly "Ciao Rimehart me old china, I thought you were getting your necked stretched?" Wilhelm climbing into the carriage behind Guilio smiles good-naturedly but hearing what Guilio was saying makes a rather disturbing crunching noise whilst leaning his head to one side and sticking out his tongue.
Rimehart the man who thought himself a member of Mallebeenchs untouchable inner circle sighed and weakly said "Hello Guilio it's good to see you again" Guilio smiled even wider "Si I am still alive and kicking though not smashing as many plates and fancy vases as I once did?" he playfully punches Rimehart in the shoulder knocking the ex-shopkeeper into the side of the carriage with a thump "Where are my manners? please let me introduce you to my good friend Wilhelm" he points to the German who is now sat on the seat opposite Rimehart then he continues "Wilhelm this is Rimehart a shopkeeper who used to consort with demons and warlocks, Rimehart this is Wilhelm a ruthless, bloodthirsty German who is currently employed as a witch hunter" Wilhelm leans forwards his large hat casting his face into shadow and softly growls "Guten Tag Herr Rimehart my name is Wilhelm Teufel and I have found you" Rimehart went even paler and started to babble as he desperately tried to scramble out of the door without appearing to whilst blabbering desperately "I didn't do anything honestly it was all the Mallebeenchs doing I swear!" Doctor Browne having remained outside to speak to the guards and show his credentials returned just in time to see Rimehart hanging half out of the window and Guilio and Wilhelm red-faced with the effort of not breaking out into laughter. Quickly taking it all in with a glance he broke out laughing "Rimehart get your bony arse back in here now you poltroon they are only fooling around" Rimehart looked back towards Browne a looks of horror, fear and then hope sweeping across his face in quick succession "What they aren't here to murder me then?" he asks plaintively and it was at this point that Wilhelm and Guilio lost it completely and the carriage was filled with guffaws and snorts of laughter, Wilhelm actually fell out of the now moving carriage much to the Guards amazement crying out in a heavy German accent "I have found you" Browne smiling and chuckling along finally calmed Rimehart down who immediately started muttering nasty things under his breath about getting revenge before shrugging and with a somewhat evil grin jumped down and went to help the German up saying "You bastards I owe you one now just you wait, I'll get you both when you least expect it" After explaining to the guards that everything was alright and it wasn't some Popish plot everybody eventually got back inside and the carriage resumed its journey towards the main foundry. Browne still grinning scolded the CL.U.Ber's and explained why Rimehart was still amongst the living instead of the mass grave alongside the Crows and the Tenebrous Hand.
The carriage headed down towards the side of the foundry heading for the storage areas around the back of the site where evidence of the recent flooding still remained awaiting disposal, piles of sandbags and water soaked boards lay strewn all over the place and the carriage had to manoeuvre around them carefully it suddenly rattled to a halt outside a strange looking building that was low, squat and covered in strange red weeds the Driver leaned down and informed Browne that they had arrived at their destination. The Doctor his door and stepping down gestured to the heavily padlocked building in front of him saying "Its not much but its all mine thanks to the generosity of Nelson Norton" he steps towards the door and pulls out a large ornate key ring and picking a key he unlocks the hefty padlock which secures the oddly heavy door. The door easily swings open and a gust of hot moist air escapes from the darkness beyond, Browne quickly steps across the threshold and starts to walk down the corridor beyond calling out for the others to follow. Rimehart and Wilhelm are the next out and are chatting away quite happily now as it appears that Rimehart had spent some time in the Holy Roman Empire some years back as a mercenary it appeared he had briefly fought for Bernard of Saxe-Weimar before sustaining several injuries during the invasion of Bavaria, the conversation seemed to become very serious when Rimehart mentioned someone called Perchta. Meanwhile Guilio was bringing up the rear taking in the architecture of the building noting that whilst a little damp and more than a few puddles remained the building after the recent flooding the building itself seemed solid enough, in fact, it was built like a fort its walls oddly thick and low for a workplace and the few windows were little more than slits covered by thick iron bars but what really caught his eye was that the roof was weirdly thin especially considering the strength of the rest of the building this building had been specially designed for some purpose he just couldn't put his finger on it yet though.
Guilios train of thought was interrupted as the doors behind him closed with a booming thud leaving only the dim light from the windows to illuminate their way through the otherwise dark building. Doctor Browne finally stopped at a door at the end of the corridor and again the time he pulls out the ornate key ring but this time selecting a strange rod which has a tiny silver cog at the top which he twisted a couple of times before inserting the rod into a hole at the top of the door, faintly the sound of something clicking away could be heard coming from the door before a final loud clunk which echoed out and the door swung open. The room beyond looked like some kind of workshop a furnace still glowed away in one corner, whilst the northern wall was covered in bottles and sealed pottery jars of a variety of shapes and sizes the other walls were partially obscured by the barrels and boxes piled up against them, the few open ones seemed to contain a mixture of cogs and gears or a variety of plants and rocks. And under the narrow slit window, a large workbench sat its top covered by a sheet.
Rimehart edged past Browne and into the room he lit some lanterns chasing the shadows away whilst Browne walked towards the workbench and called Guilio over towards him he smiles and says "Guilio I have a choice for you and I would be most interested in seeing which you pick" he points to the covered table and with a magicians flourish pulls the sheet aside revealing two gleaming clockwork arms of weirdly differing construction, one was very life like it's clockwork hidden away under beautifully sculpted metal plates the fingers were fully articulated and to an amazing degree, the arm was a thing of beauty a true masterpiece of the tinkers art. The other was also a masterpiece but of a different kind it was designed for less subtle pursuits, it was brutal looking all black iron and blood red brass. It was covered with evil-looking hooks running down one side and past the clawed hand was a nasty looking clockwork powered sword which had an oddly serrated blade. Browne again turned to Guilio "So which one do you prefer?"
Guilio drew in a sharp breath and after asking if it alright for him to examine them and after getting a nod from Browne he carefully picked up the brutal looking arm turning it first one way then another taking in its deadly power, he asked a few questions and Browne pointed out a few interesting features, the steel dart fired by a steel spring was particularly impressive as it thudded into the brick wall shattering its first layer before embedding into the layer behind. Guilio placed the arm back down onto the table and whilst congratulating Browne on constructing an impressive weapon he still reached for the sculpted arm and started to examine it with something akin to lust in his eyes. Browne sighed and said that whilst it was a beautiful object it surely wasn't practical for one such as him especially considering his current employment but Guilio shook his head and after examining the tiny clockwork which seemed to power the arm especially the clockwork that controlled the silvered hand he told Browne placing the arm back onto the table "I would pick this arm as my replacement" Browne looked at Guilio and nodded seemingly happy with the Italians decision "See Rimehart I told you there was more going on in Guilios head than just bloodshed, he still admires grace and beauty" he then picked up the arm and with a smile he turned to Guilio "Now lets see how this looks on you shall we"
Meanwhile, Ralph had headed out to report to Zeal for the lord Harrison at the N.M.A headquarters based at the castle. After passing through several checkpoints he finally found himself in one of the lowest levels of the castle in a cold damp corridor standing outside a warped oak door listening to some muffled conversation and the occasional scream. After twenty minutes or so the door creaked open a crack and Zeal stepped through using a rag to clean the mess off his hands Ralph peeking behind Zeals shoulder can just make out the ruined wreck of a man tied to a chair before Zeal closes the door with a thud. He greets Ralph warmly enough though and without mentioning the man behind the door he leads Ralph down several corridors and a stone staircase before reaching another heavy door he opens it and steps through motioning for Ralph to follow which he does with some reluctance. The room is much like a stone monks cell of old, a cot lays alongside one wall with only a single thin blanket the wall opposite is filled with a bookcase full of ledgers and scrolls each one has a small wax tag affixed to it. The main items of furniture in this room are the large desk and its two rough wooden chairs. Zeal motioned to the chair in front of the desk as he went around the desk to the other side, sitting down he waited until Ralph was seated before he began speaking to him "Its good to see you Sergeant Norton, your efforts on the accursed island have been favorably reported to higher command" he then added somewhat cryptically "Amongst others" Zeal then chats to Ralph asking him how he felt about certain subjects and about the rest of the CL.U.Ber's he seemed particularly interested in how they reacted to the last mission and more importantly how they seemed to be coping now he seemed happy with the replies making notes in a leather book and apart from the scritch scritch of the quill and their voices everything else was silent they could have been the only two people alive in the world. After he had got the answers he wanted Zeal seemed very satisfied and thanked Ralph for his honesty and with a slight grin his zeal. Ralph replied that he was happy to help and that he felt that he had found his true calling in the CL.U.Ber's and their fight against the ungodly and in that cause he wondered if he might make a small request Zeal applied some powder and then a bloater to the page he had been working on and cautiously asked what exactly did Ralph want. Ralph lent forward a little and with a gleam in his eyes asked if Zeal could order the castles quartermaster to give him a couple of those new Dutch grenados. Ralph explained that he felt that he needed the extra firepower especially after witnessing the effects of the light rays produced by the Paladin and the Crystal children and in a lower tone he said that he was also worried about a member of the CL.U.B being captured hearing this Zeal seemed to make a decision and quickly dashed off an order onto a scrap of paper and handed it over to Ralph "This will get the grenados released, I'm relieved that you are concerned about the security of this realm and are prepared to do what needs to be done" handing the paperwork over he sits back down and tells Ralph that he is dismissed but that he should report back at eight bells as he had something of great import to tell him but which needed some arranging first. Ralph half listening stood up bowed and replied that he would return at eight bells he walked slowly back to the door and looked back to see Zeal busy gathering some sealable message tubes he stepped back out into the gloomy corridor and after closing the door he paused and then ran off towards the armoury with some would say indecent haste.
The day passed and the CL.U.Ber's finished off their various errands equipment was repaired or replaced powder and shot was requisitioned from the N.M.A stores, as well as the rest of the supplies, used up during the jaunt to Yarmouth. Guilio, Wilhelm, and Ralph met up at Mrs. Lovett's pie shop for a slap-up feast, Wilhelm even had time to pop upstairs to Barkers to get a quick haircut. Thomas meanwhile was still overseeing the feast/banquet for Doctor Browne, he was also a little distracted by his Mothers constant demands for food, someone to cut her toenails and for someone to turn her over as the bed sores were coming back, Thomas much to one-eyed Harper's obvious relief went up with the shears the rasp and the larger of the three oven paddles. He did leave instructions though that the meal should be ready for five o'clock this afternoon and that a bath and his clothes be ready at four o'clock.

The rest of the Party slowly made their way back to the mansion and passed the rest of the afternoon reading or playing games of chance before finally getting ready for the nights activities though Ralph did explain that he would have to leave around seven pm as he had a prior appointment that he just couldn't miss but he didn't elaborate any further.
The town clocks struck five and a carriage pulls up at outside the doors of Norton mansion and the elegant figure of Dr. Browne stepped out and was ushered in by the liveried staff.
The staff had worked wonders and had managed to produce miracles with the basic ingredients that they were able to purchase in the now dangerous markets of Norwich, never had so much been done with the humble turnip. The talk around the table was polite and just about the general state of things in the county and the country as a whole but by the time they got to the dessert course, Browne was asking some very specific questions about the CL.U.Ber's recent activities. Then as the plates were cleared away Browne pulled out a small thin box from out of one of his many pockets and slid it across to Thomas "I think you will find this interesting Thomas" the Doctor looked up from his second helping of pudding and after wiping his hands he took the box and opened it with a click revealing a green jewel surrounded by a latticework of very small and impossibly ornate clockwork. The Doctor lifts it out of its velvet padded container and took in a sharp breath as several fine copper wires trailed behind the latticework. Looking at Browne with a puzzled look on his face as he twisted and turned the device around one way then another, watching as the fine copper wires which dangled below twist and turn somehow under their own power "It's wonderous my lord it looks like some sort of ocular device but its complexity defeats me" Browne smiled "You are correct Doctor it is a truly wonderous contraption and for the moment a unique one. I have with the help of Rimehart have managed to decipher some of Mallebeenchs notes that you recovered and using them we have opened up whole new vistas of inquiry, Mallebeench is truly a genius if one who consorts with the forces of darkness but gentleman the things he has discovered could advance our understanding in so many areas by years, the Republic could become an unassailable power for good and we could finally make the great dream of making this world pure and truly godly a reality. And this" he indicates the clockwork device held in the Doctors hand "Is just a small example of what the future holds the device you hold will enable you to see clearly again, Doctor. All you have to do is simply remove your eyepatch and place the device over your wound with the serrated edge uppermost and the device will do the rest. I warn you though there might be some pain though as the copper wires burrow their way into your brain it will pass and what is a little pain to see again and better than you could have ever seen before?" The Doctor still watching the copper wire twist and move as in a gentle breeze looks up at the standing Browne and very firmly places the ocular device back into its box and snaps the lid shut with a snap. He stands up and thanks Browne for the fine gift but with a slightly worried expression tells Browne that he was unsure about using anything that was inspired by the works of Mallebeench no matter how fantastic they were and he slides the box back towards Browne expressing his thanks again. Browne appears to be about to say something more but with a somewhat strained looking smile just says "Well I think you are too worried devices are not evil only people are but it is your decision" he picks up the box and returns it to one of his pockets. A slightly awkward silence descends before Wilhelm calls out loudly for pipes and tobacco "Gentleman let us not have any disagreements between us we are all Freunde here and are we not blessed?" Browne laughs and slaps Thomas on the back "I'm sorry I get too caught up in the possibilities of my work sometimes and forget my manners" Thomas smiles back and nods understanding "I understand its quite alright I get that way myself sometimes, come on lets retire to the study and let the staff clean up whilst you tell us more of the current thinking in Parliament, can it be true that they may seek an accord with the Arch Warlock Rupert?
 
 

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The morning after the night before
Part 5
One gaming session ended up needing five session reports!

The next day the CL.U.Ber's were woken up in the early hours of the morning by a very nervous Eric it appears that some very impatient men were waiting for them downstairs after ducking a variety of thrown objects Eric informed the groggy CL.U.Ber's that they said they were from some gentleman called Zeal For the lord Harrison he also somewhat hesitatingly mentioned that these men didn't seem the type to be kept waiting.
The Doctor told Eric to take the men to the study telling them that they were to make themselves comfortable offer them a cup of hot chocolate or something then he was to wake Graves the Butler, apologise for the early summons but ask him to prepare a bath, lay out his clothes for the day and to unbox the larger of the travelling hats, he also tells the by now extremely worried Eric that he should also knock on the door of Mrs. Beeton and ask her if she would be so kind to lay out a light breakfast for the CL.U.Ber's oh and a straw for cousin Ralph, three or four courses should be enough. The house is again thrown into a state of controlled chaos as bleary eyed staff are dragged back out of their beds and back to work stoking the fading fires, boiling water and desperately trying to make the semi-cold pottage and the leftovers from last nights meal into an exciting three or four-course breakfast.
After swiftly getting ready the somewhat sour CL.U.Ber's had a hasty meeting on the stairwell which wasn't ideal as all the noise had woken Mother and she was demanding attention from the harried Mrs. Beeton and Abigail (Doris had yet to fully recover) so the CL.U.Ber's were knocked first one way then the other by the tide of staff which headed into and out of Mothers chambers. The CL.U.Ber's took stock of things and decided that they hadn't done anything wrong recently but more than one of them cast a suspicious glance in Ralph direction but one of the few benefits of having been shot in the mouth was being tight-lipped about things.
The CL.U.Ber's entered the study and prepared to see what the strange messengers wanted at this ungodly hour. The men were standing by the fire drinking spiced hot chocolate with cups from the third best plate set, the chocolate froth on their upper lips dispelling some of the heat from their glowering faces "What took you so long?" the larger of the two asked as soon as the CL.U.Ber's entered, he quickly wiped the chocolate from his upper lip before continuing "When the Lord Harrison summons you then you get a move on, it doesn't pay to keep him waiting" Luckily before anyone could say something that they would all regret later Wilhelm steps forwards and takes out a small brass globe from out of his pocket he flips a lid and looking down onto the now revealed watch face he takes a sharp intake of breath and then pointedly looks back up at the two men and very politely and as only a true Bavarian could says "Gentleman we are ready but it appears that it is now you and your hot chocolate that is keeping us now and if as you say the Scout Master General hates delays surely we should be going nien?" the men scowl but realise that they have no authority over the CL.U.Ber's and that their posturing had failed to scare them they huffed and grabbing their cloaks off the back of the nearby chairs headed out past the CL.U.Ber's and into the early morning. Wilhelm clicked his timepiece closed and with a grin turned to the others "Well as we are all awake now I guess we should join them, after all it wouldn't do to keep our lord and master waiting too long"
The two men head out on foot casting the occasional glance behind them to make sure that the Party were following them but apart from the occasional demand to hurry up they remained silent and refused to answer any of the questions asked of them merely saying that the Scout Master would have all the answers and with a somewhat nasty grin they added that he would no doubt have questions for them as well. Getting no information from their guides Guilio turned to Ralph and asked him if he knew anything about these early morning summons and if his mysterious late-night errand had anything to do with it, Ralph just shook his head and pulling out his pipe made it clear that he didn't want to talk any further. So whatever Ralph did get up to last night was for the moment remaining a secret but he did look slightly worried though to be honest it was tricky to tell what Ralph was thinking with all that facial scaring. The guides take the Party across Norwich past the smashed windows of the old Cathedral and then under the grim cracked Castle walls from which still swayed the bodies of the Tenebrous hand. This worried some of the Party as they had thought that they were being led to the Castle after all that was the seat of power for the Army in Norfolk Thomas looked nervously around at the silent streets which whilst oddly quiet were still filled with the counties lost and the damned he turned to Wilhelm and quietly whispered that he thought that they were now being led towards Queen's road and after a brief pause he quickly added that their final destination was probably the large tower which guarded St Stephens gate and the road to London. After a further fifteen or so minutes of walking it seemed as his guess was correct as they turned into St Stephens street and towards the great tower that squatted there in the deep shadows at streets end. The two guides stopped at the heavily reinforced gate at the base of the tower and knocked out a rapid series of knocks as the the Party finally shuffled into position they were just in time to see a small hatch open up and a shadowy face mutters the word Talus, the shorter of the guides looks back over his shoulder and looking at the Party oddly replies "None escape the man of Iron" the shutter closes with a snap and after a pause where many bolts are heard being dragged across the gate it finally creaks open revealing the redly lit interior of Queens road tower. The guides stand aside and gesture the Party inside "This is where we leave you and next time we meet I expect there to be a lot less backchat" the taller one sneers he then calls for the the other guide to follow him reminding him that they had a long day ahead of them yet and they stroll off roughly heading for the Castle. The gatekeeper peers around the gate and looking at the Party says "Well what are you waiting for, a signed invitation from the Earl of bloody Essex? get inside you raggedy bunch of knaves , I'm going to burn me breakfast at this rate" The Party cross the threshold and enter the tower and as soon as they are all in the gatekeeper slams it shut and slides the thick bolts home. The Party find themselves in a slightly cramped waiting area surrounded by the towers thick stone walls, the stone chamber was lit by one glass lantern which filled the room in a weak reddish light. Guilio looked around scanning the walls and ceiling for any sign of decoration that could tell him what this tower was used for but the chamber was bare apart from a battered but plain table, he didn't even see any sign of the humorous graffiti which is normally scratched into these type of buildings by the bored troops, he found this oddly worrying. The gatekeeper turned out to be an old man who was dressed smartly in a black tunic with matching trousers and the Party can't fail to notice that a heavy falchion hangs sheathed at the mans belted waist. He walks past them and towards the only other door in this barren chamber, he suddenly spins around with the heavy sword held in a steady hand the Doctor staggers back raising his hands upwards "Hold on there you bag of bones we were summoned here" Ralph moved forwards but stopped when he noticed that the sword had been adapted, it had two small flintlock pistols built into the handle of the sword the barrels running alongside the flat of the blade and with a twitch these now point towards Ralph's broad chest. The gatekeeper grins a toothless smile and tells the Party that he should be addressed as Master Kronen and that no one armed goes any further and that being so the Party should now place any weapons onto the table there, he points to the plain and scratched table to the left of the gate. The Party still protesting if only for appearances sake place their weapons onto the table and after a lot of clunking and cursing they turn back towards Master Kronen who still stands there holding his blade at them he tuts and the blade suddenly swings towards Guilio "Aren't you forgetting something Mr Spaghetti?" Guilio's face briefly flushes red but through slightly gritted teeth he replies "I think everything is on the table, look" he points to a rather nasty looking blade "Even the my piccolo bastardo" Kronen steps forward and with the very tip of the blade he taps Guilio's arm which tings dully "The arm sonny boy lose the that fancy arm" The atmosphere goes tense as Guilio stands still not moving an inch staring down Kronen whose thumb rests on one of the hammers Wilhelm moves towards Guilio and whispers something to him Guilio lets out a long breath and suddenly smiles and nods "Of course Master Kronen how could I have forgotten, my apologies" he takes off his coat and with the help of the Doctor he disables the arm until Kronen is satisfied that he poses no risk. Kronen grins his toothless grin again and in a satisfied tone goes "Well now that everybody is finally ready lets see the boss" he unlocks the door and heads onto the stone stairwell behind and heads upwards and the Party swiftly follows behind.
The Second floor is set up as a guard post and an armoury the racks are filled with strange clockwork muskets and a variety of bladed weapons, the Party also note the several small cannons placed on a rotating table which ran along the room walls on rails and which could be used to swiftly bring the guns to bear through the currently closed gun slits. Four men were in this chamber, two were looking out of spy windows with flintlock carbines close to hand whilst the other two seemed to be resting but their weapons were also close at hand and watched the Party pass by with hooded eyes. Kronen unlocked another door and they continued to climb the tower the next chamber was oddly squat the taller members of the Party having to stoop to avoid banging their heads. This room had been whitewashed to an amazing degree, every surface gleamed white the ceiling, the walls even the floor was all coated in this thick whitewash the only other things in this room was a small sink and in the very middle of the room a strange contraption of brass and copper sat. It looked like some kind of chair dreamed up by a victim of St. Anthony's fire and from the brief look they got as they were hustled past it seemed the chair was all sharp edges and gleaming points Wilhelm smiled as he passed whilst Thomas shuddered. Kronen led them up to the next floor which was the set up as the office of Zeal for the Lord Harrison in his role of Scout Master General....it was oddly disappointing, the room was bland and all business no colour anywhere just bare stone walls though an unlit stove was affixed to one of the walls just to break up the monotony. There were no paintings on the walls not even a military map of the county was displayed upon it to break up the rooms starkness, a few plain and simple chairs where arranged around the room a couple were stacked up by the door whilst a few more were placed in front of Zeal's impressive desk which seemed to be his only display of ego, it was a solid heavy piece of furniture and it had been worked upon by a skilled carver as it was dripping with intricately carved foliage, strange faces almost gargoyle like in expression protrude from each corner the desk it had a godroon carved edge and a leather covered writing top. And supporting it all were four heavy barley twist legs.The overall effect was of a slightly whimsical piece of furniture though one that was somehow solid and dark at the same time. The area behind the desk had been boarded over and the flat wall hid about a quarter of the chamber Wilhelm noticed a door which whilst not exactly hidden had been worked into the rest of plain wooden wall in such a way as to make it hard to spot. The man himself sat on a plain wooden high backed chair and seemed engrossed in a report that was in front of him, he didn't acknowledge the Party or Kronen he just continued to read the report turning the pages until he reached the last one and with a sigh he reached over for his quill and after scratching his name across the bottom of the last page he finally looked up "Ahh the illustrious CL.U.Ber's I hope I haven't inconvenienced you by asking you to come at such an early hour but we all have much to do this day" he turned to Kronen "Thank you, Kronen, could you get the eight o'clock ready for me" Kronen nodded and with a smart "Yes my lord" he headed back downstairs his keys clanking away as he went. Zeal turned back to the CL.U.Ber's "Gentleman please get yourselves a seat, we have much to discuss you and I  "As the CL.U.Ber's settle themselves down Zeal takes out a dossier bound in red leather which he places onto his desk he then takes a fresh quill and dips it several times into a pot of ink he carefully opens the dossier and with a slight cough begins to question the CL.U.Ber's again about their recent adventures on the Island this time he seems very interested in how the soldiers died. This interview takes twenty to thirty minutes and it seems that Zeal is judging their replies with what was said during the original debriefing but eventually he seems satisfied enough and after blotting and sanding the paper he closes the dossier and returns it to the drawer in his desk, he then locks this up using a small key that hangs from a chain around his neck. He looks across to the slightly worried looking CL.U.Ber's and smiles his thin smile "Don't look so concerned gentleman I just want to make sure that everything is...............correct, now as a reward for clearing up the island you can decide where you will be going next" again that thin smile appears. He pulls out an envelope from out of his coat pocket and opening it carefully pulls out a couple of thick pages "Lord Ireton, Doctor Browne and myself had a very interesting discussion yesterday gentleman and we talked about a variety of things as you may imagine, for example, we did talk at some length about your recent activities and of these so-called old gods but what concerned us the most was this Constance Mallebeench and the fact that he is somehow still at large. We can no longer tolerate a black sorcerer destabilising things here in Norfolk, the harvests are poor all over but we also suffer under this unholy blight which is furthering the food shortages and when people go hungry they become weak and therefore open to the whispering lies of our enemies, enemies who wish to stir up trouble, to turn things back and bring the corruption of Monarchy back. Things are a little easier now as progress continues at an astounding pace in Great Yarmouth thanks to our actions there and already a few convoys full of dried herring have arrived at the city but the Mallebeench issue must be resolved, so here are your options gentleman" he ticks something on the first page.

