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'Lamentations of the Cthulhu & Chivalry' Campaign

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Whoops I made a bit of a mistake as Sir Bernard de Gomme was a Dutchman who fought for the Royalist cause but hey he's got a great name so I'm sticking to it maybe he was seduced by the power of the mainspring?

 

 

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Edited by Butters

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20 minutes ago, jagerfury said:

How do you delete a post?

That is a good question, there doesn't seem to be an option. I guess you could just edit, delete the offending post and just replace it with something else? some of the maps would be cool.

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On 8/6/2018 at 7:19 AM, jagerfury said:

I have lost the will to live simply nothing more to give there is nothing more for me, Need the end to set me free

[Butters' brilliant narrative continues]
After travelling a short distance the Doctor and the Witch hunter finally reach the end of the stone tunnel a small postern style gate set into its end. the Doctor turns to Wilhelm and whispers "Well shall we open it?" Wilhelm shrugs "I don't see much option do you?" and with that he throws the bolts aside and pulls the door open on protesting hinges. They stagger back a little shielding their eyes from the sudden weak sunlight which now streams into the tunnel, with one last look back they leave the underground warrens under Saracenic hall and find themselves in it's the overgrown gardens, the ruins of a small stone chapel to their right and the still smoking Hall to their left. Whilst the Hall was still smoking it was obvious that someone had managed to put out the fire as there was no signs of any flames just this weak damp looking smoke which drifted out of the broken windows at the front. The Doctor sighs "Well I suppose its for the best, not having destroyed the house I mean" Wilhelm stretching the kinks out of his back looked like he didn't agree but instead he said "We have made it out by making a deal with my namesake so lets just find the others and tell them the good news, this place stinks?" little did the two know that their comrades were a lot closer than they realized in fact they were hiding in some bushes two hundred or so meters behind them. The bushes had been planted several years back to mask the large pipe and the pool it drained into, this pool may have once been water but that was long ago it now was a stinking pool of thick sticky effluent and the whole area buzzed with the droning of the large fat flies which swarmed around the pool. Thomas his once fine clothes now stained and torn were no longer recognizable as the height of fashion that caused the ladies to swoon, even the silver buttons were tarnished and dull now the whole lot not fit to cloth the meanest of beggars stood knee deep in the noxious liquid trying to peer through the bushes whilst Ralph lay down on the bank, his eyes closed his breath ragged and his blood trickling down into the pool. Thomas thought he could hear voices and whilst he needed to get help for Ralph he knew the locals weren't friendly and he wondered what would get him killed first the fact that he was French or that he had a damn tail. So he was playing it safe for now and just hoped that Ralph could hold on a little longer.


The other two meanwhile had started to head towards the ruin and away from the still smoking house when there suddenly came shouts and movement from the chapel, before they could prepare themselves a group of around five men burst out of the long grass crying out "We found the dastards, there here! there here!" Wilhelm pulled out one of his pistols drawing the doghead back with well practiced smoothness whilst the Doctor fumbled in his breeches. Wilhelm panned his pistol around facing down the men but more movement could be heard coming from the right, it seems as if the shouting had brought reinforcements.


The original group levelled a variety of weapons at the pair but apart from spreading out and jeering at the Doctor and Wilhelm they seemed happy just to keep the pair from escaping. Then the second group made its appearance and at it's head marched a furious looking Joshua Poer "Well, well, well so we have found these murderous dastards then these fopdoodles, these fustilarian scullions who came here to murder and rape" he strode forward a wicked blade held in his hand "Look here men this degenerate is playing with his fecking tackle, well we can soon put a stop to that can't we boys" this last statement is met with loud cheering from his men. Wilhelm looking somehow stoic and confused at the same time quickly glances in the direction of the Doctor and snarls "That's not the sword you should be grabbing you idiot" The Doctor looks daggers at him "You bloody foreigners are all sex obsessed" he pulls out a small leather bag from which he pulls out the gold coin. With the coin raised high he walks towards the advancing Joshua and calls out loudly "You know what this coin means we work for the same Master now and under his protection, step back and let us go" a murmur of disquiet goes through the crowd and some of the men start to drift back seeing this Joshua calls out "Steady men I'm telling you to stand, these men murdered Tom and kidnapped Rachel, coin or not they deserve to die no one fucks a Poer over"