1.
Papers will be issued to you which will allow you to join Richard Cromwell's escort, he is traveling to Oxford to meet with the Arch Alchemist the demon Rupert himself as it is felt that as Christians we should make at least one more gesture towards peace. Using the peace delegation as cover you will infiltrate Oxford and using Ptomely Exotica as a lure you will hopefully be able to draw out someone who belongs to this mysterious Ptonik Brotherhood. We want you to find out why they supported at least some of Mallebeench's activities and to get a feel for them as if they prove a threat to the new order they will need to be dealt with but for the moment we do not want to antagonise them unnecessarily. We just want information for the moment and them to pass on all they know or suspect they know about Mallebeench's plans and for them to realise that he is no longer worth supporting.

2.
Acting on the information supplied by Saul you are to head towards the area around King Lynn your final destination is the village of Holbeach St. Marks the ancestral home of the Mallebeench family. Whilst we don't think he would be foolish enough to stay in the area for long he may have at least returned there briefly to gather resources after we wiped out his network in Norwich. Again this is more of an information gathering exercise as we have only a poor picture of Malebeench and we need to know what drives him, what he is capable of and what resources he has remaining. Talk to whatever degenerate family still lives there, speak to anyone who knew him, fill in those blanks gentleman and we may be one step closer to capturing him.
Zeal lifts his eyes up to stare unblinkingly up at the CL.U.Ber's and in a quiet tone of voice tells them "Of course if Mallebeench is there and you manage to capture him you will bring him here to me first, we do not need to worry Lord Ireton unduly after all he is still recovering from his injuries" Ralph shocks everybody in the room by suddenly jumping up knocking his chair over such is his enthusiasm and loudly calls out "Yes Sir, it makes perfect sense to bring the witch here after all you are the Scout Master General and therefore are the only person equipped to deal with the forces of Satan" he then noticing everyone's stunned expression looks somewhat sheepish and awkwardly bends down to recover his chair. Guilio wiping spittle off his rather smart coat smiles and nods adding "Naturalmente my lord, it is heartwarming to see that you shoulder so much of this burden to spare Lord Ireton its weight" Zeal slowly blinked his stare now fully fixed onto the Italian and said with only the slightest of hisses "I as you do live only to serve" his tone suddenly changes as he looks at Ralph "Thank you, Sergeant Norton, I appreciate your continued enthusiasm for this holy work I'm glad that you have proven that my faith in you was justified and that you can be relied upon to do what is needed, to keep our country safe, He looks at the CL.U.Ber's and slowly turns his head taking in each and everyone before continuing "I just wish more people were like you and realised that we must sacrifice much to make Gods word a reality. Now let's see what the last choice is shall we"

3.
We are interested in this Maestro character and what his involvement in all this is. Rimehart has suddenly remembered a little more about this mysterious gentleman and the False Chanterell painting and its become a cause for some concern. It appears that the" He coughs " so-called Maestro is a Dutchman living in the Netherlands, in fact, Rimehart was kind enough to narrow it down to the city of Amsterdam. He appears to be a wealthy individual and is well connected in certain areas of so-called polite society. As for the painting that has some interesting myths associated with it again according to Rimehart, the painting is by an unknown artist and is keenly sought out amongst those dabble in the dark arts because it is rumoured to provide a gateway of sorts to a different world entirely. Due to its black history several people have attempted to destroy it, and in fact several of them claim to have done just that but each time the painting reappears somewhere and the battle to own it begins again" This assignment is championed by Doctor Browne for no doubt his own reasons but cooler heads might think that annoying our fellow Protestants so early on in our new order might prove somewhat counterproductive but who am I to gainsay it?
"So gentleman those are your options I suggest you take a moment or two to discuss which option you wish to take" he stands up and heads towards the door which he oddly taps before going through. He turns and says "You have five minutes gentleman I will need your decision quickly as arrangements need to be made" with that he steps through onto the stairwell and closes the door behind him. The CL.U.Ber's immediately fall into a heated discussion as what to do next and the fact that this is a rubbish reward for killing all those crystal children. The discussion was still going on when Zeal returns he went straight to his untouched desk smiled and sat down calling for silence "So gentleman what is your decision?" the CL.U.Ber's settle back down into their seats and all immediately begin speaking until Zeal silences them with a wave of his hand. It seems the CL.U.Ber's have settled on two options some want to combine option one and two by quickly going to Holbeach St. Marks possibly by Iron horse check out the area and then head onto Oxford where they should be able to meet up with Richards much slower moving convoy and escort whilst the others fancy going abroad and tracking down this Maestro fellow. Zeal asks for a show of hands and the option to go and visit Mallebeench's old home just won out especially when Ralph realised that this was Zeal's favoured option. So a happy Zeal was able to write out the orders and travel writs for the CL.U.Ber's to travel to sunny Holbeach St.Marks which was unfortunately dangerously close to the town of Kings Lynn which had until fairly recently been a Royalist stronghold.
With the orders and other assorted paperwork completed Zeal dismissed them but reminded them that they had only a few hours left to them before they would have to make their appointment at the Castle to meet up with a troop from Edward Whalley's Iron horses. It was these men who would be transporting them to the winding station at Castle rising the troop would be stationed there whilst the CL.U.Ber's would travel onwards to Holbeach St. Marks by foot.
The CL.U.Ber's got busy returning to the Norton mansion to pack and make ready, Ralph carefully packed away his two new grenadoes into his traveling bag and patted them thoughtfully whilst Guilio and The Doctor hastily pack some items for the journey before quickly heading out to the foundry to grab a hasty word with Doctor Browne. Wilhelm meanwhile collected his traveling bags and weaponry and with a wave headed out towards the marketplace on an errand of his own all agreeing to meet up at the Castle for the long yet exciting journey to the Wash by Iron horse.
At the foundry gates the pair had to wait much to the annoyance of the Doctor as the guards checked their credentials the Doctor was heard to utter the infamous phrase of "Do you not know who I am?" which was answered by the clockwork armoured guard who sighed loudly and said "No I don't hence the reason why I asked you to hand over your credentials" but after a slightly strained conversation and with their paperwork being in order they were finally allowed through and onto the foundry grounds proper the guards also directed them to the foundry's old office which Doctor Browne had also managed to snaffle up. Thomas looked around at the bustling foundry seeing men, women and children all working away with a purpose. Cartloads of material were coming in and being processed into muskets, cannon and sundry other products for the military and as trading items as well it seems as it appeared that Norton Ironwork's was now strongly pushing for more contracts in the burgeoning and already lucrative slave trade. Thomas turning to Guilio says in a somewhat sad tone "You know I barely recognize the old place you know" Guilio nods understanding "Sì, lo so come ti senti come ho sentito lo stesso l'ultima volta che sono stato con mio padre presso le nostre famiglie Massoneria business, prima abbiamo perso la Chiesa" Thomas smiles "I have no idea what you just said old friend but it sounded very wise , come on lets see Doctor Browne, get your arm checked over and see what other surprises he has in store for us" the two head to the old office building where they are greeted by Rimehart "Good to see you again, I hear you are heading out with Whalley's wallies later this morning, I hope you brought a pillow with you as those wooden pillion seats are the devil themselves on the backside" smiling he takes the two CL.U.Ber's inside where they find Doctor Browne at a desk going through some paperwork, the room is like most things connected to Browne full of bizarre bits and pieces paintings, sketches, strange clockwork devices and the ever-present drifts of paperwork fill every area of spare space. He looks up and smiles as the three enter he rises and greets the CL.U.Ber's warmly "Its good to see you I'm glad you could find the time before you had to leave for the Wash, Rimehart could you have a look at Guilio's arm for me? you will find the watchmakers kit and the gauges over there on the elephants foot, now as for you Thomas what do you make of these?" he points to a low table by the window where two large muddy urns sit surrounded by sketches and open books.
Thomas walks over looks them over and asks if its okay to touch them Browne nods watching him all the time his eyes never straying. Thomas picks up the heavily carved urn turning it carefully around in his hands it was surprisingly heavy and about 364 cubic inches in size which is very large for a funeral urn. The off-white body of the urn had a foliage design of vines and strange spiky leaves which was deeply carved into the body of the urn the two handles on either side took the form of human heads from which sprouted large horns liken that of a ram. The lid was cracked but otherwise intact and it to was heavily carved but with this time with the images of bees. Thomas traced the images with a finger as he half listened to Rimehart and Guilio talking in the background there seemed to be something here but he just couldn't quite figure it out so instead he finally and very carefully lifted the lid and looked inside there was a pause then he carefully replaced the lid and with a slight grunt returned the urn back onto the table. Thomas then took a look at the other urn on the table this one was slightly smaller and it was painted instead of being carved, the body was painted a lustrous cobalt blue which still gleamed and caught the light oddly even though Browne had yet to remove all of the mud and dirt from its sides. There was also writing across the top just under the rim Thomas looked back at the other urn and examined the carving again and after looking at it more closely he suddenly realised that there was there was indeed something written there hidden amongst the twisting vines but he couldn't make it out with and with a shrug he went back to the Latin inscription that ran around the lip of the other urn it was one word repeated over and over again in an endless loop, Dantium. He turned to Browne smiling "I'm afraid my Latin is somewhat rusty doesn't Dantium mean Donor or Bestower?" Browne placed a hand onto Thomas's shoulder "Close but I believe it means Giver" Thomas clicked his fingers "Well that puts a different light on things. Well, the first urn seems to contain the burnt remains of several people I'm guessing Romans from the urn? let's see what the other one holds" and with that, he lifts the lid on the shining blue urn. He looks surprised and placing the urn down he pulls out of his pocket his leather gloves turning to the frowning Browne he tells him that he had some nasty side effects recently from things he's touched.
After checking that the gloves are on firmly he reaches into the urn and slowly pulls out a strange stone carving which appeared to be that of a hideous spider. Browne's eyes gleamed "Now that's the really interesting thing don't you think Doctor? never has any recovered hydriotaphia that has been recovered ever contained a sculpture such as the one you are holding" Guilio and Rimehart came over and they to looked at the spider and the urns or hydriotaphia as Browne insisted on calling them with a true sense of wonder. The insect was truly hideous to look at it, the sculptor had managed to capture something evil in its aspect but it was hard to pin down as the size of the spider creature seemed wrong, twisted somehow making the angles seem off the whole thing seemed somehow blurry at the edges. Thomas turns to Browne "So I'm guessing that these were the urns found in that cave system under the ruined Church?" Browne nodded "Yes after the demons were dealt with we searched the caverns until we could go no further and this is all that was recovered, Mallebeench was certainly interested in them but we have no idea why. As you have guessed one hydriotaphia contains the cremated remains of several Romans whilst the other just contains this one unsettling sculpture, nothing makes any sense to me" Thomas sighed as he replied "Nor to us Doctor, we do know that Mallebeench has been looking for something, some evil relic he believes will grant him power but for what reason we have no idea. The thing that confuses me is that he has lost and even given away valuable items without even batting an eye and if he can afford to give those items up so freely God knows what power he thinks the item he's searching for will grant him" Rimehart coughs "Well he was always a strange one, driven you know. I thought he was taking me to greatness but he never would reveal his cards to anyone, not Gahoon, not the Crows certainly not me. I guess the answers may lie in his past though something certainly happened to him that set him upon this course" Everyone stared at Browne's new Tinkerer who blushed and shuffled back a little he finished somewhat defensively "Well I'm just saying" Browne looked upwards towards the nearest church steeple "My apologies gentleman I've kept you longer than I had wished, you may need to run if you wish to make your appointment with Major Whalley" cursing the CL.U.Ber's did indeed run.

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Edited by Butters

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A boozy welcome to the Wash as written by the good Dr. Norton

Once everyone was finally assembled outside the grim castle walls with their gibbeted Hand members still providing a stark warning that Ireton was now firmly in charge and the corruption of the past would no longer be tolerated.
The slightly late members of the Party made their hasty apologies and brief introductions were made to Captain John Russell who gave them a quick run down on how to ride pillion on one of these marvels of clockwork engineering without killing themselves or more importantly the riders. Captain Russell's troop was a little on the light side as they only mustered around six riders including the Captain himself but they were still an impressive body of men and would no doubt easily spread the message that a new order was in place and stamp out any remaining flickers of Royalist sympathies. Also their Iron horses would enable them to patrol the coast and put the fear of God into those involved in smuggling and other criminal practices.
The journey to the winding station at Castle Rising was an impressive one as even on the rougher roads the Iron horses were able to maintain an impressive speed only dropping below the speed of a man running on the most rutted parts of the road so the miles just flew by, the Doctor was very worried about this frenzied pace and advised his fellow CL.U.Ber's to tie rope around them to keep their insides together and their bodies in one piece as he worried about the effects of the air hitting them as such speed, the Dragoons just smiled and shook their heads when asked why they weren't so attired. So apart from the very pale Doctor everyone else decided to remain rope free. Luckily the Iron horses assigned to Captain Russell's were of the newer type and where able to make the journey to Castle Rising on one winding but its still quite late in the afternoon before they finally make it to the winding station and the troops barracks. The CL.U.Ber's are pleased to have made it there in one piece as whilst the clockwork powered horses were speedier than many other forms of transport it still left a lot to be desired in the comfort department and there was a lot of laughter from the Dragoons as the CL.U.Ber's basically fell of the back of the machines and complained about chaffing well apart from the obviously smug Doctor who walked away somewhat stiffly whilst tossing into the air a small jar of ointment before catching it and all the time he smiled as he walked past his friends who were still struggling to get off the floor let alone walk.
After thirty minutes or so and some embarrassing pleading on some peoples part for a jar of the Doctors special ointment the Party were refreshed and with some effort were able to walk towards Holbeach, reaching the small market village just as the village church struck six. Holbeach seemed to be mostly unaffected by the recent troubles, the streets swept clean, the buildings in good repair and the people whilst thin still looked in fairly good health unlike the people from further south. The Party looked around briefly taking in the gloomy streets and nodding politely to the few people they encountered. They head towards the Inn its sign swaying in the increasing breeze, the sign proclaims that there is a warm welcome at the Tossed Blanket.
The Inn is fairly standard but at least the straw is clean and the furniture whole, there are a few stout fellows already in and well into their cups by the looks of things and their was a generally pleasant air about the place. Ralph stepped forward taking the lead and called out a welcome before asking if the Mr Henry Chiltern the local Justice of the Peace was in. This caused a few slightly puzzled looks to be sent his way from his fellow CL.U.Ber's as this was the first time they had heard of this man, in fact Guilio and Wilhelm pulled out scraps of paper where they had jotted down some notes and both looked at each other and shook their heads. A large rotund man with sparse hair, which he seemed to be making the most of stood up still wearing his scarlet robe of office his jowly vein filled face all too telling of a life spent enjoying a little too much the entertainment possibilities his position brought him. Slightly unsteadily he peered towards Ralph belched and in a deep voice which rumbled said "Oh bloody hell, I will write you a damn note for the Poor house supervisors later, can't you see I'm having a small drink with some colleges?" Ralph looked a little nonplussed at this "No Sir and before you ask nor am I bringing prisoners in" Henry looked relieved at this and sitting back down drained his pewter tankard, wiping the froth from his face he slammed it down and asked "So what are you here for? you certainly look like a lot of paupers" and he had a point travelling so far so quickly had coated the CL.U.Ber's in a fine coating of dust, mud and other less pleasant solids. (Those Iron Horses really put the wind up their flesh and blood counterparts) Ralph moved into the bar his bulk causing the barman to subtlety lean down to reach for the barman's friend Wilhelm spotted this and heads towards the man to head off any unfortunate misunderstandings. Ralph stood in front of the J.P and leaned over him "No Sir" he hands over a sealed letter "I'm here for some information.
Henry ripped open the letter and sobered up somewhat "Ah the Scout Master, yes of course I'm more than happy to help you. Where are my manners? Paul bring us a round of your best these men have travelled a fair old distance and need to get the taste of dust out of their mouths no doubt" The two men sat with Henry shuffle up and the CL.U.B'ers make themselves at home. Time passes in a haze of drinking, dangerous games of Able Whacketts and Blowpoint this game had to be quickly ended after the Frenchman kept shooting the Doctors arse much to every-bodies amusement but the Doctor started muttering and that was never a good sign especially with all these unwatched drinks laying around. It seems the letter provided enough reason for Henry to treat the CL.U.Ber's well and so they found it easy to talk to Henry and the other patrons of the bar especially when the drinks began to flow and the weapons and armour came off. The Party learnt that the Mallebeench family were indeed squires of a sort but of a sorry patch of land two or three miles down the road towards the sea in the middle of the Fleet fens, the hamlet though and from what Jasper said it was barely that was called Holbeach St. Marks and was a ruined place of shit and sorrow and that seemed to be the general view of everyone in the Inn. Holbeach St. Marks kept itself to itself its few residents traveling occasionally into Holbeach on market day bringing with them a few cattle and sheep to sell but mostly it was stuff gathered from the fens, fish and fowl mostly. The name of a woman was mentioned with a lot of winking and crude laughter, the ladies name was Lysette Carter and she had a lusty reputation, she seemed to be one of the few people from Holbeach St. Marks to make the journey into Holbeach on a semi regular basis. The early evening passed in a haze of pipe smoke and laughter the Doctor somewhat unused to hard drink amazed everyone when he accepted a challenge from Jasper and George which meant that he had to convince the first person he met outside to ride him like a horse. The Doctor went outside into the gathering gloom the sun now very low on the horizon and the first person he bumps into was the village rat catcher and surprisingly after a heartfelt if slightly slurry plea he was game. And there followed a few of the oddest minutes ever as the Doctor in all his somewhat grubby finery pranced around like a horse with a manically grinning filth encrusted man on his back who was shouting "Giddy up horsey" at the top of his lungs, luckily someone soon threw the contents of their chamber pot at them with a demand to shut up you bloody buffoons before I come down and plant you. The shame faced and slightly damp pair headed back into the Inn to be met with loud applause and hefty pats on the back. Meanwhile Ralph had been in a corner with Henry and the two were in deep discussion the conversation kept low until Ralph stood up and shaking Henry warmly by the hand looked around and with some difficulty (We won't mention what Guilio was up to) gathered the CL.U.Ber's together "Well Gentleman it's still several hours to Holbeach St. Marks so get your heads clear and make sure you have those lanterns ready, we are going to need them. He would have looked very military if he hadn't spoilt it by throwing up all over the outside stoop he was immediately followed by most of the others though in an attempt to clear their fogged minds and sour bellies and with that the Party bid farewell to Holbeach for the time being and headed out into the surrounding fens following an increasingly thin, narrow and rutted track. They had to break out the lanterns fairly soon and it was with a lot of splashing and staggering that the Party finally make it to Holbeach St. Marks and from what they could tell from the light from their lanterns the place really did live up to the descriptions of Tossed Blankets patrons Wilhelm put a pin in it when he turned to Ralph and said "What a midden pile" The only light to be seen coming from the few ramshackle building's was from a small tumbled down building which hunched near what could be called if generous a village green, it's brickwork patched up here and there with planks of rotting wood and pitch soaked canvas, it had a small cheap lantern hanging from a piece of wood which seemed to have been wedged into a hole above its salt warped door. So being tge only sign of life the CL.U.Ber's head over.
As they got closer to the building they noticed a crudely painted picture on the door of a Cat standing up on its forelegs wearing what seemed to be tattered boots and with a small bundle slung over its shoulder Wilhelm turned a suddenly pale face towards the rest of the Party and in whispered tones said "Mein Gott, witchcraft" Guilio sighed and pushed pass asking if they all wanted to sleep outside? Witchcraft or not the cold wind and with the rain starting to fall in earnest was enough to drive the CL.U.Ber's inside witchcraft or not.
They found themselves in a large room with a fire glowing on the far wall giving off an odd earthy smell the left hand side was fenced off by a couple of barrels which had what looked like a piece driftwood flung over the top of them. A huge fat man wearing a greasy food smeared shirt and oddly furry looking trousers tied up with a black piece of what looked oddly to be animal gut, he wipes a filthy paw across his shirt which just moves the dirt further across it in a unwholesome stain whilst setting the underlying fat to surge like a tidal wave across his gut looks up as the CL.U.Ber's pile inside his piggy eyes glow redly in the reflected light from the fire he spits and growls "We're closed this is a local ale house for local people and you ain't" Ralph suddenly rushes in and towards the makeshift bar and quickly leans towards the barman his faces inches away and yells spittle flying out in all directions "I don't give a wet fart for your opinion neighbour, now pour me a tankard of whatever piss passes for ale in these parts before I shove this pistol so far up your arse your be tasting shit and powder for what remains of you short sorry fecking life" with one hand he slams down four pence whilst banging down his pistol with the other. The fat barman barely bats an eye he merely stares at Ralph and calmly replies "Well since you asked so nicely" he swifte twists around grabs a tankard, hits the spigot of the cask behind and as if by magic swings back with a foaming ale. The Party briefly stunned and with hands heading towards their weapons watch all this and when Ralph drains the ale down in one go belches happily and says "That's not too bad for cats piss I'll have another my good barman" they grin and head in glad to be out of the darkness and no longer having to stumble around in the fens at night half crazed with fright that their next step would end with a gurgle of ooze as they step into one of the areas famed pools of sinking mud.
Again through the power of splashed around coin and ale the CL.U.Ber's get down to business and slowly start to ask questions of the barman and the few ratty patrons of his ale house. Ralph tells everyone that they are demobbed soldiers looking for work, he avoids answering the questions about whose side they fought on, he merely tells them them the names of commanders who fought for the Royalists and then some commanders who fought for Parliament and with a shrug of his massive shoulders grins and tells them "You know how it is lads, someday's the red sash pays more than the orange" the CL.U.Ber's all take a different table and after a lot of splashing learn the following.

Old man Mallebeench (Edgar) still lives up at the Saracenic Manor but much like everything around here its seen better days
The estate is run by a nasty piece of work by the name of Joshua Poer he's happy to throw his weight around.

The servants and what have you all seem to come from one family the Carters, the Barman Sid says they are an evil buncjh of inbred bastards and that was very worrying especially coming from him.

Edgar Mallebeench still mourns the lose of his eldest son and seems not to care what the Carters and Poer do in his name.
Constantine Mallebeench is the younger son and had a bad reputation even before he left for Cambridge (The Man we need to find out about)

William Cartwright provided much general gossip about the Carters especially as he seemed to really hate the family.

A young and only slightly wall eyed lad by the name of Luke Harped admitted under some not so gentle joshing from the others that he was keen on Rebecca Carter and even William had to admit that she wasn't too bad...as far as Carters went. She was described as a beautiful red head who enjoyed playing the flute.

Francis Horsely the Hamlets leather worker mentioned that he was expecting to met up with Tom Carter as he had bought some very fine pig hides from him and was still awaiting delivery of them.

The Minister of the local church was called William Ward and he might know more about the family history.

The main point of discussion though was the fact that Mallebeench Snr had hired a lot of Irish to work on his drainage project. The Doctor immediately asked if they were bog Irish or from the Pale? no one seemed to know as many of the locals seemed to steer clear of the manors grounds but one man did say that whilst they seemed to be digging holes they seemed a little different from those he saw as a child when a section of the fens were last drained. It was getting very late and Mark finally called time and even though they were now firm friends he still threw Ralph out and slammed the door closed. It seemed as the CL.U.Ber's would be roughing it, now let's see who brought a bedroll.

Edited by jagerfury
Reordering session reports for consistency.
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Your scribe is somewhat behind at the moment as he has had a funny turn after hearing the latest reports from the CL.U.Ber's but after he has returned from a refreshing visit to London where he will be staying at the lovely resort of Bedlam he will be back to finish off these reports............or it will be the stocks again.

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Tales from the Vagrant Cat as recalled by the good Dr. Norton

Arrived at Holbeach St. Marks, the place is run down Hamlet and the only local landmarks of note are the Church, the Vagrant Cat brew-house and the large Barn with appears to be mostly empty apart from what appeared to be a crudely carved pulpit.
After speaking to a few of the locals it quickly became apparent that the hamlet still harboured Royalist sympathies and one or two people even hint at being supporters of Rupert the Devil but most of the people don't seem to care who rules as long as they are left alone and that the taxes go down.
When the Party checks out the oddly named brew house. The brew house is as expected a large room a basic bar and a selection of weak small beers and the occasional bottle of something stronger. The room is smoky and warm, the heat coming from a fire in a badly made grate which took up half the rear wall. The few locals in there were somewhat reluctant to talk at first being wary of outsiders but the Party spent some coin and as the ale flowed it loosened tongues. Ralph asked if there was any work available and mentioned the Hall the brew house went quiet for a second but then someone mentioned that the hall was hiring folk to dig drainage ditches and the like and after chatting for a while it became clear that the locals didn't get along to well with those at the hall. It seemed the groundskeeper in particular a man by the name of Joshua Poer had a very bad reputation one local by the name of Will Cartwright advised Ralph to look elsewhere for work he also mentioned that the Hall's reputation was so bad that the only ones willing to work for them were the Irish. He also tells Ralph that they don't play straight and they are nothing more than a pack of inbred, cheating scum but then a younger man pips up "Hey they aren't all bad, Rebecca's nice shes not like the rest of them". Ralph turns and asks the young man about her and the young man with a wistful smile tells him he is talking about his girlfriend Rebecca Carter who works at the hall as as a maid. Will laughs hearing this and yells out for all the ale house to hear "Ha! you might say she's your girlfriend but does she know? you've been drinking this Four waster Ale trying to get enough courage to ask her out" the rest of the patrons laugh and poor Luke blushes and retreats further into the shadows telling Will "Hey she loves me, just because your wife turned out to be an old fishwife and nags you" Ralph cuts in before tankards are thrown "Take no heed of him Luke I will help you win maiden fair, I'm quite good at poetry and cooking you know and can give you some pointers" Luke smiles and thanks Ralph before rushing off to get ready to court Rebecca.
The other patrons cheer him on and then an odd smelling man whose simple outfit was covered with a huge thick apron which had numerous pockets stitched onto the front, each filled with a variety of sharp knives, shears and needles approaches Ralph and slaps him on the back "It does me proud to see someone helping that lad, he's been making moon eyes at Rebecca for years now and really does need someone to kick his arse into finally telling the poor lass how he feels" though if you are keen to meet the Carters you could do me a favour" he thrusts out a calloused, scared hand "My name is Francis Horsely and I'm the local leather worker and general dogsbody for this fine place and I'm waiting to get a shipment of fine pig skins from Thomas Carter the slightly more respectable Carter of Saracenic hall" He steers Ralph to the bar and gets a round in. Ralph asks about the pig skins and Francis tells him that they are meant to be of exceptional quality and colour, he tells Ralph that he's been waiting for Thomas all morning and can't wait any longer as he's got work piling up at his workshop. Ralph gets a rough description of Thomas and agrees to mention the skins when he goes up to the hall and to try to bring them back, Francis thanks him and tells him that if he can get the skins delivered there will be a few drinks and a maybe a few shillings in it for him. The rest of the CL.U.Ber's have been talking to the other patrons and get roughly the same information that Ralph picked up the hall has a bad reputation, rumours that Old man Mallebeench is short of money and that the Servants headed by Joshua Poer are more or less running things up there. Giulio has been asking around about the digs in particular and he tells the others that whilst some land had been reclaimed years ago this time it looks more random and most of the locals believe that Joshua is looking for something probably the fabled missing treasure of King John and is just using the drainage project as cover. The Party drink up and thanking the patrons head out and take the rutted track to Saracenic hall, the Doctor looking up at the sun smiles "Well that went fairly well and with any luck we will be at the hall by lunch time"

Edited by jagerfury
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More from the Journal of Dr. Thomas Norton....

Well if you know of a better ole go to it

The Party head out of Holbeach St. Marks and take the raised path towards Sarcenic hall, the path is ill keept but it does show signs of some us faint wagons tracks and a water filled impression of a booted foot here and there.
The flat landscape of the Broads seem to go off into the far distance either side of the path only broken up here and there by small copses of bare trees and a few squat buildings. The cries of seagulls rend the late morning air adding a sober tone to the strange landscape. The Party soon leave the hamlet behind them the squalid buildings disappearing beneath a gentle slope in the land. The going is fairly good at first but they have to leave the pathway a few times as they encounter sections washed away but this only adds a few minutes to their journey as its just a matter of climbing down into the marsh and then scrabbling back up the other side but it is tiring and soon they are all sporting water logged boots and the sound of squelching soon rings out accompanied by a lot of grumbling and a few curses,
After twenty minutes of so they start to come across the first evidence of the works of Saracenic hall. Wooden stakes can be seen stuck into the ground nearby, each stake has a small piece of yellow cloth tied to it which flutters damply in the sea borne breeze. Giulio pauses and squints at the sun then kneels down and sights down a pointed finger "Hey it seems they have surveyed this area" Ralph trudges over but not having the same experience as Giulio just sees stakes seemingly placed at random so he just makes a somewhat non committal grunt in reply Giulio smiles and shakes his head and sweeping out his hand says "I expect we will soon see some of these earthworks that we have been hearing about soon" Ralph shrugs and looks out at the stakes "Maybe, lets get going though as these blasted gnats are starting to annoy me" he swats at himself dislodging a small cloud of small flying insects.
Giulio was right as after ten more minutes or so of walking the Party could make out a few mounds of banked up earth some were close to the path whilst one or two were out in the marshlands Ralph called a halt and went to speak with Giulio who was peering into a water filled hole just of the path. "Well what do you make of it Giulio?" the other CL.U.Ber's took the opportunity to sit down and get some small beer and some food inside them the Doctor could be heard muttering away with Wilhelm something about heretics and the evils of Papacy "Its a little strange my friend..these do not seem the right sort of hole for a drainage project. I know only a little about such things but these seem to be how you say speculative holes, small holes that you dig hoping to find clues to where you really need to dig" Ralph looked down into the hole then gazed across to the others which scatter the nearby landscape "You may be right I must admit I was expecting something more...well bigger than just a few holes" their speculation is cut short though as Tomas jogs up to them "Mon Braves I think I have seen something that will interest you" Ralph and Giulio follow him back along the path past the still muttering German and Doctor and to a slight rise he points to a spot further along the path the forbidding structure of a gibbet could be clearly seen in the mist but also a group of men could be made out most of them seemed to be standing around a bank of earth from which earth could be seen flying up and out of every few minutes. "Well lets meet the Carters, hey Cousin no more arguing with the locals remember we are here looking for work" and after a brief wait whilst Wilhelm and the Doctor packed up the Party headed off again towards the mysterious work gang.
As the got closer they heard a whistle ring out and the men stiffened and started to spread out away from the hole and seemed to take up positions which seemed to be oddly enough to now block further travel along the raised path.
The Party are hailed by a giant of a man who stomps into the middle of the path and raises a meaty calloused paw. He is soon joined by a smaller man who unlike the others is rather smartly dressed as if he is a squire "Good morning gentleman what brings you out this way and so early?" Ralph nods to the giant and looks at the smartly dressed man "Ah we are looking for work times are difficult and coin is hard to come by" he pulls off his cap and holding it in both hands by his stomach twists it one way then the other " We were demobbed from the army after Naseby your lordship and we heard that the lord at Saracenic hall was looking for men not afraid of hard work" The well dressed man smiles and looks towards the giant "Hear that Sam he thinks I'm a Lord, well if its work you are looking for then you've come to the right place. We need diggers to help with the masters drainage project and a days work will earn you four pence and if you are any good lodgings and a hot meal up at the hall" The Party all pretend to be eager at this prospect much relieved sighs and praise the lords (it seems as if Wilhelm was something of an actor) the smartly dressed man grins and starts to hold out his hand to shake but then adds "Oh and you' ve got to be able to work with the Irish, you don't have a problem with that do you"? there is a somewhat strained pause and Ralph can be heard to mutter something a long the lines of oh bugger and then the Doctor asks all polite like "Irish you say? would they be from the Pale or would they be beyond the Pale? the well dressed man turns and looks hard at the Doctor "Oh I believe these are the blackest of Irish, Catholics come cheap these days" The Doctors face goes an interesting shade of puce and then he explodes railing against the papists and their attempts to pollute this fair country with their corruption and sinful ways "At least tell me that these scum are chained" he shouts pointing an angry finger at the men blocking the path. The giant moves forward his hands clenching and un-clenching into fists the smartly dressed man laughs and looks down into the pit "hey Feldwebel you chained up down there?" the flying earth stops and a heavily accented voice comes out "Feck no ye daft bastard, how could I be digging all this dirt if I was chained up? have you any more daft questions or can I get on with me work? he then mutters something like "Béarla dúr cumberworld" the smartly dressed man looks at the giant, nods and then turns back to the Party "Oh that is a shame well in that case my Brother and myself will be having no work for you fine gentleman then and so will be asking you to leave as you can see we are fairly busy" the rest of the Party back up and they to start to spread out all apart from the Doctor who remains front and centre still ranting he starts to pace slowly forward his finger jabbing forward towards the brothers "How can you as English man do this, how can you allow Catholics to roam free, do you not know what trouble they can cause?" the smartly dressed man laughs "Oh you are a rare one, I could give a farthing's fart for who I get to dig these holes so like I said its best you be going back the way you came" he then calls out to one of the men behind him "Hey Adair how about you passing me that blunderbuss, it seems that this one needs a little extra persuading" the Doctor reaches new heights of anger and screeches out "YOU LET THEM TOUCH WEAPONS!!!" luckily his cousin seeing how this would play out grabs the Doctor by the scruff of his neck and drags him back with then with a twist he flings him into the arms of Wilhelm who knees him in the gut and whispers "Not here, not now you fool" the wind taken out of him the Doctor can merely whimper "But Catholics in Norfolk, no chance of peace" Ralph apologises to the now armed smartly dressed man and the Party walk backwards fifteen meters or so with the work gang jeering them all the way and when they have gotten a safe distance away the CL.U.Ber's turn around and walk back towards Holbeach St.Marks Ralph grabbing his cousin and having a very serious word in his shell like.
 
 
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Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!