Just then some of the remaining men at the back start to cough, swear and finally step aside as Thomas appears carrying Ralph, the stench that comes off them is eye blistering" Joshua now looking thoroughly confused and red with anger shouts "Oh what the feck is this now?" as he to steps back from the sludge covered pair "What kind of men are you?" Wilhelm has by now also pulled out his coin and is brandishing it aloft replies "Men that your Master needs, Doctor would you be kind enough to give the others their coins?" the Doctor has a look of why me but approaches the pair after taking a very deep breath and making sure his gloves were on. Wilhelm continues "You have all seen the coins, we all have them and you know there is but one way we could have come across them, so for the last time stand aside and let us leave" the men start to break away in small groups, some shrugging their shoulders towards Joshua whilst others tell him almost apologetically that those are the rules, but he refuses to move aside, his blade now gripped in a knuckle white hold. It appears as if teh CL.U.Ber's might get away but as the last of the remaining men begin to drift off a young lady rushes out from the Hall she is wearing a dress of red velvet which clings somewhat suggestively to her figure "Don't leave, these men took Rachel and you don't see her here with them do you? so that must mean they have killed her" Thomas walks forwards his hands raised slightly "My name is Thomas de Fronsac, a gentleman of France, who do I the honour of addressing" he describes a low bow in front of her she in turn rapidly steps back and quickly pulls out a scented handkerchief which she holds to her nose "My name knave is Lysette and I claim that you to satisfy your own dark lusts have murdered a poor innocent girl" Thomas looks shocked "Moi? Mademoiselle, I would never do such a thing I swear to you as a French noble that we have not seen this lady of which you speak" Lysette looks coldly at the excrement covered Frenchman and points a shaking finger at him "Then where is she then? she was alone in the house when you broke in and no one has seen her since" her passion and possibly her outfit had caused some of the men to slow and turn back. Thomas starts to flick his coin over and under his fingers, so deftly did he do so that the coin soon became just a blur of gold "Would we look and smell so bad if we had such a hostage? Mademoiselle we were barely inside the house when we were attacked by your workers forcing us to leave via the basement. I can only think she has fled hearing the musket fire and the smoke, maybe she has, how you say a special friend somewhere that she could go to" there was some more muttering from the men and the name Luke Harper was heard sometimes along with some ribald laughter. This seemed to convince the men that the promise of the coin was enough and this wasn't enough to risk the Lords wrath over a Poers bruised pride.
 

Joshua rages at them but they continue to drift away so he steps forwards and lays the tip of the blade against Wilhelm's chest "You will die but not before you beg me to end your pain" Wilhelm smiling just shoves the coin into Joshua's face " Beißen mich" and shoves his way past him quickly followed by the others, the Doctor whispers ""What now?" Wilhelm whispers back "We walk out of here like hard bastards but as soon as we are out of sight we run as if the Devil himself was behind us"
 

The Party walk or in Ralph's case stagger back out across the broads but at least this time they could leave via the raised road. The journey back to Holbeach is filled firstly by each group boasting of their various adventures, then a lot of arguing and then finally some plans got sketched out just as the church spire of St Marks came into view. They were all glad to see Holbeach St Marks again even though it was barely a hamlet but it represented safety, hot food, and a chance to heal and get clean. Ralph was even cried though he just claimed he had something in his eye.
 

The Party head towards the stream where Thomas and Ralph strip and break out the soap, in Ralph's case he does this very slowly as the wounds on his back start to bleed again. Wilhelm and Giulio head off to get beer and food whilst the Doctor breaks out his medical chest and prepares the needles and catgut. Time passes Giulio and Wilhelm return from the Vagrant Cat with a couple of clay jugs of beer and have somehow managed to convince Mark to rustle up some porridge, Ralph is again stitched up and is covered in bandages and foul smelling poultices and Thomas is now wearing what was his second best outfit which he has adjusted to fit his new appendage which has grown into a muscular tail some three meters long. Through a variety of straps and ties he had managed to strap in down and onto his leg and with his adjusted breeches he now just looked horribly deformed instead of being corrupted and as a Frenchman he could just about carry it off.
 

So feeling slightly better for the most part the Party seeing the skies start to darken with the promise of rain decide to hole up again at the barn and continue to the market town of Holbeach the following morning where they would send off a dispatch to Zeal telling him of their plans and a strong recommendation that he send a company of men up to Holbeach accompanied by some Ministers and Witch hunters to purge the local area paying special attention to Saracenic Hall and it's environs. They find a small boy desultory sweeping up the hay who is quickly persuaded to come back in the morning by the Doctor and some shiny pennies.
 

Barely had they got their packs off when they interrupted by the approach of a severely dressed man holding a fowling piece which he levels at the Party and he demands to know what they think they are doing giving his son money to avoid his chores. The Party quickly apologises and tells the man who turns out to be the Farmer who owns the barn that they were demobbed soldiers who had been looking for work but had fallen fowl of some bandits up by Saracenic Hall, they had tried to fight back but as you can see had barely escaped with their lives. Seeing their various injuries and especially after seeing Ralph's ruined back he seems to agree but he does ask a few more questions before saying "Well what you say sadly seems to match with some of the gossip I've heard about the kind of men his Lordship has working for him these days " he points to Ralph "I'd be right in thinking you were the man who talked to Horsely about his hides" Ralph nods "And the rest of you went out with the Butcher?" the Party nods.
 