The Party make their way back to where they started from the britch end of nowhere dragging along a still very angry Doctor. "Well that went well" said Wilhelm then seeing Ralph's scowl quickly adds "Well it did now we know what we are up against and that the rumours are true, Mallebench has hired a load of Irish Catholics" Thomas smiles "Well at least we can get a drink in Non? I don't know about you but I have worked up a powerful thirst with all this walking" he bustles past the others and heads toward the dubious charms of the Vagrant cat brew house, the others drawing a blank on what to do next follow on after him.
The Tapman nods as the Frenchman enters the gloomy, smoke filled interior "You back? is it a pint of the regular you be wanting my froggie eating friend?" Thomas flinging his hat onto a nearby table laughs "Why yes Monsieur a pint of warm piss if you please" the Tapman smiles a broken toothed smile and grabbing a tankard lowers it beneath the crude bar and replies "Right you are Sir" this is followed by some splashing noises and he then slams the tankard back down onto the bar "There you go a warm frothing pint of Old Jessop" Thomas heads over and passes over a few copper pennies and grabbing the tankard he thanks the Tapman and downs the pint in one leaving a frothy moustache behind "Ahhh I think I will have another to drown out the taste of the first" by this time the others had entered the Taproom and had headed to the bar to get their own orders in.
Thomas was talking to the Tapman as he got the drink orders sorted and seemed friendly enough the charming Frenchman easily putting people at ease with his ribald jokes and saucy tales. The Taprooms only other patrons this early was William Cartwright and the Beggar, the beggar seemed to be unsuccessfully trying to get Cartwright to buy him a beer. Cartwright seeing them enter was glad for the distraction and asked the Party how they found the hospitality at the big house Ralph answered somewhat surly "It stinks" Cartwright laughs "They're not the friendliest people I'll give them that" the Doctor mentions the Irish and is shocked to see that not only aren't the patrons shocked but they seemed to know all about it to. And If they had thought the Doctor had been angry before they hadn't seen anything yet.
The Doctor started yelling at Cartwright "You knew about this? why haven't you called the authorities, why haven't you contacted the J.P at Holbeach, how can you allow this to happen after all they have done, after all that we have fought for? Cartwright staggers back under this onslaught and getting over his shock starts to push back "No one comes here that much, especially the great and the good old Mallebennch is one of them ain't he and they look after themselves" the Doctor pushes back telling Cartwright that it is his duty to report the Carters and the Irish he tells him that their is a Parliament now and things are different Cartwright just laughs and tells the Doctor that not everyone is happy to see the King gone and that Parliament or not the rich look after the rich and damn the poor The Doctor explodes and shoves Cartwright hard in the chest calling him a Royalist and a coward to boot Cartwright has had enough and swings his pewter tankard into the side of the Doctors head. Ale splashes everywhere the Tapman reaches for the club under the bar and the Doctors helmet rings out and gets a new dent "You dastard, you filthy King loving arse kisser" screams the soaked Doctor who reaches out towards the horrified Cartwright, the Doctors hands already splayed out ready to throttle the object of his hatred. The Tapman grabs Cartwright and drags him to safety behind the bar whilst Giulio drags the Doctor back. The Tapman shouts "Get your crazy friend out of here, he's barred" Giulio nods and starts to drag the still protesting Doctor back out towards the door aiming to get him out. Thomas pulls out his coin purse and pulls out a couple of shillings and slides them towards Cartwright and the Tapman "Sorry about that he's had a bad day, I hope this will cover the mess" he sees that Giulio and the others had managed to get the Doctor out and that Ralph and Wilhelm were returning Ralph seemed to be admonishing the grinning Bavarian "Yes I know but did you really have to kick him in the forks?" Thomas turns back to the taproom and much to the beggars delight loudly shouts out "Beers for everyone" he grins at the Tapman "Even you I'm afraid" the taproom is soon filled with shouts, laughs and the sounds of a game of pinch penny getting into full swing. Ralph headed over to the Tapkeeper and asked him about Francis Horsely the leather worker "Ahh he won't be in for a while yet he likes to get a good days work in fore spending his coin, why do you ask?" Ralph explains that he thought there might be a job going as Horsely was waiting for some skins to be delivered and he thought he could help speed things along for a few coppers. The Tapman nods and tells Ralph that in that case Francis works out of his home just passed the Middlecot farm seeing Ralph's confused expression he tells says "Its past the big barn you can't miss it" he grins "Just follow your nose" Ralph followed by some of the others head out to speak to the leather worker.
They pass Giulio who tells them that the Doctor has gone to the church and that he promised to stay out of trouble but Giulio admits that he was also muttering something about Sodom and Gomorrah Ralph groans but pats the Italian on the shoulder and asks him to keep an eye on his cousin for him "He hasn't being sleeping a lot recently, its made him cranky"
They follow the path past the barn and soon pick up the pungent, penetrating smell of urine, rotting flesh and stagnant water coming from a building set back from the path taking a deep breath Ralph says "Ah that must be the place" he wipes away a tear "Reminds me of the petting zoo and Black Philip" They find Horsely sat outside working on a hide when he sees them coming he stands up but keeps his wicked blade to hand "Hello their what can I be doing for you, don't get many visitors due to the stink" Ralph raises his hand palm open in welcome and to show he wasn't armed "Hello it's Master Horsely isn't it? my name is Ralph Norton and I was wondering if you were still interested in those hides that Tom Carter promised you?" Horsely looks a little puzzled but relaxes, he drops the blade into a nearby log and gestures to a bench "Take a seat, let's hear what you have to say" Ralph explains that he's looking for work and had heard that you were were waiting on an order of skins and that for a few coins Ralph thought he could speed things on, speak to Tom and maybe pick up the skins and bring them back. Francis scratched at his ragged beard "Well that sounds like an idea and if you got the skins there might be some money in it for you but it would mean you would have to go back to the hall.......hey aren't you back pretty soon?" Ralph shakes his head "Not quite we met a couple of fellows on the road who were digging up the path, well them and some Irish" Francis grins and spits out a wad of something best not remarked on "Huh that sounds like you met Joshua Poer and that brute Sam Carter, I take it then that you didn't get past them then" Ralph again shakes his head "No they weren't the most friendly of folk and my cousin has a problem with their use of Irish labour, he thinks that their is insurrection in the air" Francis looks thoughtful and replies "Maybe their are a lot of Irish up their at least that's what we hear, look if you could get past Joshua there ain't much point you trying to get to the hall to speak to Tom Carter Joshua is his stepfather so pissing him off also pisses off Tom so I think I'll just wait. No offence I just don't want to wreck the deal" he looks oddly wistful "They are special skins after all" Thomas asks him about the holes and Francis cackles "Drainage my hairy arse, they are looking for King Johns lost treasure, been listening to that crazy swill belly at the Taproom I be thinking, Joshua was always one for easy money.
The Doctor meanwhile was deep in conversation with the Minister William Ward, the church seemed to have been properly adapted for the Godly the heathen bric a brac of the Catholics had been removed, the brightly coloured paintings of the Saints had been whitewashed over and leaving the church a quiet respectful place in which to hear the sermons of the Godly to feel and understand the words of the Lord God as he had meant them to be. The Doctor perked up seeing for the first time in this godless wasteland a glimmer of what was meant to be this mood was quickly smashed when after meeting the humble looking Minister Ward and exchanging greetings the Doctor discovered the reason a man as well educated as Ward seemed to be had ended up in a place like Holbeach St. Marks, the man was a damned Laudian!
The Doctor managed to control himself this time as after all this was a church and he was still feeling a little dazed and tired from the recent events in the Vagrant cat. So he took a deep breath and instead of burning the building down he asked the Minister to take a seat and to tell him all he knows about the Mallebench family. Ward goes pale but seeing the look in the Doctors eyes decides that a little chat wouldn't be that bad considering the alternative. The Doctor learnt some interesting things as the Minister chatted away, they rarely came to this church to worship instead preferring to worship in their own chapel which was on the hall grounds, he knew about the Irish but pretended that he could maybe save their souls if only he could talk to them but as they seemed to stay on or near the halls grounds he had yet to begin any serious conversion work. He blamed the sons for abandoning the old man and allowing the likes of the Carter family to sink their claws into an old man. He also reveals that whilst the raised path is the only way to the house there is someone who might be aware of a way to it through the fens. The Doctor presses him and the Minister whispers a name, Persistence Butcher the hamlets Butcher. It seems that this man gets a lot of the meat he sells from the marsh working certain areas for fish and fowl, apparently he also does a mean badger pie. The Doctor gets the impression that as long as the Minister gets his tithe hen was happy to turn a blind eye. The Doctor feeling his anger rise thanked the minister for his help and standing back up bid the weak man good day and headed back outside to get some fresh air and to let the visions of a burning hamlet to fade.
He looks around takes several deep breaths and takes in the pitiful display of shacks and hovels in front of him he sees the others heading down Miller lane and back into the hamlet he waves but they fail to see him as they head back to the Cat the Doctor shrugs and turns back to the hovels and spots one that seems to be a butchers shop of some kind or at least he hoped it was otherwise all those dead animals hanging up would take some explaining. The Doctor sniffs, brushes himself down and heads towards the meat.
There is a loud cry of relief which comes from the Jakes behind the Cat and the black clad figure of the Witch Hunter suddendly appears doing up the cords on his breeches "Guter Gott, was diese englischen Teufel Essen? Ich habe für Tage, die Ärzte Salbe scheint bis zuletzt aber gearbeitet haben, bunged. Es tut mir leid für den Armen Bastard, der das alles ausgraben muss. Jetzt Zeit für ein Pint" The Doctor sighed and continued onto the Butchers but finding it locked up resorts to asking at a neighbours who tells him that Persistance is more than likely out hunting on the fens with his dog but he will be back before nightfalls as no one stays out on the fens after dark. The Doctor thanks the old lady and with a look of weary resignation heads back to the Cat after leaving a note pinned to the shops door.
Meanwhile the Bavarian had finally managed to meet up with the others and was a little shocked to hear all that they had managed to do "What wait a minute I can't have been in the Jakes that long surely? what seven hours!......really? its your so called sausages they are not proper you know, hardly any meat just scrapings from the floor and sawdust...it bungs a man up you know" the others jeer and laugh but buy him a pint none the less. Which makes him feel better but unfortunately encourages Mad Bert the hamlets swill belly who sidles up from the corner where he fled to during the Cartwright and Norton smack down and starts pestering Wilhelm for a drink. A few more locals start to trickle in and a party mood seems to descend as the beer flows and everybody is happy to talk to the new comers again and tell tall tales of life on the edge where the land ends and the sea begins.
The Doctor reaches the Cat but pauses at the door his hand hovering over the handle as he hears the revellerey inside he sighs again and puts his hand back into his coat pocket and instead heads back to the path and heads back across the green with its slimy weed filled duck pond and the currently empty salt weathered stocks.
The others meanwhile learnt some more about the staff out at the hall the smiling man was identified as Joshua Poer the head groundskeeper a charming bully and a dangerous man in general, the giant was his step son (their father died in mysterious circumstances) Sam a man you definitely don't want to mess with but is always a safe bet come market day in Holbeach as he hasn't lost a bare knuckle fight yet and he fought Six hour vinegar to a standstill. They also hear about the fen beast who snatches away the unwary on moonless nights. The fen beast has a long history in the area possibly even before their was a hamlet. Ralph hearing this flashes back to the Blood beast of Bogdin and shudders, the crazy fellow they got released from the mad house. Mad Berts antics finally gets him a pint from Wilhelm and he starts to tell the Party about strange lights in the night, lost treasures soon to be found, a diadem from lost Atlantis returning to the land of ignorant men, of a reborn avatar born of fire and enraptured at the powers at her command and beware the curses of the ghoul with the fang filled maw , of alien treasure vaults and of a prehistoric mission reaching fruition. Wilhelm nods takes some hasty notes and starts to look at Mad Bert a lot more closely asking him about his past trying to find out if he was a Warlock or just moon touched. This ends badly for Wilhelm as Mad Bert starts to ramble on and on about unicorns and flowers and how one day an box marked with an apple will be powerful enough to run the world. The rest of the Party get their drink on an wait for Tom Carter to arrive. An hour or so passes and a man dressed in an outfit of dark green enters the tap room he scans the room removes his cloak and pulls out a short sturdy stick from out of a wicker basket that's by the door. He uses the stick to scrape the worst of the mud off his boots, Giulio sat at the back shakes his head "Oh so that's what the stick is for, cunning very cunning"
The Doctor sees the Butcher come back carrying a pole hanging with fish and fowl a dog was running at his side its tail wagging away nineteen to the dozen. Strangely though he was not wearing chaps which the Doctor had been reliably informed was necessary for traversing the terrain he also seemed to be covered in a foul smelling ointment. The Doctor hails him and introduces himself to the one possibly sane man in the hamlet. After the Doctor explains what he is after the Butcher invites him into the shop to discuss things. After talking for a while it seems like Persistence doesn't care too much for those at the hall but his description of the fens impressed the Doctor as Persistence came across as a man wholly professional but still had a passion about his work. A price was agreed and a time arranged he said he could get them close to the hall and didn't want to know too much about who the CL.U.Ber's were or more importantly why they needed to sneak into the hall. So the two men shook on it and the Doctor handed over five shillings.
The man in green walks into the cat and starts to throw his weight around mocking the patrons safe in the knowledge that no one would dare to answer him back. He grabs peoples tankards and chugs them down spilling most of the ale down his dark green leather shirt. He swaggers to the bar and orders a bottle of Brandy "I've had my fill of pig swill now for some of the good stuff" the tap man hands over a dusty bottle from under the bar and Tom still laughing and calling people names pulls the cork out with his teeth, he then spits the cork into Mad Berts eye and laughs as if its the funniest thing hes ever seen. Mad Bert on the other hand yelps and runs back into his dark corner where soon after the sounds of desperate sucking can be heard. Tom still laughing sloshes the bottle around spilling Brandy everywhere "See I've just spilt more of this Brandy then you peasants could ever afford" the party notices that no money has been seen coming from Tom to pay for the Brandy yet. He does one more spin of the room and then starts to chug it down straight from the bottle.
He spots Mad Bert hiding at the back and suddenly charges at him whooping and laughing as Mad Bert cries out in panic, Tom throws the bottle out of the window and uses his hands makes horns and then he starts to grunt as if a great beast he then chases Mad Bert again straight out of the tap room this time, he slams the door shut with a flourish and bows at the oddly quiet patrons. He scowls when he sees that no one seems to appreciate his humour. He spies the Party and stomps towards Thomas "Hello, hello more strangers, look lads this one is another army boy all dressed up in what Parliamentarian finery? Whoa lads we best be keeping an eye on are women folk with all these soldiers in town" he suddenly spins back to Thomas "Tell me about the world outsides regal us poor yokels with your sophisticated conversational skills. Thomas stands up bows and does just that he talks about France, the life as a soldier of fortune, the battles, the thunder of guns and the world ending sound of drumming of horses as they charge a line of men and the screams of men and animals as they crash into the wall of pikes held by men of stout heart. There is not a dry eye in the house even the lout Tom is silent for a minute and then gores and spoils it by shouting "Yes but what about that dastard who caused trouble earlier the one who annoyed the good Minister? he with you boys I be thinking. Thomas stunned for a moment and still basking in the moment stumbles out an apology "Oh the Doctor please forgive him he was dropped as a child.....a lot" Tom Carter snarls well he better watch himself around here people causing trouble around here have a habit of washing up on the beach if their not careful. Ralph walks up to Tom and interrupts him "You Tom Carter then?" Tom looks up at the broad expanse of Ralph and steps back to get a better look at the man spoiling his fun "Yes I'm Tom Carter what of it" Ralph smiles his scars rippling across his face causing it to look unnatural "I'm Ralph and I hear you have some mighty fine and unique pig skins for trade" somewhat stunned Tom looks confused then answers "Oh are you from Francis the old fart?" Ralph nods "Yes he sent me to collect them" Tom smiles evilly "Oh he did, well tell him he gets the hides when I give them to him not fecking before. Tell him I will drop them off tomorrow morning first thing and he better bring some extra money with him as he must be rolling in tin if he can hire a collector" he then grabs a nearby tankard drains it and then grabbing his coat heads back outside kicking a local out of the way with a harsh "move it you dollard" things got back to normal after Tom left and Mark the Tap man gestures Ralph over "You had him worried there, but don't think he was scared of you for a minute he's like a mad ferret he will bite and rip at you even as he dies" Ralph grunts "I know I've seen his like before" Mark laughs sadly "No you haven't , really you haven't Tom there really is in a world of his own" Mark then turns around rings a bell and shouts "Time to get going, you've had your fun and I'm kicking you out so get going"
 
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Edited by jagerfury
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Medallion.jpg.d157aaafd2e360647887d59ac2d453e3.jpgThe Medallion given to the PC's by Edgar Mallebench
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cutthroats and brigands found in the Wash
Edited by jagerfury
Cutthroats and Brigands in the Wash
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On 6/17/2018 at 11:58 PM, jagerfury said:

Mark then turns around rings a bell on shouts "Time to get going, you've had your fun and I'm kicking you out so get going"

Could you do us a favour and edit the on into an and, cheers.🙈

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A slap of the Butchers special cream does a man good

So the now well-lubricated party find themselves standing outside the Vagrant Cat, in the cold and with the first drops of rain falling onto their various hats and helmets and the door to the Cat is being slowly but firmly closed in their faces, Wilhelm tries one last time to persuade Mark to let them sleep in the Brew house but Mark just shakes his head "Sorry but closing time here means that everyone fecks off so I can get some bloody sleep....and I sleep alone before you ask" The increasingly soggy Wilhelm pleads "At least tell us where we can camp that's dry" his only answer is a clunk of a bolt being thrown and Mark laughing. Giulio wrapping his cloak about him tugs on his shoulder "Come on the Doctor's made camp in the graveyard which whilst pleasant enough I believe though we can do better" he spins Wilhelm around and points at the steeped roof of what looks to be a barn roof peeking up over a nearby hovel. Leaving the Doctor to his tent the others head towards the barn but in the darkness, they stagger around a bit until they finally find a small door in its side which is unlocked. Thomas De Fronsac who was bringing up the rear staggers in waving a tankard which was now more full of rainwater then ale cries out "where are the women? do they not realise that I am France's greatest lover" the heavens open up with a loud boom of thunder followed by a retina-searing crack of lighting as Thomas falls to the floor and begins snoring loudly. Giulio and Wilhelm drag Thomas fully inside and then struggle to close the door securing it with the handy twine and peg hanging from its frame.
The barn seemed dry enough though, its a two storey affair and solidly built. The bottom floor is strangely empty of crops though there are signs that there were hay bales stored here until recently, in place of the missing hay there now stands a crude wooden pulpit which looks quite ominous in the flashes of lighting. Wilhelm produces a lantern and with its warm glow filling the barn the pulpit looks a lot less scary it's crude carvings changing from demons and imps into simple godly puritan designs. Suddenly from the hayloft above comes a cackle "Heehehehehe scared you didn't it" Giulio and Wilhelm look up hands reaching for their weapons only to see Mad Bert capering around "Hello friends, the storms coming from the sea and its going to be a cold one" he pauses and rubs his eye and then farts loudly before continuing "Better out than in, say you don't have any spare ale with you by any chance?" Giulio turns to a suddenly pale Wilhelm and says "You know it's not too late to go and see if the Doctor has any spare room in his tent"
The night passes with a lot of swearing and the occasional horrified scream when Mad Bert kept trying to show Giulio and Wilhelm his magic trick, luckily Thomas was spared this horror as he remained flat out on the barn's floor snoring loudly and occasionally muttering "Belles dames ils viennent dans toutes les formes et tailles" from time to time.
Oddly enough the whole Party was up and ready to leave by first light, Thomas had a bucket of cold water thrown onto him and after a startled shriek broke out in a huge smile and shook himself like a dog "Ahh merci amis, this all reminds me of my time at the Universite de Paris, many a time was I woken up with a bucket of ice water after carousing all night and being found in the bed of one of the maids" Giulio seems interested in hearing more of Thomas's educational experiences but Wilhelm puts a dampener on things by simply pointing to the still sleeping form of Mad Bert. Giulio lowers his voice "Ah yes maybe later my amorous friend" he looks at Thomas and then places his finger against his lips making a "Shh" noise he then whispers to Thomas "We aren't alone, come on lets not disturb the poor man and besides we have an appointment to keep after all" with the greatest of care they quickly gather their things and sneak out of the barn leaving Bert to whatever passed for dreams in his alcohol addled mind.
Meanwhile, the Norton's were packing up as well the solidly built wall of the graveyard had provided some protection from the night's storm but they to were keen to get moving but unlike the others, they managed to get in a quick bowl of warm porridge inside them before they struck camp.
The CL.U.Ber's all finally end up meeting back up together outside the Butchers shop and after catching up with each other and warning the Doctor to try to keep his anger in check from now as Ralph reminds him that they meant to be looking for information and people had a tendency to go quiet when approached with an angry ranter. The Doctor agreed and somewhat sheepishly explained that he should be fine now as it was just the shock of this place, finding all this heresy and apathy in his own home county.
Luckily it seemed that Persistence was also an early riser as he soon appeared dressed and ready with his dog at his side. "Morning all, I must admit I'm surprised to find you all up and ready I thought I would be having to drag you out of whatever ditches you found yourselves in after last night" he takes a clay pipe out of his jacket lights it and starts to puff away deeply and quickly. The area outside his shop is soon filled with a sweet-smelling bouquet, still puffing away but at a more normal pace, he removes a large clay jar from behind his door. "Right, this here tobacco smoke helps covers up the smell of this" he unseals the jar releasing a terrible stench from the oily mixture within. The nauseous smell from the jar battled with the smell of the tobacco until a truce was formed between them leaving just an unpleasant cloying smell behind. Persistence seemed to find great amusement in watching the Party members react to the stench. Though he was a little shocked to see that the Doctor eagerly approach him taking deep snorts and muttering plant names under his breath. He thrusts the jar past the strange Doctor and towards the others causing a few of them to desperately peddle back and away from the jar's contents, he laughs "I'm afraid it gets worse, you need to smear this all over any exposed areas of skin otherwise the gnats and bugs out there in the fen will eat you alive" Thomas was looking decidedly green around the gills especially after seeing the Doctor eagerly grab a handful of the goop and start to smear it over his hair suddenly the Frenchman goes deathly pale as something clicks "But face is exposed Monsieur, surely you don't mean that I have to put that foul smelling sludge onto.............my face?" Persistence grins "Well it's up to you, the smell is bad true but you get used to it. The insect bites on the other hand"
So soon enough with only a little protesting from the Frenchman a now terrible smelling bunch of CL.U.Ber's find themselves crammed into a rowboat being rowed out into the seaward marshes, circling past the raised path and heading hopefully towards the rear of Saracenic hall and whatever secrets awaited them there.