The Farmer mutters to himself before placing his gun up against the side of the barn and walking towards the Party with his hand outstretched "My name Is Middlecott, this barn and the land it sits on is mine but I guess I don't mind sharing it for a night at least, though don't get too carried away I might be a Godly man but I'm no fool, so lets say for the use of the barn and something to eat the fee will be a couple of shillings and attendance at tonight's service" he points to the crudely carved pulpit that takes up one corner of the barn "I think you met what passes for our local Minister, well some of us prefer a less Laudian approach" he looks at the Party "And by the looks of you a good sermon is just the thing you need" he smiles picks up his gun and turns to head back to his house "I will send the boy over with some food and some cold water fresh from the well and I expect you to be here and ready for the service at Six bells" he then walks off softly humming to himself.
 

Middlecott keeps his word and sends the boy back around later with a basket of bread, cheese, a small jar of pickled cauliflower and a clay bottle of cider. The Party finally begin to relax for the first time in what seems like ages and over the meal they finalize their plans. They will head back to Holbeach and contact the Justice of the peace Henry Chiltern and ask him to send their dispatch back to Zeal then a quick look at what's available in the market, restock their food supplies at the very least but some extra powder would be handy as a couple of the CL.U.Ber's were running low also Thomas and Ralph needed to buy some more clothing as they had burnt their soiled clothes as they were far too gone to be mended plus they couldn't get rid of the foul stench that came off from them. After that they would see about renting some rooms and giving their injuries time to heal before doubling back a little to Kings Lynn and seeing if the could to contact this man at the Three sisters, hopefully by then they would have received some word back from Zeal as well.
 

They cleared away the food and piled their packs up in a corner and they had barely squared everything away before the first of Middlecott's congregation started to arrive, there were some odd looks and hushed words at first as the congregation of local farmers but the locals who made up this congregation seemed a welcoming bunch especially after the Doctor had proven their Puritan credentials. Soon Middlecott arrived with his family and the doors were closed on the small gathering. Middlecott greeted everyone warmly including the CL.U.Ber's and then mounted his pulpit and with a single cough to clear his throat the sermon began,
 

“Behold, I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee.” The expression of God’s smiting his hand, signifies the greatness of his anger, and his preparing himself, as it were to execute wrath answerable to their heinous crimes. It is an allusion to what we sometimes see in men when they are surprised, by seeing or hearing of some horrid offence, or most intolerable injury, which very much stirs their spirits, and animates them with high resentment; on such an occasion they will rise up in wrath and smite their hands together, as an expression of the heat of their indignation, and full resolution to be avenged on those who have committed the injury; as in chap. 21:7. ” I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest: I the Lord have said it,” the sermon lasted several hours and Middlecott delivered it well and the locals quickly warmed to his themes of Gods punishment of the sinful but all too soon the sermon came to an end and half an hour later the barn was empty again apart from the CL.U.Ber's Middlecott wishing them a restful night and promising to send the boy around in the morning to wake them up and to bring over a pot of pottage. The Party set out their bedrolls and chat softly amongst themselves trying to make sense of the recent events, the Doctor fusses over Ralph who was still in a pretty bad way even though he could move unaided now. Wilhelm and Giulio agree to take the last couple of watches and are soon snoring away worn out from the days events and in Wilhelm's case the shock of becoming a blonde. Ralph staggers outside to relieve himself, he also took the opportunity to hide a couple of his bear traps outside just in case. The Doctor looking pale and dark eyed soon headed up to the hayloft and snuggled down deep in the hay as if trying to hide from the world and he to was soon fast asleep. Now only Ralph and Thomas remained up and they chatted quietly amongst themselves about a variety of things including tail removal, Ralph trying to convince the Frenchman to get the Doctor to remove it but the Frenchman remained unconvinced believing that it would be too dangerous to remove. Most of the lanterns were turned off until finally only one remained to cast its dim light across the barn
Thomas stood up and cricked his back "Well that's me done for the day, wake me up in a couple of hours " he looks worried and adds "You sure you are up to this, I've never seen wounds as bad as yours before" Ralph grins a horrid grin but Thomas can see the deep pools of pain in Ralph's eyes as he replies "I'm sure I'm fine, hey its not as if I would be getting much sleep anyhow with this back, so you get your head down I will wake you soon enough"
 

Thomas pats Ralph on the shoulder and wishes him goodnight and he heads over to his bedroll. An hour passes and Ralph continues to sit in the gloom of the barn quietly passing a whetstone over and over again along the edge of Child's Wail getting the edge sharper and sharper until it shimmered and then suddenly he stops cocking his head to one side, He then slowly struggles up and shuffles to the front of the barns by the closed doors. He listens intently for a moment and then steps back gripping his axe tightly as the nights silence is suddenly broken by a loud crunch followed by a brief scream of agony which is swiftly followed by a lot of sobbed curses "Feck! the dirty bastards have left fucking traps outside, get over here and help me"

 

Edited by jagerfury
Added Butters writing credit note
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Although I'll fight, I know I'll die! As a man marked by Zeal I'll fight 'til the end!
A mighty warrior to glory I stride, to fight once more yet destined to fall blooded as a hero of sagas old! The doors of Valhalla swing open at my approach, and the Valkyries sing to me that my journey is done, Remember me forevermore
 
[Butters recounts the Saracenic Hall aftermath]

Ralph yells "To arms! the enemy is without" he moves further back into the barn gripping his great axe. Thomas staggers awake and quickly readies his pistol whilst the others only stir fitfully in their sleep. Thomas the Frenchman can now hear the angry cries of pain coming from just behind the barns double doors, doors which he notices slowly opening the bar having being lifted off by a dagger's blade.
The doors swing open and the faint light from the dimmed lantern reveals a scruffy, heavily scarred man who is leaning forwards thin dagger in hand, his leg caught in one of Ralph's traps he looks back over his shoulder and into the darkness beyond and screams out "The doors are fucking open! now get me out of this trap you bastards" the man's accent marks him out as an Irishman.
As soon as the doors swing fully open Ralph rushes out and quickly places his axe upon the trapped mans neck, his eyes scanning the darkness beyond, he loudly calls out "State your name and business...friend" there is a flash of powder igniting and Ralph tries to twist away but he's too late and the bullet catches him in the leg, blowing through meat and muscle causing him to groan and stagger back, he quickly regains his balance though and grunts "Your friend just fucked you over" and with that he steps a little back, swings his axe up in an underhand swing ripping into the Irishman's stomach and almost disembowelling him. The man screams red murder as he desperately tries to stop his intestines from spooling out in front of him. Ralph backs further away from the steaming pile of guts, coughing at the sudden stench, his right leg dragging limply behind him. He almost makes it back to the safety of the barn but the trapped Irishman yells out and Ralph pauses to look back. The Irishman with sheer hate has managed to pull out his pistol and with tears flowing from his pain-filled eyes he smiles and pulls the trigger but his aim is off and the shot misses, Ralph looks down at himself then at the barn and laughs "So the saying is true, you Irish really can't hit the side of a barn" still laughing he ducks back inside ignoring the other mans pain filled curses.
An older weary voice can now be heard from outside"Oh for God's sake, they're inside you idiots get them before they get away" this is followed by a mighty roar and from out of the darkness a mountain charges.
The mountain is Sam Carter and he wields a huge iron-studded club which he swings with incredible force causing the air to whoosh in its passing. He roars in guttural rage his beady eyes settling on to Ralph who turns to face this new threat but before Sam can take a further step forwards a single shot rings out and a bullet streaks across the barn from where the Frenchman stands in the classic pose of the duellist. Sam turns his potato-shaped head to the sound of the gun which causes the bullet to hit the side of his head peeling off his right ear in a welter of blood and gristle. Sam shakes his head, like some kind of monstrous bull blood spraying thickly across the dirt floor. He looks around but the Frenchman has retreated back into the shadows leaving only a wisp of smoke behind so he just spits towards the gun smoke and lumbers back towards Ralph. An evil grin splitting his face "I'm going to hurt you bad, little man"
Ralph tries to back a little further into the barn so he can use the barn's wall as support but his leg slows him down just enough for Sam to reach him beforehand. And so Sam swings his club again but luckily he misjudges things somewhat and instead of crushing Ralph his club bounces off the doors frame causing the whole building to shudder. Ralph takes the opportunity to swing his axe into Sam's guts but with an amazing turn of speed considering his size Sam manages to swing his club back down to block Ralph's attack causing a shower of splinters and sparks to rain down onto the floor below.
Sams laugh is cut short though as his parry has opened him up to the Frenchman's rapier which suddenly darts out from nowhere to slash a bloody line across the brute's chest.
The Doctor meanwhile has finally woken up and seeing his two friends engaged with a monster he hurriedly starts to buckle on his armour yelling out "Hang on, I'm coming...just a minute" the other two CL.U.Ber's remain in a booze-soaked sleep and only Wilhelm slightly stir's.
Sam now engaged on two fronts begins wildly swinging his club trying to force the CL.U.Ber's back, trying to get himself into a better position. Ralph lets a few of these swings past, judging the rhythm and then with a mighty roar of "Kiss my axe" he raises his axe up high and then brings it smashing downward in a terrible arc.
The axe crunches down into Sams' chest, splitting his ribs and smashing his heart to a pulp. Sam looks down at Ralph in shock, and tries to headbutt him but instead he just vomits a torrent of blood down into Ralph's face before collapsing onto the floor with a thud that causes a huge dust cloud to rise up from the barns floor briefly obscuring the doorway beyond and causes Thomas and Ralph to painfully start coughing.
Thomas stalks forward flicking blood from his blade and pats Ralph on the back "Fine work, my friend, he was a true enfant terrible no?" Ralph struggling to remain upright just nods and begins to pat his pockets in a desperate search for a handkerchief.
"Hey! Sam might be dead but I ain't you bastards" the pair turn and see the scarred man hunched in the doorway, belt now tied tightly across his ruined stomach in a desperate attempt to hold in whatever remained of his guts. The pair look down following the steaming purple horror until they notice that the man had left his foot behind in the trap, as well as an intestine or two. The man seeing their horrified faces just grins "We Irish are hard to kill...unlike you fecking English" he slashes madly out with his dagger but in his pain-wracked state completely misjudges the distance and ends up just slicing the air but with a deft movement of his wrists Thomas brings his rapier swiftly up and thrusts it's tip through the mans chest and into his heart killing him instantly. Looking down at the dead body he quietly says "Vive la France" a barely standing Ralph sways somewhat alarmingly but after Thomas reaches out to steady him he looks the Frenchman in the eyes then down at the mangled body on the floor and with a huge grin says "Vive la bloody France indeed my friend" and then they both burst out laughing