 

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Time to make a house call

The fens were a mysterious place during the early hours, the mist that rolled up from the numerous small creeks and waterways obscured everything making the few buildings that they passed loom suddenly out at them as from nowhere. The mist also dampens all noise the birdsong once so normal and so every day that it just wasn't noticed anymore now suddenly sounded weird and distorted, Persistence had to admonish the CL.U.Ber's more than once as he supervised them carrying his rowboat across boggy field's towards the next waterway as they kept dropping it and reaching for blade and gun after they heard a strange noise or a ghostly shape approaching them through the mist. The source of their fears always turned out to be one of the many cattle which were left to graze on the rich grass of the broads, after the third time the CL.U.Ber's sheepishly got the hang of things and finally managed to keep their cool much to the relief of the Butcher who was starting to think he would be swimming home.
After an hour or so the area of fens they now seemed to be in became somehow grimmer the early morning mist had mostly faded away by now but here the mist still clung on and somehow it also seemed thicker it almost pressed against people now leaving cold wet trails across their faces as if they had been caressed by a grieving mother. Even Persistence seemed quieter now he had spent much of the journey happily telling the CL.U.Ber's all about the beauty and wonder of the landscape. He especially enjoyed talking to the Doctor who was most interested in all the useful herbs and the other plants used by the locals in their treatment of sickness and disease, but now all that had stopped he just concentrated on rowing and asking Giulio who was sat up at the front to take regular depth readings. Looking up to the pale sun which hung dimly overhead and thoughtfully looking at the now gloomy landscape he seems to reach a decision and slowly starts to row towards the nearest bank "Here we are, this is the spot you need to get off on" the sound of scraping could be heard it's loudness startling as the boat crunched onto the gravelly shore. The Party slowly clamber out of the boat and gratefully stretch
their boat cramped limbs before grabbing their gear. Persistence continues "Right after you climb up this here hill you need to head dead straight, you should soon see another low hill the other side of which is a narrow ravine follow that eastwards and that will lead you to the rear of the hall. I will swing by here again two hours before nightfall but if I don't see you I be guessing you're not be needing a lift back, understand?" The Doctor and a couple of the others nod, the Doctor looking around at the dead trees and sickly flora asks "Whats with this place everything looks diseased" Persistence grunts "Well its never been the best grazing land around here, maybe its too close to the sea or something and the salts built up but truth be told no one knows why the land here is sour and no one really cares as apart from the Mallebench family and their servants no one comes out this way much."So saying their farewells to the Butcher and his dog they head up and onwards to Saracenic hall and its dark mysterious family. The CL.U.Ber's follow the Butchers instructions and cross the barren ground as instructed Wilhelm a little ahead of the others points out the numerous areas of worn earth where nothing grew and so revealed the bare earth which seemed to be split and cracked. "This land certainly appears cursed, maybe this drainage idea isn't so far-fetched after all"
As the sun reached its midday peak the CL.U.Ber's finally came to the edge of a sickly stand of tree's and look upon Saracenic hall at long last. The trek through the ravine had passed uneventfully and neither had Wilhelm or Thomas the trackers of the Party spotted any signs that anyone had passed this way for a very, very long time. So feeling confident that their rear was secure they Got down onto their bellies and crawled forward a little bit leaving the cover of the stunted trees behind to get a better look at the hall and the surrounding grounds. The hall was a modest size a two storey building with an attached tower on one side the building appeared to be made of solid grey stone and numerous dusty medieval styled windows looked blankly out towards the remains of what once was an ornamental garden but which now had been left to grow ruinous and wild. Here and there the broken stubs of strange looking sculptures could be seen poking up behind the high yellowish grass, like rocky islands in a sickly storm-swept sea. Just to the side of the hall and partially blocked by its bulk the CL.U.Ber's could just make out the shapes of what looked to be crude huts and from the faint traces of smoke rising behind the hall, it seems as if some of them were occupied. Looking at the landscape before him Thomas starts pointing out a route towards the rear of the hall "See mes Amis if we skirt the small lake and head to the east we should remain undetected, the ground itself will cover us and keep us safe non?" Ralph looking at the route nods in agreement "I reckon you're right the long grass should make this easy and the hall itself blocks most of the view from those cottages" he calls Wilhelm over "Hey you hunted people over in Bavaria correct?" Wilhelm nods and Ralph continues "I need someone to scout ahead, see if the grounds been disturbed, lets make sure its as barren as it looks eh" Wilhelm takes a long thoughtful look and then replies "Ja, that makes sense but I tell you this already if someone does use this route they are master woodsmen" there is then a brief huddle as plans are made and a quick meal of travel rations and weak beer is grabbed and then with Wilhelm in the lead the Party move on and out.
Barely had they moved down into the long grass when coming from the area near the huts the sounds of loud bleating suddenly erupts causing the CL.U.Ber's to drop and freeze Ralph turns and looks at his cousin a strange expression on his face "I believe in goats" he whispers the Doctor looking a bit startled replies "Don't you mean ghosts?" Ralph shakes his head as if to clear it "No you idiot, goats, the noise is coming from goats, a large herd by the sound of things" he then taps the heel of Wilhelm's boot and seeing the Bavarian look back indicates that he can go forward again.
The Journey to the rear of the hall is uneventful it just takes time to crawl past the lake and through the tangled garden luckily for the others Wilhelm clears most of the obstacles carefully away, cutting a path through the brambles and thorns, marking the occasional deep hole that suddenly appears randomly in what was once a fine stripped lawn. They finally make it to the rear of the hall where a low stone wall separates the hall from the garden it provides the last bit of cover which the CL.U.Ber's use to rest and recover "Bloody hell" whispered the Doctor pulling brambles from his clothing and face "I hope we don't have to go back that way again, I'm cut to pieces" the others nod in agreement "You and me too Herr Doktor, these gloves cost me fifteen shillings and now look at them they are kaput" he waves his gloves to show the rips and tears in them "That's fifteen Shillings I won't be seeing again I can tell you" Ralph who was peering over the wall ducks back down "Right, enough chit chat everything looks clear so its a quick dash to a door that's just in front of us and then its up to you Thomas and your bag of tricks" With one last check of the area and seeing nothing and no hue and cry being raised the CL.U.Ber's leap into action dashing across the dead ground and slamming into the halls stone wall where the stacked up behind the Frenchman. Thomas unclipped a small satchel from his belt and turned to look at Ralph with a sly smile "First mon sergeant we try the handle" he turns back and does just that and finds it locked "Now I see if I can make this lock open up to me" he pulls out several fine tools and inserts them into the lock gently twisting them one way then another until "Click" he listens and after a moment slowly pulls the door handle downwards and then pushes the door inwards. Ralph axe in hand rushes past and inside swiftly followed by the Witch hunter who has his pistol out and leveled. The Doctor ambled up but paused by the Frenchman who was carefully replacing his tools, he taps the man on the shoulder "That was pretty impressive" the Frenchman closes the satchel and replaces it onto his belt and standing up grins "It was easy, a lock is is like a woman you just have to know how to insert and how hard to thrust" the Doctors smile fades a little and he smacks the Frenchman up aside the back of the head muttering something about all Frenchman burning in hell" Thomas grins even more and they soon follow the other two into the hall.
They find themselves in an empty kitchen a large fireplace dominates one wall whilst the others are covered with cupboards and shelving from which dull iron pans hang. Most of the room seems to be covered with a thick layer of dust and has an air of abandonment the large tables furthest from the fireplace are also covered in dust which buries the plates and other kitchenware on top of them leaving people to guess at their use. Only the area by the fireplace showed any signs of use, the nearby sink was clean and had clean plates stacked next to it, the nearby table showed signs of being recently scrubbed, a chopping board ready for use and with several wickedly sharp knives close by ready for use. The fireplace itself had a small fire burning away in its main grate, the iron kettle and cooking pans clean, tidy and neatly hanging from their respective hooks and chains. They also found Wilhelm and Ralph next to the only other door leading from this room still with their weapons drawn and with a look of annoyance on their faces at the delay "Hurry up you two and get that door wedged closed" hissed Ralph "I don't think any of us want someone sneaking up behind us" The Doctor and Thomas make quick work of securing the door and Thomas reports back to Ralph and tells him that the door will hold but not for long if the person really wants to get in but Ralph is happy with that "It will do, as long as they need to force it open whatever noise they make will warn us. Right we haven't heard anyone or indeed anything yet so far so bloody worrying so I'm sending Wilhelm out to have a quick scout around but as soon as he shouts we move right get ready" he stands back pats Wilhelm on the back and wishes him good luck as he opens the door.
Wilhelm skulks past making barely a sound a moment or two passes and then the door is pulled open and Wilhelm is standing there facing the combined firepower of the other CL.U.Ber's "Blutige Hölle, It's me good grief really?" Ralph growls out a question "Oh yes it's a little anti-climatic really it's nothing but a servants bedroom by the looks of things" Wilhelm explains. The others lower their weapons and ushered in by Wilhelm enter the next room. Its a fairly plain affair the walls covered in fading whitewash, two mattresses stuffed with straw filled most of the floor space, a chest stood at the foot of one and a low table at the other the table had a holder for a rushlight and more importantly to the CL.U.Ber's a sheaf of papers held underneath it. Whilst the others checked the beds and the chest (Which seemed to just contain some items of women's clothing) Giulio went over to the table and moving aside the holder looked at what was written on the paper.
"Well? asked Ralph after finding nothing of note during his search "What does it say?" Giulio smiles and shrugs "It seems we are early for dinner, this is just tonight's menu" Ralph squints at the paper and the mysterious (to him at least) scratching's "Are you sure? it could be a code or something" Giulio shakes his head "I'm afraid not unless onion soup and apple strudel are code" the CL.U.Ber's let out a collective sigh this was beginning to look like a fool's errand. Ralph snaps them out of their momentary funk "Right we move on we will search this hall from top to bottom if need be, if its abandoned then fine we can cross it off the list and move on, so lets get back to it we've wasted enough time with this already" Wilhelm again listens and hearing nothing slips out past the door and into what appears to be the halls main hallway. Again all is silent but he notes that there are signs of recent life here and there, some areas seem to have been cleaned and tidied up whilst others seem gloomy and dust covered. He explores further approaching a door he listens again and hearing nothing slowly opens the door. Thomas stands by the door his pistol out as he keeps an eye on the stealthy Witch hunter which is lucky as the two Norton's appear to have returned to the kitchen and after checking that the outer door was still secured and having a look out of the windows find everything to be as they had left it Ralph strolls over to a chair and takes a seat whilst the Doctor opens some cupboards near the fireplace and starts to pull out the fresh vegetables he finds inside, he then starts to nibble away at a carrot and then looking up seeing Ralph's glare just shrugs and tapping his eye patch says "They're good for your eyes" Ralph's face softens and he says "In that case you better throw a couple of them this way as it looks like we need all the help we can get finding something useful in this fecking hovel" The Doctor walks over "Don't worry we will find something I'm sure. It was always a long shot that we would find Constantine Mallebench here but there must be some clues here as to what his plans are" Ralph nod's "I hope so cousin, I hope so as thus far he's been two steps ahead of us the whole time. Come on we better check on Wilhelm and Thomas before they do can do anything too daft"
Whilst the cousins have been taking a break Wilhelm has been busy checking a couple more rooms, one was a richly appointed dining hall which was clean and tidy and in fairly good condition, though the large table was bare apart from a slightly odd table piece. So after giving it a quick look over and finding nothing else of interest he quickly moved onto the next room. Now this fourth room was a lot more interesting as it seemed to be used for entertaining and so was richly appointed, large impressive furniture filled the room a set of leather backed chairs faced each other next to the large fireplace whose mantle supported two fine candelabras and a large wooden box which when opened revealed it to be full of the finest beeswax candles. A golden candle snuffer lay close by as well as a set of tapers held together with a twist of string. The Bavarian nodded to himself appreciating the quality of the items.The rest of the room was equally impressive in its faded grandeur, it's plastered high ceiling sported an intricate pattern that seemed somehow Mamluk in design. The images brought to mind warm breezes, cool pools and desert vistas, Wilhelm sighed and shook his head this place was once a place of unusual beauty and taste but something had changed long ago and now the damp and darkness had taken root. Wilhelm opened a few drawers almost at random which just contained the normal odds and ends in them as you would expect in a house such as this, so finding nothing of note he crossed over to the closed folding doors which took up one side of the room "Maybe it's his billiards room" mused the Bavarian as he pulled the wooden doors aside. The room, unfortunately, was devoid of a billiard table but instead was once a luxurious mix of gentleman's study and library. The room was paneled with warm oak panels which gave way to a rich red wallpaper, the ceiling here was also plastered in similar Mamaluk designs and was painted in bright colours which made the designs seem to swim and swirl as you looked at them. Wilhelm took a step back to take this, this riot of colour in " Mien Gott I was not expecting such a room here" He walked back into the room his footsteps cushioned by the numerous Smyrna and Esfahan rugs which covered the wooden floor. The walls were covered with fine tapestries which displayed hunting and feasting scenes. Two large bookcases dominated the walls either side of the folding door which were oddly empty a further four revolving cases stood around the room, two in the centre with the last two being placed next to the rooms main feature which of course was the desk and whilst they still seemed to contain a few books they were nowhere near full. Running a finger across the dusty shelves Wilhelm turned his attention to the desk, it was a monstrous thing made out of heavy dark stained oak and unlike the graceful beauty displayed by the rooms other pieces of furniture it was almost brutal in its design. behind the desk was a large window which was partially covered with an oddly thick a long velvet curtain and looking at it something clicked "Why is it so dark in here? every window I've passed has been covered, maybe only squatters remain here?" it would explain a lot, the dirt, grime and also the missing items"
He then looks to the side of the window where two but now only one painting hangs. The remaining painting seems to be a simple landscape but as Wilhelm lights a taper to get a closer look he sees that its far from the simple landscape he had first thought. The large painting is wondrously painted the artist was truly a genius the pictures subject matter seemed oddly more real than real. The picture showed a beautiful woman naked to the elements her long blonde hair flowing in the wind, she is sprawled across a huge stone slab her back arching away from its cold rough touch. She appears to be in a clearing in the middle of some dark pine forest the tops of the gigantic trees seem to sway violently in some monstrous storm and hanging above it all in the dark foreboding skies swirled a blasphemy a whirlpool of sickly colours spinning around destroying and birthing stars, planets life itself Wilhelm could feel himself falling into that cosmic maw, falling to never return but with a tremendous effort of will he managed to stop himself and pulled his gaze away with a scream "Nien" he falls to the floor a sweat drenched husk of a man content just to breath deeply and shiver.
Meanwhile, the others were still either in the kitchen stealing the vegetables or in the case of Thomas pouring through the chest of women's clothing and occasionally sniffing them for some reason. Ralph finishes his Ruben and with a grunt pushes himself up off the chair and turns to his cousin "Right Wilhelm should have been back by now I better check and see whats keeping him" the Doctor nods absently as he looks through the kitchen's supply of herbs and spices "Ah they have some ginger root here, good for the stomach and colds" Ralph smiled and managed not to dribble too much and headed out to see what was going on but he stopped at the door to the servants bedroom and tuned back and called to the Doctor "Hey see if they have any pepper will you these trail rations could do with an extra kick" he then opens to door to a see a somewhat startled Frenchman hiding something behind his back.
"Um what are you doing Thomas? you're meant to be keeping an eye on Wilhelm." Thomas looked around quickly but seeing no help anywhere just stammers out "Er I was just checking again you know if there were any secret compartments" Ralph walked up to him and looked behind, he then whispered into Thomas's ear "I really don't think you will find any compartments secret or otherwise in a pair of ladies bloomers Frenchie, do you?" there is a very awkward silence which much to the relief of Thomas is broken by Giulio reappearing "Ahhh I can see this is a bad time I will come back later no" Ralph tells Thomas to go and find the Bavarian and to be quick about it" he then shoves the Italian back into the kitchen "And where did you get to?" Giulio's reply is cut short by the kitchen door being firmly closed.
Wilhelm gathers himself up wipes the sweat from his face and curses himself for showing weakness, standing back up he keeps his gaze averted from the terrible painting but reaches out with shaking hands toward its frame which he grabs firmly and with a harsh yank rips the frame away from the picture hanger. Still keeping his eyes averted he quickly flips the painting over so he can examine the back of the painting. "Now we will see what devil painted such evil" the rear of the painting was unmarked apart from a small bronze plaque which gave the title of the painting as Sylvan nights. Wilhelm carefully leaned the painting face forwards against the wall and not knowing of the False Chanterelle couldn't make any connections between it and this painting. He backed away slowly from the painting and with a final shudder got back to searching the room. The desk held no secrets just paper nibs and dried ink edger but that seemed to trail off several years ago and didn't contain anything recent a leather tube contained a few rolled up maps of the area and looking at them it seemed as if someone had marked a few locations and written next to them in increasingly large letters the words No not here or twelve feet down and nothing Wilhelm guessed that this was a record of the dig sites. He left the desk and had one final look at the few books remaining but nothing caught his eye no Grimoires of fell power just the usual collection of books Shakespeare and Bunyan though there was a rather nice 1605 copy of Don Quixote in the original Spanish which he found on the floor behind one of the heavy drapes but apart from that nothing no further clues as to the location of anyone let alone Mallebench.
So casting a last fearful glance at the painting he returned to the hallway just in time to see Thomas slip into it from the servant's room. The Frenchman quietly crosses the floor to where Wilhelm is and in a hushed whisper asks "Well have you found anything?" Wilhelm shudders but shakes his head "Nothing,
aber der Spielemeister hat gesagt, dass wir alle dreißig Heldenpunkte dafür bekommen. Thomas looks blankly at the Bavarian "What?" Wilhelm smiles strangely and just tells the Frenchman that he has found nothing to worry about and still no signs of life" then both men jerk their heads upwards as the quiet is broken by the sound of a woman singing,
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
If turnips were watches, I'd wear one by my side.
If "if's" and "and's" were pots and pans,
There'd be no work for tinkers' hands.
Thomas grabs Wilhelm by the arm and urgently whispers "Look I'll deal with this you tell the others that we have found someone and she's singing the Beggars song.


What will Thomas find upstairs?
How will Ralph explain the CL.U.Ber's presence?
Will Wilhelm reveal the existence of the spooky painting?
Will the Doctor pass more perception rolls after eating all those carrots?
Where does Giulio keep disappearing to?
And where will those bloomers end up next?
These questions and many more will hopefully be answered next time on "Crazy Cavaliers and rumbustious Roundheads"
 
 

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A continuation of the good Doctor's narrative of the C.l U.B. ers exploits in Holbeach St. Marks; 