The laughing is unfortunately cut short as Joshua Poer himself finally stalks into the barn, a long oddly curved dagger of some oily black metal held loosely in one hand and without saying a word he lunges swiftly forwards thrusting the blade towards Ralph who yells out in shock and barely avoids its deadly kiss. Joshua is a whirlwind his blade thrusting and slicing seemingly from every angle at once and Ralph and Thomas find themselves sorely pressed. Then suddenly Ralph stops his axe drops from suddenly numb fingers to fall to the ground. Thomas quickly glances to his side, a questioning look on his face and is just in time to see Joshua pull out his dagger from the side of Ralph's neck in a welter of arterial blood. Ralph turns and tries to say something but whatever he had hoped to say was drowned out by the sudden flood of blood that bubbled out from his mouth, and with a thud, he falls to his knees before falling forward and hitting the dirt. Joshua finally speaks "That's one debt cleared" before he flicks his blade splashing Ralph's blood across the barns wooden walls.
Thomas has to recover from his shock quickly as Joshua again launches a blistering attack, the Frenchman is an exceptional duelist though and is rumoured to have trained under the great Girolamo Cavalcabo himself and its that skill that kept him alive parrying a dizzying amount of thrusts and slices from Joshua but still he finds himself being driven further back into the interior of the barn. The Doctor finally jumps down from the hayloft and fires his pistol at the darkly dressed Poer but the bullet misses its mark, the Doctor confused by the swirling figure of Poer whose coat tails and swirling scarfs work together to hide his bodies true location.
Joshua turns to look at the Doctor and snarls his voice rising with every word "You murdered my children, you planned to usurp me in the Masters affections!" the shocked Doctor just splutters out "You bloody fool we're not here to steal anything from you, besides you idiot we're off to the bloody Americas by weeks end" A look of doubt enters Joshua's eyes and he glances down at his dead men and stepson "No you lie, all this can't have been for nothing" and he again launches himself at the Frenchman who now having the measure of his attacker is able to turn aside the dagger thrusts easily and in turn he starts to break down Joshua defences scoring a small cut here, a shallow slice there but each blow causes Joshua to bleed that little bit more.
The Doctor drops his pistol and draws his sword and tries to increase the pressure on Joshua.
Joshua his hand bleeding heavily from all the cuts dealt to them by the Frenchman peddles backwards just barely avoiding another rapier thrust to his chest but he uses that space to kick out catching the Frenchman by surprise and briefly staggering him, with the Frenchman unable to attack for a brief moment Joshua turns on the Doctor seeing that he is by far the weakest swordsman, hoping no doubt to finish him off quickly so that he could turn his full attention back onto the Frenchman. The Doctor trades a quick series of blows and somehow manages to avoid the worst of things but the Doctor realising that he no match for this man quickly goes into full defence trying to hold on until the Frenchman can rejoin the fray but it's no good as Joshua easily breaks past his now wild defensive parries and he leans low to one side his dagger held just above the ground and then with a viper fast swing to the side and the Doctor back he thrusts the blade past the Doctors Cuirass and into his back. One sharp twist later and the blade nicks the spine causing the Doctor to spasm and almost fall to the ground as the feelings in his legs disappear.
Joshua smiles and looks down into the Doctors face his dagger held high for the killing blow "Another debt paid" and he plunges the dagger down in a two handed grip towards the sweet spot the Doctor closes his eye and.......... nothing no pain, no searing agony he cautiously opens his eye and see that the dagger is mere inches from plunging into him but is being held back by the Frenchman's blade "Bugger I'm never going to live this down" thinks the relieved Doctor and then with a sudden roar of unfulfilled rage Joshua twists and slides his dagger down the Frenchman's own blade. Thomas laughing merely dips his own blade down and with a twist his blade is free and past the black blade causing Joshua to over balance and stumble, he quickly corrects his stance though not before Thomas can press his advantage and with a dancers elegance he brings his sword up and across slicing through the now exposed throat of Joshua Poer "I think you have caused enough trouble Mon Ami?" and with Joshua madly clasping both hands to his ruined throat in a desperate attempt to stop his life's blood pumping out the Frenchman leans forwards blows gently but shoves hard and Joshua falls backwards, he throws out his hands in an subconscious attempt to break his fall but as soon as he removes his hands from that second new smile the blood fountains up with enough force to spray the ceiling above and within a minute the much feared Joshua Poer lies dead, the last of his blood now pumping weakly across the dirt floor.
The Doctor barely able to move crawls over to his cousin calling Ralph's name with every painful inch but Ralph does not answer. The Doctor finally makes it over to his cousins still form and manages somehow to turn him over and cradling Ralph's horrifically hideous head in his arms he weeps for the fallen hero."Noooo! Ralph come back to us don't go, what will I tell Black Philip?" The Frenchman straightens up from the body of Joshua and mutters "Puzzle pieces, what putain de good are these?" and as he walks past the grieving Doctor to check the outside he pauses and looks down at some scratching's in the dirt "Doctor what does Zprtkl mean?" the Doctor wipes the tears from his eye and with an embarrassed thud drops Ralph's head "What?" the Frenchman points to the floor by Ralph's hands "See Doctor it looks like Ralph was trying to leave a message but I have not heard of this English word Zprtkl before" The Doctor tries to get up but is forced back to the floor by the pain and instead he closes Ralph's eyes and looking up at the Frenchman says quietly "Who knows, the big lummox never got the hang of his letters". The Frenchman looks thoughtful for a moment before heading out into the dark "Yes but he did create a kind of poetry with those axes of his"
From the hayloft a voice calls out in a thick German accent "Hey keep it down, some of us are trying to sleep,Verdammt"
 
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Tell me why are we so blind to see, that the ones we hurt are you and me.
Been spending most their lives, living in the gangsta's paradise
 
[Dr. Norton "Butters" continues the narrative with brand new session reports] enjoy the view from the PC's!

The musket smoke slowly cleared and the CL.U.Ber's were left in a difficult position, they were in a barn full of dead men and each of them who had been awake enough to fight bore injuries of some sort. They didn't have much time to think of a plan as George Middlecott was soon outside with a fowling piece and asking questions along the lines of,
"My Lord, what devilry is this? my barn, these bodies, oh my word isn't that Joshua Poer?"
The CL.U.Ber's had to pull out all the stops to avoid further bloodshed and were able to convince Middlecott that they were the innocent party, that these men had attacked them in their sleep for reasons unknown. Luckily the ill reputation of Poer and his men worked in the CL.U.Ber's favour and Middlecott decided to put away his gun but only if the CL.U.Ber's swore an oath that they would accompany him to Holbeach and to meet with Henry Chiltern the Justice of the Peace. The Doctor agreed readily and asked if they could impose on Middlecotts charity one last time and if he could provide a cart for dead and wounded. Middlecott agreed and called his son over to watch the CL.U.Ber's whilst he went to get the wagon ready.
The CL.U.Ber's got to work searching the bodies and clearing up the mess, the Doctor being the exception as he just very slowly packed away his gear and that done he shuffled over to Ralph's body and sat next to him. With morning rapidly approaching all was ready and after loading the bodies and the gravely wounded Doctor onto the wagon the grim convoy set out for Holbeach leaving the evils of Saracenic hall and the few hovels of Holbeach St. Marks behind. The journey back was filled with muted conversation as questions were asked and answered and final words of friendship were whispered to Ralph. They made good time even though they had to leave the raised road several time to manoeuvre past the holes dug into them by the Poer gang in their search for lost lore and trinkets. So it was mid-morning by the time they reached the outskirts of Holbeach, no one seemed to be around apart from a few figures in the distance who looked to be driving cattle out into the fens. Middlecott pointed out the Tossed blanket and told the party that he had heard that Henry Chiltern was a man of habit and he generally broke his nights fast with a hearty meal at the Blanket, something to do with th size of the meal and raising his eyebrow a little, a certain bar maid by the name of Big Betty!
Due to the early hour and the fact that those who needed to be up were already out on the fields or the rivers the CL.U.Ber's were able to get to the Tossed Blanket without too much trouble, until they met the Inns stable boy whose horrified reaction to the corpse cart did present something of a problem.