The last house at the end of the world

The CL.U.Ber's are spread throughout Saracenic hall the ancestral home of the Mallebench family looking for clues to help flesh out their picture of their arch villain Constantine Mallebench. The Norton s are in the kitchen, Thomas was up at the top of the stairs but had decided it was safer to return to the kitchen and to hang back with Giulio whilst Wilhelm remained in the hallway checking out the furnishings.
Suddenly there comes a tremendous banging from the back door, Ralph being close waves the Doctor back and heads towards the door his hands resting on his hatchets hanging from his belt. He pauses just by the door one hand outstretched to remove the spoons used to wedge it shut he turns to look back in time to see the others return, then he starts to pull the spoons out and the fall making a tinkling sound as they hit the kitchens stone floor.
From the other side of the door a mans voice can be heard along with the thumping of fist against wood "Why is this blasted door locked? you best not be sleeping in there woman, if you are it'll be the birch again" Ralph calls back pretending to be Irish and replies "Sorry Sir, it's the frame its all warped" he removes the last spoon and stands aside and bangs a fist against the frame "Ah that has it, try it now sir it should open now as smoothly as landlords rent book" the door flies open and the over dressed man from the Vagrant cat saunters in. The CL.U.Ber's knew him to be Tom Carter bully and seller of pig skin. He starts to shout asking why the Irishman is in the house but before he can get too carried away he is grabbed and slammed into the wall by Ralph, who then grabs the now shocked and spluttering Tom by his throat and then drags him upwards against the wall. Ralph leans forwards his scared face giving him a demonic aspect "Remember me" he then slabs Tom back into the wall causing the man to cry out in pain but he's not out for the count yet and his desperately flaying hand grabs onto a wooden handle of a knife. Ralph with his face still pressed close snarls "We want some answers and you I think will be giving them... unless you want to hear the sound of your neck breaking?" he eases up on the pressure on Toms throat, Tom gulps down some much needed air, spits in Ralph's eye's and shouts "Feck you" whilst thrusting forward with the small knife it's sharp blade easily cuts into Ralph's ponderous gut.
The others started to move, the Doctor grabbing his sword and heading to the doorway which led into the hall fearful that the commotion will have alerted anyone else in the house. Giulio moved up to back up Ralph and to close the back door whilst the other two headed to where they thought they were most needed. Giulio struggled past the fighting figures of Ralph and Tom and believing that the man mountain had everything well in hand decided that securing the door would be wisest move before anyone else decided to turn up and so he wedged it closed again.
He only just avoided being smacked by Tom's flying legs as Ralph swung the man around like a toy and slammed him again and again into the wall, this time hard enough to shatter a cupboard which spilled out a cascade of pewter plates and jars which bounced around on the floor and added to the general din. Giulio looking up at Ralph stills the curse he was about to utter as he sees the blood pouring out of Ralph from the constant frenzied stabs of the knife. Quickly he stands up and with perfect timing launches his metal hand past Ralph's head and straight into Tom's screaming face, teeth fly out and blood gout's from a now pulped nose Tom gives one last gargled cry of Sam before his eyes cross and he goes limp. Ralph stops slamming the now inert body of Tom into the wall and drops him onto the floor he looks at him then at the numerous wounds to his gut and turning to Giulio just mutters "bugger" then shouts for his cousin.
The good Doctor had been nervously guarding the doorway that led from the servants room into the hallway and the main body of the building beyond and had been casting increasingly worried glances back towards the kitchen as the noise levels got higher and higher but hearing his cousins cry he gave the dark hallway one last look, slowly closed the door and hurried back into the kitchen his hands already reaching for the big needle and catgut sutures.
The Doctor finds the kitchen wrecked, Giulio peering through the windows nervously, a body on the floor and Ralph holding an already bloody rag to his side. Explanations are given and wounds stitched the Doctor complaining about how Ralph is using up all of his stock and asking him if he knew how much prime cat gut cost, Ralph bore all this with some stoicism. In all the hub bub no one was aware that Tom had regained consciousness and was slowly oh so slowly crawling towards the servants quarters he would have gotten further had he not tried to stagger upright as this caused him naturally no small effort and pain so when he went to wipe his face clear of the blood and sweat he discovered that pepper and a smashed face did not go well, he seemed as he had crawled through some pepper that had come from a smashed jar on his way to the door. His screams alerted the CL.U.Ber's to his presence, Ralph pushed the Doctor aside and launched himself at the startled man yelling "You bastard this is my favourite shirt" his meaty fist smashing into Tom's much abused face again sending him flying back into the servants room the badly injured man begins to scream gurgling for Sam. Ralph staggers back the wound on his side flaring with pain he ends up sat on a stool which was behind him and decides to stay there just to catch his breath you understand. The others rush past and begin to hack away at Tom who recovering slightly had started to crawl towards the chest of ladies clothing all the while spitting blood and crying out for Sam and now Lysette. Numerous blows strike his unprotected back as Giulio and the Doctor reign down on him but still he crawls forwards his hand reaching for something. Blood is now flying up from the strikes as the gore slicked blades rise up and then down again the walls are soon covered in this red spray the Doctor then starts screaming "Why won't you die?, why won't you just die?" over and over and Giulio just quietly keeps hacking down with his glaive a thoughtful look on his otherwise emotionless face. Eventually one of the blades hits something vital and with a final gasp Tom Carter breathes his last. The Doctor collapses onto one of the cots and starts to calm down whilst Giulio still looking thoughtful returns to the chest and starts to pull out the women's clothing within. One of the dresses makes a thudding noise as it lands on the floor and Giulio picks it back up and starts to pat it down. He finds what Tom was looking for in those last desperate minutes a small Wheel lock pistol is nestled in the attached apron, Giulio checks it and finding it loaded and ready to fire weighs it thoughtfully in his hand then with a dismissive grunt passes it onto the Doctor "I think you need this more than me" the Doctor red eyed takes the gun and with a muted thank you thrusts it the sash at his waist. He then shakes his head blows his nose on Toms shirt sleeve and gets back up "Better check on Ralph, I'm betting he's ripped his stitches open again" with that the pair of them head back into the kitchen.
They find Ralph still sat on the stool another rag pressed to his side and with a slightly apologetic smile on his face (Though with all his facial scar tissue it was sometimes hard to see that he was smiling) the Doctor sighed and got to work again whilst Giulio filled Ralph in. He thrust his fleshy hand into a pocket and pulled out three small dried beans "Oh I almost forgot the Bastardo didn't have any money on him but he had these" he hands them over to Ralph who looks at them and looks at the Italian "Don't suppose you found a goose as well by any chance? the Italian smiles and shakes his head sadly " No just these and some keys I'm afraid. "In that case" Ralph replies before tipping the beans into his jigsaw mouth and swallowing. The Party still hear and see nothing so quickly tidy up as best they can, items broken in the fight are swept under the table, Tom's body is shoved and bended into the chest which barely closes and blood is mopped up with a wet rag. If someone does come looking for Tom they won't be fooled for long but hopefully for long enough to buy the CL.U.Ber's some extra space and Ralph looks around for a new shirt but is only able to find ladies clothing in the servants room and after an odd pause decides that the low cut red and black lacy number really wasn't going to work what with his skin tone and so he shoves it back into the same chest that is now somewhat full of Tom. The Party head back into the main hallway again feeling a lot more confident that the big house must be empty, the rooms on the ground floor which Wilhelm opened up are checked again by the others and questions were asked about the reasons behind the turned around painting they speculated about the missing painting as well could this lighter space once been covered by the False Chanterelle? Ralph got bored with looking at empty shelves and remembered that Thomas and Wilhelm had mentioned something about singing coming from upstairs so leaving the others he headed up the impressive but slightly dusty staircase. He could hear the others wondering about the drawn heavy curtains and drapes and why everything was so gloomy inside the hall had it truly been abandoned for the cottages behind?
Reaching the landing he paused to listen but was unable to hear anything including any singing so he crosses over and seeing the closest door ajar quickly pushes into the room only to find it empty apart from some heavy bedroom furniture he sighs "Its never bloody easy" then heads to the next door but finding it locked quickly moves onto the next and then the next finding all the other doors locked apart from that first one. Standing outside that last locked door he shrugs his massive shoulders and taking a step back he shoulders the door open crashing through into the room beyond. Quickly regaining his balance he is slightly shocked to see the rooms contents loom out of the gloomy dust mote filled room. The room seemed to be a trophy room of sorts as it was filled with animals and parts of animals, the walls were covered in the heads of stags and boars, hunting bows and spears were propped up in the corners whilst in the centre of the room stood a huge bear rearing up, jaws wide open exposing huge dagger like teeth giving vent to one last terrifying silent roar. Breathing heavily Ralph gives the room one last look muttering about the strangeness of rich folk before heading out and back into the corridor, he tries to close the door behind him but it now no longer closes fully. He starts to bang loudly on the doors as he heads back towards the staircase crying out in a passable Irish accent "It's me open up" he kicks each door in and glances briefly into the rooms all appear to be bedrooms in various states of tidiness. He reaches the second from last door and as he smashes the door in he hears a squeal and shrugging off the broken door frame he looks up to see a beautiful young woman looking at him her red hair blazing in the unexpected sunlight. Ralph squints is this an Angel he wonders Black Philip had told him of these wondrous creatures but with his eyes adjusting to the light he soon realises that whilst stunning this is no Angel she flesh and blood just like him what gives her away is that no Angel would use language like that or hit that hard.
The lady has recovered quickly she may have been hiding originally but now she was all guns blazing, imperiously asking Ralph "What is the meaning of this? you Irish are meant to stay out of the main house unless escorted by my step father or my brothers." she barely pauses for breath before slapping Ralph across his hideous grinning face "And don't leer at me in that way" she blushes slightly "You may have a big.........pair of hands but that doesn't give you the right to leer, now what are you doing here and answer me truthfully or I will tell my step father" Ralph steps back away from this whirlwind of a woman and in his new found Irish brogue explains that Joshua told him to warn the household that there were some intruders on the property and that she needs to stay inside until they are caught" she peers oddly at him but nods and goes to grab a wicker basket full of laundry.
Meanwhile downstairs the others have finished checking the rooms and hallway and apart from the odd painting, some rusty armour and a small armoury of dull weaponry hanging down from a variety of hooks in the walls nothing satanic or information gap filling is discovered. Though there are still some doors to check across the hall. The Doctor is wondering if pulling the drapes open would be a good idea as the gloom is starting to wear on his nerves, Giulio has moved aside a corner of the drape that is covering one of the front windows whilst Wilhelm and Thomas are checking that the front door is closed. Giulio leans forwards then quickly jumps back letting the drape swing back into place "Cazzo! gentleman we are about to have company!" the Doctor almost jumps out of his skin and rushes towards the Italian asking a million questions at once "Who, What, How many and do you think they know we are here?" Giulio shrugs "Sam and a few hired hands by the looks of them , five or six and yes they are armed and yes they look pissed so I'm guessing they know" he pulls the drape away from the window and then smashes a pane out using his metal fist he then slides his musket through and takes careful aim and fires. The room fills with smoke and the smell of bad eggs but it soon clears and it seems that Giulio keeps his reputation for being a crack shot as one of the men can be seen falling backwards with a large grey red cloud forming behind his backwards thrust head. The other men cry out and scatter, some dropping behind a low stone wall whilst the others rush back towards one of the unruly hedges. Giulio thrusts his spent musket into the Doctors shaking hands and curtly tells him to reload it he then pulls out his pistols and quickly checking them he places the pistols onto the window sill one by one, ready to be quickly grabbed when the time came. The Doctor seeing this pulls out his pistol and the one that Tom was trying to get and with a nudge hands them over to the Italian telling him that he would make better use of them than he would. Ramming down the ball he whispers "shit" and still ramming the charge down steps towards the rooms door he then cries up "Ralph! hurry up and find that bloody woman we have company"

The lady pauses " What was that? it sounded like a musket shot" she slows down suddenly unsure "What was your name again?" she asks, Ralph looks a little lost his eyes darting around but without missing a beat replies "Why its Murphy Miss, Jay Murphy at your service, that must be the boys. I told you there were intruders did I not" she smiles and begins walking towards Ralph again "Oh silly me you did I was just a little frightened" this lovely moment is ruined somewhat when from the floor below a very English voice cries out "Ralph! hurry up and find that bloody woman we have company" The shocked lady turns to run further into the room and she seems to be trying to head for the window but shrugging Ralph throws out one meaty arm and with a load thud punches her in the side of the head dropping her to the floor. Sighing he grabs her and throws her over his shoulder and turning around he starts to jog back, slightly ashamed of himself he finds he rather enjoys the feeling of carrying the lady whilst jogging down the stairs.
When he reaches the study he carefully deposits the lady onto one of the chairs and pulling out his hatchet heads towards Giulio who has a pistol out and is carefully aiming it towards something behind the wall outside. The Doctor finishes off reloading the musket and taps the Italian to let him know it's ready, the Italian replaces the pistol and strokes the side of the musket before pushing it through the broken window and again carefully aims. Ralph asks the Doctor what the situation is and so the Doctor quickly fill him in. The Doctor then asks about the lady and afterwards he nods and stands close behind Giulio and cups his hands together Ralph guessing what's about to happen goes over and shakes the lady back into consciousness. The Doctor calls out loudly "Hello do I have the pleasure of addressing Sam Carter?" a deep baritone voice responds from behind the hedge "Yes I'm Sam Carter, the man whose going to rip your pretty little heads off and then piss down the ragged stumps" the Doctor pales a little but continues "Very nice to meet you sir I would suggest you rethink that idea as you've seen we have the better position and are quite well armed and oh we also have a hostage" Ralph gently drags the lady up and next to the Doctor who turning toward her pulls out his dagger and sticks the point into her side, not deeply but enough to draw blood she screams loudly more with the shock than the pain. The Doctor turns back to the window "Sam that was the lovely Lysette I believe, I don't want to hurt your sister but we are desperate men and will do what needs to be done to survive this" after a moment or two Sam raises his hands and yells "Don't shoot" and slowly stands up his hands still raised. "What do you scum want? come to think of it why are you even fecking here?" Ralph his large hands pressing down heavily onto the ladies shoulders whispers into her ears "I've killed a woman before you know, didn't enjoy it but still killed her with my chopper" her eyes widen and she looks downwards "No not that chopper....bloody modern women
sex mad the lot of them" but he still eases up on his grip. The Doctor and Sam have a back and forth and after a minute or so of shouting the Doctor shrugs and tells the others "Well you heard all that we have a few minutes grace before anything else happens but I'm betting Sam there has already sent a man back to get more help and those men behind the wall, well I wouldn't be surprised to find one or two of them now guarding the back door." Giulio smiles "Well we are well set here and it will cost them dearly to storm this house....though a bit more powder wouldn't go amiss" Wilhelm and Thomas are pale and sweating somewhat so they just mumble in agreement. The Doctor heads back to the surprisingly fiery lady who tries to spit at him but her mouth is dry the Doctor apologises and then still holding the bloody dagger in his hand almost absentmindedly begins to ask her questions, the questions come out quickly and bluntly. "Where is Mallebench?" she replies The Master is here but underneath, he will arrive for dinner and when he finds you... then well you will wish Sam had killed you. The Doctor presses on question after question, his questions blurring into one as the others keep watch on Sam who is now sitting on the wall smoking a pipe looking a little concerned but far from defeated. The Doctor suddenly spins around "So the digging is Joshua's idea so unfortunately no Constantine looking for artifacts but maybe there is a way out, it seems the grieving father is weirdly in the basement" he smiles and there might be another exit down there so" he turns to Ralph "Cousin would you be so kind to help me tie this lady up an then could you go and have a look, maybe Edgar can call of his dogs" Ralph nods and the pair quickly tie her up and a gag is thrust into her mouth before Ralph heads towards the area indicated by the Doctor his hatchets thrust back into his belt as he now holds Child's wail his two handed axe gripping it tightly in his calloused hands. The area he needed to get into was blocked by a locked door but with Child's wail in his hands he makes short work of it hacking it aside in mere moments. The room beyond is a store room of a sorts wooden shelving lines the walls a few baskets of rotting food lay upon a few of them seeing nothing of note he crosses the floor quickly and heads towards the other door and through into a cold room. Greenish slabs of quartered pig swing away from Ralph's bulk as he shoulders through them and towards the trapdoor in the rooms centre. He quickly lifts the wooded door open revealing the stone steps beneath which lead down into the darkness below he takes off his pack and pulls out his lantern lights it and heads down into the basement. The stone steps lead down into the cloying darkness for what seems like years Ralph soon loses all track of time the cold causing his hair to stand up on end and his breath to form odd shapes in the frigid air, he sees his parents screaming silently in what looks like terrible pain, his friends dying in the war hacked to death or with limbs blasted off by musket balls, insides ripped out gore and offal flying around staining the ground beneath in piles of steaming meat and then in the darkness he hears the sounds of hoof on stone and a figure of a mightily horned goat appears formed out of his very breath. Ralph steps back almost tripping over the step behind the goat brays and it looks like it is going to gore Ralph upon its horns but then it stops its charge and slowly trots towards Ralph when close enough it brays quietly and sniggering rears up to lick Ralph's face before fading away the ghostly image breaking up in the faint breeze. A stunned Ralph gathers himself and smiles "I should have known that you wouldn't hurt me old friend" and filled with new courage continues down and the darkness and the cold retreats and suddenly Ralph is at the bottom of a normal set of stone stairs and in a fairly large basement. Thick stone walls line the room and the floor is simple packed earth. Two rooms closed off with rusty bars fill one wall, shelves full off dust covered casks fill the far end of the room and a low stone wall of a well fills up the remainder of the space but there doesn't seem to be any sign of any old man. Ralph checks the cells and apart from a pile of lumpy rags in one of them he finds nothing he then lifts out a random selection of casks and finds that they contain wine he looks at the faded labels and mutters to himself "Ah a good strong muscatel" before replacing the casks he then sighs "The Doctor is going to be upset, it looks like we will be fighting our way out after all" but as he passes the Well he happens to look down and suddenly stops seeing that the Well is dry and bending down he looks closer and notices that several stones have been removed from the side of the Well forming a crude ladder of sorts. "Then again maybe not" and he hurries back up the stairs to where his comrades nervously wait.
 
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Going underground, going underground Well let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow

A slightly out of breath Ralph rushes back into the study "I've found" he takes a gulp of air and tries again "I've found..a way out" the others look at him with some relief "Thank the Lord we've seen more and more men these last few minutes" the Doctor quickly begins gathering up his equipment and continues "I don't suppose you found Lord Mallebench down there as well perchance?" Ralph shakes his head "No, the basement was pretty bare to be honest the way out is through a disused well, it looks like it connects with a series of tunnels below" Giulio suddenly cries out "Ti vedo diavolo" and discharges his pistol at some unseen target he turns and looks at the others and with a crooked grin tells the them "I think our friends grow bored, if we go we need to go now I think" The Doctor pulls Lysette of the chair and roughly pulls down her gag "You said Mallebench was down below? but my cousin tells us that the basement is empty so where the bloody hell is he?" she twists in his grip but answers him, her eyes burning pure hate "I told you the Lord is below he mourns for his lost son" the Doctor shakes her "Enough woman, did you not hear what I just said the basement is empty, he is not there." she laughs "I never said he was in the basement, I just said he was below, never said anything about how deep now did I" the Doctor thrusts her back into the seat cursing. Giulio fires off another shot then grabs his gear and heads back into the main part of the room "I can see twelve men out there now all armed with muskets and the lord knows what else and yet more are coming. We can make them pay dearly if they storm this house but we are not set up to withstand a siege" Ralph grabs Lysette and makes his decision as he jogs out towards the basement, the others follow whilst Giulio and the Doctor reach for their tinderboxes and with slightly evil grins they nod to each other and start to set fire to the drapes and the other soft furnishings. Once they have a few small fires going they rush off after the others, smoke already starting to billow up behind them.
Ralph having reached the well drops Lysette onto the floor and starts to clamber down he soon reaches the dry bottom and seeing no immediate danger in the gloom kneels down and gets a lantern out of his pack. The lit lantern reveals more of the tunnels, he seems to have come down in the middle of a narrow but fairly high ceilinged tunnel faced with cut stone, the high vaulted ceiling almost lost in the darkness above. Looking around he notices that the tunnel seems abandoned the floor covered in deep dust whilst above unbroken cobwebs fill the void thickly "Strange" muses Ralph "I would have thought to see more signs of use if what Lysette tells us is true" but his train of thought is broken with a shout of "Catch" from Wilhelm and as he looks up he sees the lithe form of Lysette falling towards him he moves quickly and is just able to catch her she lands in his arms with a who-mph of expelled air and a pure look of anger on her face. Ralph looks down at her and smiles "I don't know why you are angry Miss I caught you didn't I?" she squirms and as he places her on the floor she manages to lash out with her foot catching Ralph on the shin "Ow" he wags one meaty finger in front of her "Enough of that young lady" then he grabs her before she can get any more funny ideas and slings her over his shoulder muttering something about how there is no pleasing some people. By the time he has got himself shorted the others have managed to make their way down into the tunnels alongside him. The Doctor struggling a bit with all his kit especially when his jack box got momentarily wedged and he couldn't get it free enough to finish climbing down. Luckily for him, Giulio was above and was happy to lend a helpful if heavy foot. With the Party finally all gathered at the bottom of the well Lysette was questioned again but it seems that she had never been down here before "These are the Master's domains, we are not allowed to tread here" this reply was met with much cursing from various members of the Party. The Doctor shrugs and steps into the middle of the tunnel looks around and licking his finger sticks it out and waits his eyes closed. After an awkward pause his eyes suddenly open and he points to the left "This way gentleman, I think I can feel the faintest of breezes coming from this direction so let's get some more light and then let's get going" he pulls open his pack rummages around before pulling out a huge candle. He lights it and then removes his helmet and somewhat awkwardly drips some of the now melted wax onto the top of the brim of the helmet and then sticks the candle on top of it. Grinning as he turns to the others and gives a slight bow "See hands free" Ralph punches him lightly in the shoulder and tells him to stop mucking about and get on with it.
They head down the narrow corridor and at first easily avoid the cobwebs but further on they thicken and fill more and more of the tunnel and the Party soon have to start pushing their way through. Ralph's going is made slightly easier as he uses the slung Lysette's backside as a plough. With her being slightly higher she is the first to start screaming (If somewhat muffled) she had been wriggling for a while but Ralph had just ignored her and so had just continued to plough his way through the webs but with her screaming, he had finally decided to see what all the fuss was about.
The others are forced to stack up behind him unable to pass his bulk the Doctor ahead at first unaware of whats going on continues for a few further steps until he too stops and now like the rest begins to scratch himself and brush at his clothes. As soon as Lysettes feet touch the ground she spins around revealing her back and in the dim light it shimmers and moves darkly somehow whilst reflecting the light back. "What the Feck?" and then he and the others start to cry out in shocked pain as something or somethings begin to bite. Thomas bringing up the rear is the first to realise whats happening as he sees thousands of small black hairy bodies pour out of the ceiling above and down the webs onto the Party beneath. He to starts to feel the sharp pain of hundreds of tiny fangs biting into his flesh his armour useless against the tiny horde. The others are now screaming as the hundreds become thousands and the thousands become millions. The Party flail around desperately some of them smashing themselves into the walls of the corridor trying desperately to crush the tiny arachnids Wilhelm wiping spiders off his face cries "RUN" and shoves Ralph hard in the back Ralph staggers forward but gets moving soon hitting the Doctor and pushing him forward the others staggering closely behind still beating at themselves trying to brush off the spiders. Thomas grabs the now fully covered Lysette and drags her after him. They run barreling their way through the webs, trying to keep their eyes free of the tiny bodies at least long enough to keep a rough idea on their general direction. They finally find themselves clear of the cobwebs and in a large stone chamber they all immediately start to strip wrenching at armour, ripping away at clothes with a crazed desperation, trying to get at the biting spiders beneath. There follows a period of splashing water, frenzied brushing and beating and rolling around on the floor and a lot of very ungodly cursing. Finally, the spiders are removed or killed, clothes double checked and then gingerly put on again and everybody is bleeding from all the tiny bite marks that redly cover their bodies. The Doctor begins treating the bites with Apple cider which soon soothes the pain but Lysette is a problem she has suffered terribly and being tied up had been unable to keep the spiders away from her face all this had unnerved her somewhat and she seemed now as a child unable to talk, unable to think even to react to the outside world.
After cleaning themselves up they looked around the room they now found themselves in, it was a large stone chamber with a stone floor. Thankfully it was clear of cobwebs but it was dominated by a large black statue of a faceless figure sat upon a huge forbidding throne as the slightly embarrassed Party grumbled their way towards it more details could be made out. Flanking the statue were two doors each locked closed, one by a stout door whilst the other was secured by an iron portcullis. Giulio headed towards the statue along with Wilhelm and Thomas, Ralph headed over to check out the doors and the Doctor? well, he remained with Lysette and tried to coax some life back into her.
Ralph examined the two doors, they were extremely well made the door was of heavy and thick oak with iron bands further strengthening the door. The lock itself was again a heavy solid piece and proved resistant to picking. Ralph took a couple of swings against the door with one of his hatchets but only managed to knock off a couple of splinters. Rolling his shoulder he tries again but still the door remains solidly closed. Giulio and the others tried to read the inscription at the base of the statue but apart from figuring out it was Arabic in nature could make out little else so they joined Ralph in trying to get the doors open. There was a lot of prying, hammering and general nonsense but they to had to admit defeat as neither door showed signs of budging. Giulio had remained at the statue he admired the craftsmanship if not the slightly sinister subject matter he stroked his hand along one dusty flank of the statue and turned to Lysette "I came here looking to create such things as this, tell me where did it come from?" Lysette tells him the little she knows that Mallebench Snr brought it back from the crusades amongst other treasures and he had it installed down here years ago. She also tells him of rumours that people used to arrive at the hall and descend into these tunnels to worship in front of the faceless statue. The others overhearing this cast worried glances at each other.
Giulio leaves the bound Lysette looking up at the faceless statue and takes off the leather glove that covered up his metallic hand and begins flexing it. He tries to crush and mangle some of the bars off the portcullis and though he manages to twist and crack a couple of the spars he is unable to fully tear one off and so with a string of curse words he shrugs and gives up.
The somewhat deflated Party eventually decide that there was nothing else to do but to go back into the cobweb infested tunnels and find another way through. Sealing themselves up as best they could with scarf, handkerchiefs and odd bits of spare clothing they take a deep breath and rush out again.
Luckily the tunnel splits again fairly soon and this new passageway is wonderfully clear of the small biting pests, In fact this new passageway is oddly clean and tidy it leads off towards another T junction they pause here checking the oil levels in their lanterns, adjusting and replacing clothing and checking that the wheel locks are still fully wound and loaded and grab a quick drink of tepid water from their water bottles. Suddenly Ralph freezes a strange look on his hideous face he raises a hand and the Party falls silent and now they too can hear it, a strange distant grinding noise that seemed to bring to mind the deep ocean. Ralph turns sharply and walks roughly twenty paces down the passage that the noise seems to be coming from, he then places his lantern down and slowly backs up pulling out his hatchets and rolling his shoulders "The rest of you head the other way this is mine to deal with" the Party are confused and try to get him to come with them but he refuses, saying something about this is personal. Thomas draws his sabre and stands next to him "Mon ami, je me tiendrai avec vous savez que l'on devrait faire face à l'obscurité seule" Ralph is about to say something but changes his mind and instead claps the Frenchman on the should "No idea what you said but I'm guessing something about garlic and women, but whatever thank you" the others say their goodbyes and hope to meet back up again in the not so distant future and then the Party splits.
Giulio, the Doctor, and Wilhelm's head off leaving Ralph, Lysette and Thomas behind they soon lose sight of them as the passageway twists to the left the last thing they see is Thomas crouched down and talking to Lysette whilst Ralph just stood there front and center, his hatchets gleaming darkly in the fading lantern light.
The others followed the central passageway avoiding any of the other tunnels that branched off. The Doctor who looked a little worried stopped every so often and left a scratch mark on the stone floor a little arrow pointing him to what he hoped was safety. Their journey ended abruptly at a rotting wooden door Giulio tries to push the door open but something behind it is making it hard work, he steps back and kicks the door open, something drags across the top of the door before it swings down again straight towards Guilio. The Italian barely sidesteps the object as it whistles past his shocked face, the Party steps back away from the now open doorway and waits for the object to stop swinging. Guilio reaches out and grabs the slowly spinning object. there is a sharp intake of breath from everyone as the object is that of a mummified man, his skin dried out and blacken with age he is hanging upside down from a rusty chain his arms and legs tightly bound behind him in a stress position. His face twisted and contorted from the effects of his torture. The Doctor comes up behind Giulio and gives it a brief look "Gadzook's what the... this poor wretch has been tortured and then had his throat cut" he shudders "Truly this is the devils work" the others recover from their initial shock and with lanterns held high they enter the what the Doctor later referred to as the Pantry.
The room had an oily darkness which slowly oozed away from the suddenly feeble lantern light the room was full of sighing chains each one had a similar body suspended from it. The Italian made a low whistling noise as he panned his lantern around "There must be fifty bodies in here" The Doctors eye gleams oddly in the faint light "Its terrible but what information lies looked up within these bodies I wonder?" he starts to examine the next nearest body "These could have been down here for years all tortured and all killed in the same manner" Wilhelm asks Giulio to pan back again as he thinks he has seen a table in the middle of the room and a doorway beyond Giulio does as asked and in the faint light the shape of a table and the deeper shadows of a doorway can just be made out. Wilhelm performs a little bow and gestures the others in "After you, Mein Herr's" Giulio sighs and grabbing the Doctor drags him inside.
They gingerly push past the hanging horrors their dry leathery skin feeling oddly gooey even though when the Doctor taps them they ring hollow but firm.
They reach the table which is just a rustic wooden table heavily marked with numerous deep gouges, there was a large clay jug upon its surface. The others gave it a brief glance but hurried past making for the exit but the Doctor paused and lifting the jug up gave it an experimental swirl. He hears liquid faintly sloshing around inside so decides to take a look he fully expected to find it full of blood but was surprised to find that the jug was not full of blood but instead a sharp smelling yellowish liquid in which several orbs which had strange ganglia trailing from them. He peered closer the sharp smell biting his nostrils even with his handkerchief across his face. "Well, well, well what do we have here" and as if answering him one of the orbs opened revealing a beautiful blue eye, it blinks and the Doctor drops the jug in shock his hands suddenly numb and shaking. He tries to grab the jug as it falls but he can't get a grip on it. The Jug hits the stone floor and shatters into a thousand pieces.
The Doctor steps back a sheepish look on his face "Sorry, my fault..." he's cut off as he starts to cough a huge hacking cough that threatens to dislocate his jaw he looks down and sees that the liquid has burnt into the stone as if it was Aqua Regia "Feck!" he cries before coughing saliva begins to form and drool down from his open mouth he staggers after the others who had paused to see what all the noise was about and were now also starting to cough. Wilhelm looked quizzically at the floundering Doctor but Giulio just shoved him through the door and reaching out grabbing the Doctor again half throws half drags him through into the new passageway beyond where they all end up in a wheezing heap. Wilhelm recovers first and seeing that the gas is still roiling towards them as if possessed by some malignant intelligence slams the door shut with his boot before dragging up the other two and yelling RUN!
They run through several chambers empty apart from the dust of ages in one chamber they clatter through piles of bones and rusted armour and weapons. This slowed them down somewhat as they had to carefully make their way through the jagged metal whilst trying to remain uncut and quiet. Making their way through they find themselves in a thankfully armour free room this chamber was time-worn and had a strong musty smell of decay and damp the room had large statues of Owls placed around its circumference though all seemed to be fairly crude and all of them had been badly affected by the passage of time and dripping water. A skeleton clothed in ragged remains of clothing lay sprawled as in prayer in front of a low stone altar which was placed in front of the chamber's exit, it was discovered that the skeleton seemed to have six fingers. The rooms number of statues also seemed to change after each counting even after they marked them with chalk the numbers seemed to change neither Cl.U.B'er could agree on the final number one saying seven whilst the other was sure it was eight. The Doctor shrugs and just writes it off as unimportant he was tired and hurt, he stepped past the altar and the skeleton and headed into the room beyond leaving the Witch hunter behind still counting.
The Doctor found himself in a smaller room which only seemed to have a couple of paintings in it. One painting was of a young child with an adult whilst the other just showed an older man. The paintings seemed to be in the style of a few generations past. The Doctor only glanced at the paintings but when Wilhelm finally gave up in the owl room and caught up with him he seemed to find the paintings oddly mesmeric.
He reached out and traced the images with his gloved finger he was shocked out of his almost trance state by the Doctors yell "Your hair it's.......bloody changed! how in the blasted halls did that happen?" Willhelm looked slightly shocked "What are you talking about you fool?" he does pull a few strands of hair from his beard "See it's the same.....oh feck I'm blonde?" the two men suddenly cover their eyes and rush out towards the exit the Doctor cracking his side against the door frame in his haste to leave.

They pound down dusty corridors first one way and then another till they have to stop at a crossroads, lost and with their lantern dying there is just time for a lot of panted shouting and then with a final guttering hiss darkness.............Their eyes quickly adjusting to the darkness realise that it's not as dark as it should be in fact far from the all-encompassing dark of the depths there is, in fact, a faint glow coming from further down the tunnel to the east and with no other real option they slowly make their way towards this faint light. They end up in front of a set of double doors and beyond them is the source of light. The doors are outlined in a wonderful pure light which flows out from the edges like a beacon welcoming lost seafarers home. Wilhelm adjusts his pistol and placing a gauntleted hand onto the handle begins to push it down he stops and whispers "Doctor, don't touch anything" and before the Doctor can reply he finishes pushing the handle down and the door swings open.
 
 

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Pardon me, your cruel Keeper, as I add a session report to the tapestry which the good Dr. Norton has been so diligently provided to date. See he is awash in the absolute tumulent of events which have been engulfing the party so I feel it is incumbent upon your host to lend a horror stained hand. 
 

 

The following narrative gives only a glimpse of what a portion of the party experienced under Saracenic Hall. There will be more added to this tale. And it may seem a bit disjointed, but before our brave heroes are swept from the board it is appropriate their trials and tribulations should be accounted for;

 

 
We're taking the girl?” Tomas nodded to the bound redhead in hand, catching Ralph out of his reverie. Ralph looks around, grabs his lantern from the floor.
 
Yes.” The house servant resists a bit as the Frenchman pulls her along. She bites her lip as if afraid to raise her voice in protest within the dark subterranean hall. Ralph strides forward down the hall, lantern held aloft, in search of the grinding and piping noise issuing deep within the dark. The passageway is narrow, barely six feet in height so the party must watch their head. Ralph's light reveals the walls are riddled with small holes. The horrid grinding and piping sounds come from these holes, weirdly amplified and the group quickly pushes on. 
 
Ralph is stopped short at the entrance to the next chamber. Their appears to be no floor. Open cells, square pits really, drop into the dark leaving a thin walk of stone, a mere six inch span, to provide a pathway to the outlet on the other side. Holding the lantern high Ralph is able to illuminate the pit before him. Ten feet across and fifteen feet deep, smooth fitted stone walls. Skeletal remains huddled pitifully at the bottom. There are seven in all. The narrow lip proves to be sturdy under Ralph's searching feet.

We walk across, to that exit.” He informs the hostage and the Frenchman. 
 
The corpses, they have been mutilated,” mentions Tomas. In the middle of the room the exiled noble is able to survey four of the pits at once. “They all are missing a foot and a hand. What do you suppose that was for?” 

Ralph, silent and noncommittal as per his way, shrugs. The two warriors instantly come alert at the sound of a grotesque skittering. A clicking of legs and cold chitin as two monstrous ticks descend from the black ceiling, down along the far walls, and gingerly make their way towards the group along the narrow cell rims.
 
Both Ralph and Tomas give oaths under their breath, each recognizing their precarious footing on such narrow ground. These blasphemous, these ugly, overlarge insects suffer no disadvantage with a multitude of legs. Instinctively they place their female hostage between them. Her bound hands making her defenseless they debated not on protecting her from the gruesome onslaught which was about to spring.
 
The giant ticks leapt at the pair, savage mandibles spread wide intent on gorging on blood. Tomas struck with his long thin rapier while Ralph made a windmill swipe of his ax. Both warriors were able to land telling blows against the thoughtless insects, large as they may be, but it was Tomas who lost his balance. He tumbled roughly onto the moldering bones at the bottom of one of the pits only to stir up more foul-smelling outsized insects. Tomas desperately clutched at the ear-wig like insect who writhed and strove to snip his head from his neck. The close grapple preventing him from wielding his deadly rapier effectively. Ralph saw nothing for it. He leaped into the pit bringing his booted heels square on the giant insect's back. There was a sickly crunch and the beast lay inert. 
 
I thank you my friend.” That was a tight one.” Tomas tipped his hat to the burly Puritan.

We should leave this chamber”, Ralph replied.

The red haired hostage had an opportunity to escape her captors while they battled in the pit, but she had not. The dark nightmare tunnels had kept her fast to her captures better then any iron cage or chain. Outside the insect infested pit room the tunnel walls turned from stone to natural cavern. A noxious stink was now readily apparent. Like pigs, like a pig sty which had never been cleaned. When the stink came to be almost a physical cloud making the trio's eyes water the tunnel gave way into a cavern. Mewling sounds came from below. They stood on a ledge overlooking rough, rocky ground below. It was packed with moaning, pig-like beasts where the awful stench emanated from. The beasts were revealed in the lantern light as flabby, loose fleshed swine on unnaturally long legs sprouting a gnarled horn from their white skinned faces. Hairless, their long stay in this subterranean sty left the pungent beasts albino white. The ledge the adventurers stood on gave access to the lower cavern via time worn stone steps while an additional tunnel continued on from this horrid stockyard. For stockyard it surely must be. A smooth granite stump projected from the floor of the ledge. Upon it laid boning and skinning knives. Discarded hooves and snouts nearby added to the feted smell. Rats squabbled over bits in the gloom. Hanging on nails banged into the cavern wall dried, pale skins hung drying. 
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So the promised pig skins by Mr. Carter. I believe this is where they would come from.” Ralph comments soberly. Tomas wrinkles his brow in confusion. 

“A local leather worker was grousing about Thomas Carter not showing up. Wasting his time and all that. He was hoping to purchase a bundle of pig skins. I think this is what Carter intended to sell.” finished Ralph. The hulking Puritan turned to the Frenchman and handed over his lantern. "I'm going to look for an exit out of here. Maybe there is one in the sty.” 

Both Tomas and Ralph had clocked two exits leading out from the ledge they now stood on. One reintroduced the worked and finished walls they had already encountered while past the skinning block another natural tunnel plunged downwards. Before Tomas could comment Ralph gingerly navigated the worn steps into the sty. The ungainly beasts moaned and bleated but caused not a stir as Ralph pushed down into the far corner of the pit. There was a drainage grate at the lowest point. Wholly inadequate for the amount of filth it needed to filter and the smell at this point made Ralph wretch.
 
Which way then?” Tomas hollard out. Ralph tugged his chin than strode back up the worn causeway directly to the girl. 
 
Which way out! What is down here? Speak, and be quick.”
 
Truly I never come here.” gasped the red haired hostage, trembling at the terrible visage and rough handling. “It is forbidden. Our Lord makes requests, but we set table in the manor house and he joins us. Joseph, the groundskeeper, he speaks with Edgar directly. I just see to the house.” Ralph looks to Tomas. 

I suggest the finished passage. A terrible stench comes up from that other tunnel.” Proffers the Frenchman.
 
I think we should return to my cousin. Tell him what we have found.” Answers Ralph.
 
Ralph routinely turns to the educated Dr. for direction when events befuddle him. Now deep in the bowels of Saracenic Hall the Puritan soldier starts to feel he is a bit at a loss.
 
Back we go!” smiles the rakish noble and returns the girls gag, pushing her ahead as the group retraces their steps.
 
It is not until they recross the pit laden room that they hear a tittering and clattering in a great cacophony. Lantern held out Ralph and Tomas witness a cascade of oily black haired rats boiling out of the holes in the corridor. A horde unimaginable must courses through the underground confines to disgorge such an endless stream of rats. The whistling and grinding were nothing but the echoes of the beasts which scurried through the cracks and sludge deep beneath the wash! A literal tide of rats advanced on them as more and more poured forth from the walls. 
 
Quickly back!” urged Tomas. Ralph hurled his lantern in anger at the swarm. A conflagration erupted amongst the bodies. A foul stench and smoke erupted. The lantern oil spread and squeals of roasting fat of the rats drowns out the terror which engulfs the trio. It was only the hasting flames feasting on the packed horde of vermin which provided the orange light which guided them back to the sty. 
 
Perhaps the finished hall will bring us back around to the others? Tomas proffered. “I don't like the looks of the other.”
 
Makes no difference I guess. “ Ralph replied. "Retrieve that old torch in the sconce and get it lit. I have no desire to blunder through these halls in the dark."
 
The passageway here was marked by large rectangle blocks stacked for the walls and ceiling. Archways were trimmed out with thick neo-classical cornice sculpted molding giving the hallway a squat, oppressive and heavy feel. The passageway made several turns to the left and right with no branching halls or doors. Soon though they entered a larger chamber distinct in that it was a room of many archways and alcoves. The thick sculpted trim work was on display around the archways and base molding. Each of the various rooms and alcoves were stacked by dusty, but well made furniture. Tables, chairs, mirrors, candlesticks, bureaus, suits of armor, goblets and flatware. All were piled thick upon each other so that many of the alcoves were nigh impassible. A zig zag course could be made through the middle of the chamber and the men, with hostage in tow, pushed into the cluttered chamber. It was near a small circular end table they notice a light. A pale, cold white light flared from a smooth clear stone. Cards and other parlor games were also stacked on the table and moldering carpeted chairs. The cobwebs were noticeably absent in this spot as if it was regularly used. The house girl in tow rolled her eyes wildly and appeared frighten. Before Ralph could interrogate her further another woman appeared as out of air. Tomas could swear, later, she definitely drifted into the room, but truth be told the rooms felt totally empty, and then she was there. A mature woman, not terrible to look at, very pale and blond. Her hair seemed so fragile and light that it floated on an unfelt breeze. Her dress was horribly out of date, the obtuse Norton could even see this. The fashion-conscious Frenchman was appalled at the dried, crusty brown stain on her bodice.

Have you brought food?” she questions the group. “Food would be nice...” her nails drag across one of many stacked end tables. She looks through each of party members if they were nothing but so much gossamer. When her gaze lands on the house maid they come alive and joyfully exclaims, 

“Rebecca, is that you? It has been so long. I last saw you but as a child. We could play a game. You remember Dame Fortune's Folly? We must play, I have the cards right here.” The haughty lady literally trilled she seemed so pleased.
 
Of course m'lady as you wish.” the house maid answered, visibly shaken and despairing.

Your friends must play as well, you will join us won't you? The game plays best with four.” She whirls in speech drilling down on Tomas and Ralph.
 
Sure.” They agreed. 
 
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The group sits upon dusty chairs and the woman moves aside an antique chess set and some silver forks. She asks Rebecca to fetch the pale crystals which offered a clear white illumination to the immediate surroundings, leaving much outside the circle of the table in darkness. While there were many candle sticks and lanterns available in the clutter none seemed to have been used, no wax candles or oil was to be seen.
 
You will be dealt two cards face up. You will then have a choice to wager on the chance of the next card landing between the two face up cards value. If your cards are say a 2 and a 6 you will require a 3,4, or 5 to collect on your wager. If you pass on the wager you will face the Dame’s fortune or folly, which is decided by this third card which your wager would have been decided on. The fall of the cards will also tell a story, some even say the sensitive are able to hear their future predicted in the story played. Oh, and of course, if you wager it must be something of value. I don’t want your dusty hat or stained wine skin.” The women explained all this breathlessly, shuffling the cards rapidly and fussing with the playing surface. Looking directly at Ralph she played two cards in front of him. A four of clubs and a nine of diamonds. 
 
A warrior continuing a battle, one which calls on all your strength and endurance. Will the goal be accomplished? Will there be a rest from action?” The strange lady in the stained dress pours over the upturned cards. “Much like the legend of Sir Galhalt and the Iron Siege. Shall you wager, or tempt the Dame’s fortune?” she asks Ralph.
 
I will wager.”

What do you have to offer?”

Ralph pulls out his hatchet and pries several gems embedded on the handle. They click onto the table and roll across the cards. The lady circles the brilliant stones with a long finger. 
 
Very well young knight, I accept your wager,” she coos.
 
A five of hearts is turned and the lady tells the tale of Sir Galhalt and his tragic end. Both Ralph and Tomas fall adrift in her oratory. While her tale ends with the turning of the card both men feel as if they have traveled on an epic journey and endured the hardships Galhalt suffered. Ralph feels as if the blood in his veins has been leeched out and replaced with ice water. He comes out of his fugue with the lady congratulating him on his win. She rummages about the stacked ornaments and books next to her and pulls forth a golden buckle trimmed with small diamond-like crystals. She presents it to Ralph.
 
To the victor.” She hands Ralph the buckle, wipes her chin and presents two new cards to Tomas. “Jack of Spades and Eight of Hearts. The rebel, playing naught for love but a cause. Long discarded emotional attachment it seems you now must make a hard choice.” She looks at the Frenchman expectantly. 
 
Dame fortune's folly,” he answers without hesitation.
 
The Candle.” she smiles. “A flickering light in the darkness...” 

Once again the turning of the third card takes but an instance but the men feel transfixed within an ancient ballad of heroes, dark forests, and lost love. Coming out of their revere Ralph is first to notice the change. With a horrified gasp he yells “Tomas!” pointing. 

Sprouted like a mushroom in the rain a thick, short-haired tail curls from Tomas' backside, to the floor and back up twitching near his head. 
 
By the three beards of the drunken lady I have a tail!” gasps Tomas. 
 
The lady claps her hand in obvious delight. Ralph explodes into action.
 