"Ahhhhh""

"Calm down, there was an.....accident we need this wagon in the stable so as not to cause alarm, think of the ladies"

"Sir's no I can't be taking that into the stable, it's unholy, besides all that blood will make a right mess of the straw, and I only replaced it last week"

This went on for awhile until Wilhelm got involved and asked the boy if he knew what a witch hunter was, the boy did and then Wilhelm smiling a very Teutonic smile asked if he had a Mum. The boy being a smart lad quickly put two and two together and faster than you could say Ducking stool he had opened the gates and was taking the gore streaked cart to the stables.
The CL.U.B'ers went into the Inn and after booking rooms at quite exorbitant prices asked the Inn Keeper if Henry Chiltern was still at breakfast, the worried Inn Keeper said yes and pointed them to one of the private rooms at the back. The Party and Middlecott headed over paused when a burst of giggling came from behind the door and after a look towards Middlecott who shrugged politely they knocked. There was a pause a cough and then in a slightly strained voice a mans asked "Is that you dear?" the Party again look at Middlecott who just shrugs with enough style to impress even Thomas who begins to smile like a Cheshire cat and he replies "Non Monsieur, it is us from before the men who carry Rat catchers" the voice from the other side asks for a minute or two as his breakfast dishes need to be cleared away and he needs to find some parchment. The Party waits and soon the door opens allowing a rather buxom lass to leave carrying a large tray heavy with dishes and cutlery, she excuses herself and blushes a very deep red when Giulio looking at the number of plates and then the young lady says as she passes him"I can see why he has such a large breakfast, he needs the energy"

There follows a very tense discussion as the Party give the Justice of the Peace an edited version of events more robbing bandits than evil and possibly undead sorcerers. The Story is like they said when they first met Chiltern in this very same Inn only a few days ago, they were looking for honest work after having been let go from the military. They had heard about the drainage project and thought "Why not?" but were horrified to discover that most of their fellow workers were Irish Catholics. And finding that the drainage work was just a cover for something else they decided to leave. They answer some questions and Chiltern summons men from his staff and sends some of them back out after brief whispered conversations. He then asks the Party to continue. The CL.U.Ber's tell him that Mr Poer was sad to see them leave but he gave them a couple of Shillings for the work they had done and bid them farewell. Giulio steps forwards and adds that there was a strange undercurrent, that as they were leaving Joshua was calling over that a man called Sam was brought over. The Doctor then tells of the journey back where his cousin was badly injured whilst crossing the raised road when a section fell away beneath him, "He almost drowned the soil was like quicksand, "We barely managed to pull Ralph out and then when he was clear of the hole we found out that he was cut up pretty badly" the Doctor tells Chiltern that Ralph's injuries were severe and caused by some kind of wooden framework that had been thrown over the partially filled in hole.
And so with an injured man on their hands and the weather taking a turn for the worse they were desperate to find some shelter, any shelter. Middlecott is questioned over his involvement and he backs up the last part of the CL.U.Ber's tale. He found them in his barn and that they all looked a mess covered in mud and from the smell of things shit, yes he remembers Ralph was injured as he was covered in bandages but even so Middlecott remembers them still being blood soaked. He tells Chiltern that whilst at first he was none to happy to have strangers in his barn after talking to them and seeing their dire straights he agreed to let them stay the night but only if they come to one of his sermons where was pleased to see that they are true puritans like himself. He continues telling Chiltern about how he brought some food over which the Party paid for and saw that they had cleaned up and had their bedrolls out and whilst he knew that had weapons he says they never threaten him or indeed even seemed to be expecting any trouble. And as far as he is concerned they are good people who are just down on their luck, helpfully he also mentions the ill reputation of Saracenic hall and especially of its now former groundskeeper.
Henry Chiltern looks thoughtful and asks a few final questions, clarifying a point here and and an issue there. He even goes out to inspect the corpse cart and upon his return he calls his clerk over who had been writing all this down and gets the CL.U.Ber's to read the parchment back through and sign at the bottom if they agree that its a true statement of what happened. He then requests that they go up to their rooms and stay there until called for, the Party agrees and are escorted up by one of the Parish constables who somewhat nervously asked the CL.U.B.Ber's to hand over their weapons.
There is a tense wait for the CL.U.Ber's as they wait upstairs, they fall into small groups and quietly talk about recent events and if it comes down to it would the Scoutmaster intervene or would they need to start planning an escape. The Doctor just rests, the knife wound to his back bandaged and covered in some foul smelling ungaunts but the injury to his spine would take time to fade into something he could cope with.
The next morning they are awoken by the constable banging on their doors, it seems that a couple of riders had arrived from Saracenic hall during the night after Chiltern had sent a letter to Mallebeench. The now extremely worried Party made their way down back to the private room where Chiltern was sat behind its single table, two other people are in the room with him a man dressed in a simple hard wearing outfit patched many times over but clean the other was Lysette who a vile harridan and destined to burn in the fires of hell still looked particularly radiant after her no doubt hurried journey. The CL.U.Ber's expect Lysette to launch into a tirade of accusation and falsehood but she instead just glowers at them and if looks could indeed kill they would all have died under her withering stare. Wilhelm pulls out a strangely marked piece of blue glass which he thoughtfully taps against his still gloved hand as he stares back at her.