Sorcerous!” he yells, grasping his axe, he rears back to split her skull. 
 
A look of rage consumes the lady's face, her eyes go black, and she hisses like a scalded cat. Before Ralph's arm can come down she moves with blinding speed. In a blink she is behind Ralph lifting him out of his chair. Shirt and flesh split open as long yellow claws splash Ralph's blood in a spray to the ceiling. 
 
Ralph groans from the gruesome blow and falls to the floor. The lady, panting, looks to drive both long nailed hands deep into his body, but Tomas leaps to his fallen comrades aid. 
 
Stand back hell spawn!” he screams. His rapier darting and slicing at the demon witche's face she steps back, then backhands the Frenchman and sends him sprawling into a pile of chairs like he was a paper doll. She looks down, drooling in her blood lust intent of scooping out Ralph's guts. But the Frenchman's desperate attack gave the grievously wounded Puritan soldier time to roll under the table to the other side. Laying on his back bubbling gore he deftly lights a grenado, the wick cut short by his gritted teeth, and tosses it at her chest over the table. There is a stunning blast which leaves the men concussed.
 
Eventually they come to their feet from under the blasted furniture and gimjacks. Surely there must be something left of the she beast, but lo, there is nothing to be seen except the sturdy groined walls and archways and the destruction of housewares from the blast. 
 
The girl Rebecca was clearly dead. Her broken body lay over a crumpled armorie. Splintered shards of wood protruded from her chest, neck and face. She must have been standing when the grenado detonated. But no trace of the demon whore could be found. There were some scraps of cloth that may have been from the dress she wore, but there was no flesh, no blasted body parts. 
 
It was a deft toss Ralph,” the Frenchman acknowledged. “It was like she cared little for your bauble and then whoosh!” Tomas flutters his hands in the air simulating the blast.
 
We must find my cousin. He needs to know the dangers we face here.” Ralph winces as he makes his way back from which they came.
Perhaps, being a doctor, he can tend your wounds?” Tomas adds looking at Ralph's exposed back. The man's flesh hangs in ribbons, dripping blood with each step. Tomas grabs up one of the light radiating stones and follows after the bloodied puritan warrior.
 
Back at the subterranean sty Ralph muses. “Nothing but to take the last remaining passage, foul smell and all. Perhaps it will lead back to the passages the others took.” 
 
The pair picked their way carefully down the natural cavern away from the sunken sty packed with the pale pig-like creatures. The passage was slick with moisture and a few squabbling rats. Fortunately the horde they encountered by the room of square pits had not come all this way otherwise all would have been lost. The further they traveled through the more foul, wet and steep the way became. 

Tomas was in the lead holding the illuminating stone aloft when Ralph, weakening from his wounds, lost his footing and slid rapidly down the incline colliding with the surprised Frenchman. They tumbled roughly gathering speed and landed with a lurid splash in a mud and fecal laden pool. It was a separate tunnel they had fallen into. The opening of the tunnel in which they were traveling was at shoulder level returning upwards in such a sharp angle Ralph just shook his head when Tomas suggested he could boost his companion back up the way they had fallen. This new tunnel ran straight and apparently level. A stream of foul, stinking water flowed in one direction, so there was at least a slight incline to the passage. Ralph groaned under the pain of his wounds. Tomas hollered as a pale, grotesque worm rises from the foul pool, wrapping around his leg and climbing up his chest. 

It was a horridly large maggot, grown fat off the refuse of rat, pig, and offal. Its eyeless head ended in a sucking maw ringed with small, saw-like teeth. Tomas grasped the thing with both hands desperately trying to keep the carrion beast from latching onto his face. Ralph swung quickly, reopening his coagulating cuts. The sharp hatchet sliced through the beast's neck, the decapitated head flying off the cavern wall and into the muck. Tomas dropped the now dead maggot in time to pull his pistol. Another giant horror had risen from the pool and looked to bury its snapping maw into Ralph's raw back. The report of the wheelock echoes down the fetid tunnel. The Frenchman's aim was true, and the pistol's lead round obliterated the head of the maggot. It's convulsing body flops back and is submerged into the muck.
 
Enough of this hell Ralph. Lean on me and I will lead us out.” Tomas' agitation and worry was magnified by his thick animal tail swishing back and forth behind him. 
 
But which way? I despair of ever leaving this horrid place.”
 
We'll trust to the lord, and our resolve,” answered Tomas. “I say we follow the stream as opposed going up. Methinks this is the drain for the sty above.” 

Ralph shrugs. On the edge of blacking out from blood loss he had little strength left to argue or think.
 
It seemed like an eternity, but the pair emerged eventually from the tunnel into a sharp sided hillock. A marshy stream crossed the opening carrying the effluvia further into the thick reeded meadow. Trees on firmer ground gave the gully deep shadow in the late afternoon sun. 
 
We must return to the manor.” Ralph rasped. “We must hope our companions find a way out as well. We will need to assist them if the Irish mob still prowls the grounds.”
 
Very well. The ground is difficult, but I will continue to aid thee.”
 
An hour later the sweaty, shit stained heroes collapsed among the tall, unkempt grass at the rear of the manor. It was obvious the fire the good doctor had started within the hall had not taken for Saraceninc Hall still stood with no sign of damage or smoke. It was also obvious the house staff and laborers were still on their guard. Stirred like a swarm of angry bees they moved about between the house and the cottages farther back.

What do we do now?” asked Tomas.

We wait.”
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Continuation of the good Dr.'s accounting of the horrid affairs encountered beneath Saracenic Hall. Hats off to the PC behind Dr. Thomas Norton who continues to write such wonderful session reports!!!
 
A surprising dinner is always the best kind of dinner

The doors swing open effortlessly the CL.U.Ber's take a step back shielding their eyes from the sudden bright glow but as their eyes adjust they can make out whats in front of them. The room is large and richly furnished, several ornate and deep Persian rugs cover the stone floor, tapestries hang heavily from every wall and several large chandeliers hang from the vaulted ceiling each one ladened down with sweet smelling candles. The room is dominated though by a massive and heavily carved oak table which almost glowed in the reflected candlelight, at the end of the table opposite the doorway and the CL.U.Ber's sat an aged gentleman working away at a ledger of some sort, he pauses and looks up at the now open doorway Wilhelm stepping further into the room hiding his pistol behind his back explains that he had come to inform someone that dinner is ready. The old man closes the book and carefully lays his quill aside "It seems a little early for dinner? " the Doctor steps next to Wilhelm and tells the old man that they had been sent down to collect him by Lysette as she has cooked his favourite meal but she was worried that it might spoil if she had to tarry in its serving. The old man smiles a slow smile and leaning back nods and asks a few questions which the CL.U.Ber's do their best to answer without giving themselves away too much they claim to be new employees hired by Joshua who told them to assist Lysette in the Kitchen for now before helping with the drainage project.
Then still smiling the old man then greets someone else who seems to be behind the Party "Ahh Elizabeth I'm surprised to see you back so soon" a woman pale of skin and naked seemingly drifts past the Party but pays them no heed instead she approaches the old man and bends down to whisper to him. The Doctor removes his helmet and looks downwards "Sir I must protest this Lady is naked, could she not be covered?" the old man laughs without humor and apologises and tells the lady that that as they have guests she should get dressed. She turns her pale beautiful face towards the Party and shrugs a perfect shoulder "If you so wish brother, I wouldn't want to rise the choleric humors of these fine gentleman now would I" she raises an eyebrow and then glides away to one of the doorways behind the old man.
He watches the Party as they watch his sister leave before coughing loudly and still smiling gestures to the empty chairs near the Party "Now please sit" the Doctor smiles weakly "I'm very sorry Sir but Lysette was most insistent that we inform you that dinner was ready and that we should return as soon as possible to continue preparing the tables" the old man sighs "No you have no need to worry about Lysette even though I don't understand why you keep insisting her name is Lysette, after all, you entered my basement domain with young Rebecca but never mind you will take a seat and you will tell me the real reason you have come down here and disturbed my work" The Party exchange worried looks it seems like they have been rumbled.
The Doctor takes a seat all the while trying to keep the lies going Wilhelm on the other hand snarls and walks briskly down the length of the table and with one hand drags the chair next to the old man out whilst the other swings out and levels his pistol at the old man's head "Stand up sorcerer" the old man looks somewhat sadly at the Bavarian before he spits out "There will be no weapons at the table! you will be seated"Wilhelm's gun hand is suddenly twisted violently up and to the side, he cries out in pain and shock as his pistols barrel is now firmly pointing at his own head. He looks towards the Doctor sweat pouring down his face a look of pure horror in his eyes as he strains to move the pistol from his temple.
The Doctor doesn't know what to do stunned by this show of hellish power and begins to ramble hoping that if he acts normal then everything would return to normal. The old man gestures again and Wilhelm finds himself forced into a chair though he looks up and asks the Doctor for news of the world outside. Adding to the strangeness the pale lady returns bearing a tray of steaming bowls the man looks at the now elegantly dressed lady and nods "Excellent choice of dress Elizabeth most suitable for the occasion" he sniffs and claps his hands together "Ah and Onion soup my favourite" Elizabeth places a bowl in front of everyone including the still struggling Bavarian. "Tuck in gentleman" more worried looks are exchanged between the Party and the Doctor takes a somewhat timid spoonful of soup. There is an awkward pause then the Doctor breathes a sigh of relief and then tucks in as if a man once starving.
The conversation picks up again and the old man inquires about the situation in Norfolk and after learning about Parliaments successes the old man becomes heated and outraged over the Kings defeats and seems shocked and horrified that Parliament dared to execute the King he rages that the world has been turned upside down but as the Doctor and Wilhelm begin to worry he suddenly becomes somewhat mournful and begins talking sadly about his family, the death of his eldest, the fate of Eustace and the annoyance he felt over his other son, the wayward Constantine.
Time passes and Sir Mallebeench is the perfect host and the Doctor is able to convince him that the Witch hunter just made a foolish mistake, that as a foreigner from the backwoods of Bavaria he didn't understand the proper behaviour of a dinner guest. The old man sighed looked thoughtfully at the Bavarian and in a low voice full of hidden threat reminded Wilhelm that a guest should never threaten his host and then with a slight gesture released him. Wilhelm slowly lowered his pistol the muscles in his hands and arm visibly shaking, he places the pistol carefully onto the table "Thank you mein herr" he says coldly and begins to rub his strained muscles.
Sir Mallebench smiled and nodded "I will forgive you this once but remember your place in future" he then claps as Elizabeth re-enters carrying a large platter of roasted meat "Excellent the main course has arrived, tuck in gentleman Elizabeth cooks a most unique roast". Wilhelm casts angry looks towards the pale lady and the warlock whilst the Doctor tries to keep the conversation going whilst avoiding giving the game away still pretending that they are nothing more than demobbed soldiers looking for honest work.
Though the Doctor was starting to suspect that the old man knew exactly why they were here but the dice had been thrown and the game will be played out.
The candles dimmed the conversation became less guarded as the wine flowed and Mallebeench relaxed a little and proved to be an excellent and engaging host he seemed to have a vast knowledge of history and was a fine storyteller, Elizabeth who when not busy bringing in platters heaped with fine foods had taken to lurking just behind the Bavarian, her pale hands resting on lightly on the back of his chair.

The last course was a fine Gooseberry fool its cream chilled, thick and flavoured with expensive spices the gooseberries themselves had a wonderful boozy grape like taste. The CL.U.Ber's attacked their deserts as if starving men and soon their bowls were empty. Mallebench sighed sadly as he pushed his empty bowl away from him "My sons used to love their deserts and a gooseberry fool was Constantine's favourite, I used to joke that he liked it so much because he was as foolish as the desert" he suddenly turned ice cold eyes onto the CL.U.Ber's "You say you want work, that you would happily serve me?" the Doctor suddenly sobered up "Erm....Yes" Mallebeench nodded and continued "Good, you have broke bread with me and enjoyed my hospitality so I ask what do you know of my sons current whereabouts? he keeps dark company these days and last I heard he was skulking around somewhere near Norwich?" The Doctor coughs and tells Mallebeench that they had heard rumours of a purge of sorts taking place in Norwich, apparently a powerful criminal gang had become too big and had attracted the attentions of senior members of New Model Army there had been a clamp down. Many gang members were killed during raids whilst others were sent to the castle gallows. Wilhelm nods adding that he had seen a pamphlet which mentioned that the gang was called the Tenebrous hand but he had not seen anyone called Mallebeench listed amongst those killed. He also mentions that there were dark rumors that the gang was rumoured to worship the Devil himself.
Mallebeench rubbed his chin "This gang seems just the thing that Constantine would get himself involved with, he always did have a flair for the dramatic" he chuckles "And he always preferred to manipulate others into doing his dirty work" he calls Elizabeth over and they have a quick whispered conversation, Elizabeth nods and heads back out of the room. Mallebeench continues "If my son was involved it seems that he has managed to escape punishment once again" he seems to reach a decision and points to a dark wooden chest which sits in the corner behind his seat "Take a coin from that chest, consider it a down payment but more importantly it will show others that you are part of...." he pauses struggling for the correct word......"my household. I suggest you keep it close to you at all times instead of spending it on some short lived fun." The Doctor stands up and walks slowly to the chest he pauses and looks back at Wilhelm who nods slightly the Doctor takes a deep breath perhaps remembering what happened with the jar of eyes then with a sudden jerk he lifts open the lid and rapidly steps back.
No cloud of toxic fumes billowed out this but the corner does get a sudden golden glow.
The chest is filled with large gold coins which reflect back the low candle light which gives the whole chamber an added lustre. Mallebeench seeing the Doctor pause again calls out "Take the coin and your journey into my households service will be complete" the Doctor reaches out and picks up one of the fat gold coins and sees that its covered in some kind of wavy script "Good, good your contract with my household is now complete. Welcome to my association " The Doctor turns to face the old man "What kind of coins are these?" he starts to walk back towards the table but stops when Mallebeench raises a hand "You have friends Doctor, friends who I believe also seek employment isn't that correct Herr Teufel?" Wilhelm seems to be fighting with himself but through gritted teeth mumbles "You are correct Sir Mallebeench" smiling Mallebeench turns back to the Doctor and asks him to return to the chest and take coins enough for all of his friends. The Doctor tries to avoid this as the taking of the coin suddenly seems to be a more than just simply collecting ones wages, but Mallebeench will not hear of it insisting the Doctor does as asked. The Doctor returns and collects coins enough for all the CL.U.Ber's.
As the Doctor returns to his seat Mallebeench smiles and congratulates them on joining his household he is about to say something else but suddenly stops and a puzzled look crosses his face "Tell me though why do you keep mentioning Lysette? you came down here with dear Rebecca" the Doctor looks confused and worried but rallies and replies that hadn't seen Rebecca they had just met and received instructions from Lysette and Joshua Poer. Mallebeench seems as confused as the Doctor but shakes his head telling the Doctor that it matters not. Elizabeth returns bringing in a tray of crystal glasses which surround a decanter filled with a deep red liquid that sloshes thickly around inside. "Ahh the claret has arrived, we will celebrate your employment and you and I will discuss your first job"
The atmosphere became much subdued as Mallebench explained what his plans were he wanted them to find Constantine and to bring him back to face his judgement,he warned them that he son dabbled in things best left alone and had for years dreamt of becoming all powerful no matter what the cost, he even hinted darkly that his son was a demonologist and that if allowed to continue his foolish plans many innocents would die. The CL.U.Bers pretended to be shocked at this news and carefully asked a few questions trying to get a glimpse of the truth, trying to find out what Constantine was really about but it seemed that Constantine was no Royalist sympathiser his plans were all his own and just for his selfish desires .
So Mallebeench thought his son was still trying to claim this power but having failed to see his plans work here he would be forced to go to British Houndarus where he would play his last card in his bid for ultimate power. Mallebeench reached into his coat and threw a medallion at the Doctor "You will be needing this" the Doctor reached out and picked up the medallion turning it over in his hand it was of a strange greenish soapstone that felt cool and slimy to the touch the Doctor unconsciously wiping his hands down his breeches several times whilst handling the medallion. One side was plain whilst the other bore a carving of a strange creature to the Doctor it seemed to be part goat, part octopus but the carving was hard to look at and much like the Owls there sometimes seemed more goat than tentacles whilst on second look it was the other way around.
 
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On 3/18/2018 at 11:23 AM, Butters said:
For the wages of sin is death
Part One

[Somehow it got lost in the narrative, but Zeal wants the ClUBers to return to the Island of the Pale Lady and destroy the shrine of Xaxus and seal off entrance into the Pale Lady's ruined palace. This is why the party assembled with this contingent of Parliamentarian forces after they successfully defeated the escaped god Xaxus!]

Far to quickly the break was over and the still-battered Party began to assemble their equipment, blades were sharpened, pistols and muskets cleaned and tested and stores ordered and assembled into the two hastily converted row boats which now sported crude skis attached to the sides of their hulls. These skies lifted the boats just off the ground so they could be dragged over the ice and snow, if with some difficulty. The Party were also introduced to the men that would be assisting them in their destructive endeavors, they were from Sir Bernard de Gommes Companie of Pioneers & Fireworkers so not only were they skilled in explosives but also well used to the backbreaking demands of a Pioneer.
 
Ah, here it is, buried a bit in this lengthy chronicle...
 
Returning to Zeal he listens and decides on two plans Operation Bloater (Returning to the Island and clearing away the Crystal kids from the stench pools) and Operation Kaaskop a search and destroy mission against the agents of Xaxus.

 

Edited by jagerfury
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Sell your soul! Well you made a deal with the devil and now your soul is mine. You sold it for eternity when you signed that dotted line, You will taste the bullet of another gun when it comes down to the end, So long, farewell I'll see you in hell my friend.
.
The Doctor gave up trying to figure the image out as the effort was making him feel somewhat nauseous. Mallebeench continued "This medallion will grant you some protection from my sons incantations and it may open some locked doors as it were"
So with coins of allegiance and the medallion in hand Mallebeench took out a strangely carved pipe and started to fill it with a dark greenish tobacco, after a few puffs to get it going he sighed and leaning back in his chair expanded on the CL.U.Ber's task. "You have six months to complete this task I have set you, after that I fear it will be too late and my son will have completed his task and my boon will have run out. You will need to go to see my man in Kings Lynn his name is Emmanuel Harper and runs my shipping concern at the Three Sisters show him the coin and he will arrange your passage to the New World. Once you reach Honduras you will need to seek out the Kayo tribe and a place known as Bendal-Dolum where my foolish son is trying to control powers far beyond him. The medallion will be of use here so I suggest you don't lose it" he watches the CL.U.Ber's intently the Doctor seems resigned to his fate but Wilhelm seems ready to kill only resisting the urge with the greatest of effort. He takes another long drag of his pipe and finishes off "I want you to bring my son back before he tries this foolhardy plan and potentially wakes something that should stay sleeping. He has no idea what danger he is in blinded as he is by jealousy and envy, you bring him back to me and I will punish him as is a fathers duty, do this and you will be greatly rewarded fail and....well I guess it won't matter to either of us."
The chamber becomes even more quiet and still, Elizabeth stands behind Wilhelm who seems very uncomfortable and you could almost hear him grinding his teeth in frustration, the Doctor looked beaten and worried each man lost in their own thoughts. The silence is broken by an awful screeching sound all eyes turn to look at Elizabeth who looks shocked and shakes her head explaining that she is not making the noise. The cry breaks the now shocked silence and an owl suddenly swoops down from out of darkness flies down the length of the table to land in front of Mallebeench who smiles and throws it a piece of bloody meat which it gobbles down with relish. It then swivels its head to look at Wilhelm and caws again (Wilhelm hears it in his head talking to him and it tells him in a hideous voice "You will come to a terrible end, this will not end well for you") Wilhelm counter this by imagining tucking into a meal roast owl. The owl leans back and ruffles its feathers and then with a final mocking hoot it flies off to land on Mallebeench's shoulder where it continues to make soft hooting noises some might say almost as if it was laughing.
Mallebeench places his pipe down onto the table and stands "Gentleman the meal is over and my hospitality is almost at an end so I suggest you find your companions and make your way to Kings Lynn. 
Elizabeth licks her lips and smiles "Your friends are alive but only by my grace as I found them to be rude and disrespectful." she gives a slight shudder "Especially the brute with the interesting face, I had to show him the correct way to treat a lady" she seems to fade out but then she turns back to the CL.U.Ber's "I think they were heading out to the garden through the pen drains" she gives a girlish giggle "So you should be able to smell them even if you can't see them" and with that she steps back and indicates one of the doors behind the standing Mallebeench "This way gentleman, this way" and she escorts them to the door and points to the tunnel behind "Follow this and stay to the left and it will lead you to the gardens" she brushes her pale golden hair back and with a curious smile adds "Oh Doctor would you be so kind and remember me to your cousin" the Doctor nods and replies that he would be happy to and with a last look back at the now dark chamber the last candle guttering out with the slight breeze coming from the open door the CL.U.Ber's leave the strange old man and the pale lady behind and follow this new tunnel hopefully back into the almost forgotten sunshine, the pure air of England and with a little luck their comrades. 
 

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Edited by Butters

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