Chiltern looks up from the letter he is reading and welcomes the Party in, he tells them that whilst the matter is not closed they are free to leave, its seems that Sir Mallebeench offers his apologises for the actions of a few of his staff who for their own reasons decided to act this way. In fact he had fired these very men just after the Party left as their work had been slipping of late, so maybe they thought that robbery would get them some easy starting money. Chiltern adds with a slightly puzzled expression that Mallebeench has offered a generous amount of money as compensation for the death and injuries caused but he would need several months to acquire the necessary funds.
Chiltern waves over his clerk again and asks the Party to sign a few documents and asks if they wish to take the matter further, he adds that in his legal opinion that this is the best outcome they can get, the robbers are dead, they seem to be in the clear and Sir Mallebeench seems content that his men had fallen into criminality and had even been generous enough to offer them compensation. The Doctor isn't too happy about this but knows their are greater things to worry about and coldly nods and signs the legal papers thrust in front of him the others follow suit. Lysette and the stranger bid Chiltern goodbye and leave to take possession of their dead.

The CL.U.Ber's remain in Holbeach for a few days to bury Ralph and to recover from the last few days.They meet up with the local Preacher whose name was Allison and arrange to get Ralph buried the following day before they return to the Tossed blanket to finally take things easy and prepare numerous letters to be sent to Zeal, Browne and for those with them their loved ones.
The following day breaks cloudy and wet and the afternoon finds the Party standing next to a muddy hole and a cheap coffin. The Preacher reads from Psalm 89 and says a few generally nice words about a man he would never meet. And as the Preacher mumbles to a stop Wilhelm steps forwards and in a strong clear voice he reads from a large leather bound tome, unfortunately he fails to translate it so all the Party hears are some very stern and sinister sounding words in German, then with a thud he closes the tome and replaces it back under his cloak. He nods to the Preacher and steps back, the Preacher looks quizzically at the others and after the Doctor nods he makes one final blessing and gestures for the diggers to approach.
The next few days are spent healing up and dealing with the loss of Ralph and replacing the equipment lost or damaged but finally they have to leave, the letters are left with Chiltern who kindly agrees to send them on to the army at Norwich via the garrison at Castle rising.
So the Party somewhat refreshed in body if not in spirit finally head off towards their mysterious contact Emmanuel Harper at Kings Lynn.
 
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Keep me humours balanced, Doc, Keep me humours balanced.
Ah, don't go acting the fool, Doc, Just keep me humours balanced.
Altogether now!
Cut off me kangaroo tail sport, Cut off me kangaroo tail.

The Party leaves Holbeach at first light heading back towards the harbour at Kings Lynn, a town that the Party avoided on their initial journey to the Wash due to its rumoured Royalist sympathies. The going is good and the Party is only slowed slightly by the Doctors back injury. The general air of the group is pretty low, the absence of Ralph's hulking bulk is still painful but as they wind their way through the lanes of England, the air crisp and dry their spirits do slightly rise and during the break for a quick breakfast of stale bread and cheese the Doctor returns to the topic of the Frenchman's corruption.
The Frenchman is still oddly against the Doctors offer of amputation, claiming that the tail can be barely seen and that he doesn't think that the risk is worth it. The Doctor pushes the point claiming that he is an abomination, it's a corruption of Gods work and upon its discovery and it surely will not only will he be killed but those close to him will also face the wrath of the Witch Hunters and the law. The argument goes back and forth but for now, the Frenchman decides to keep the large tail.
After finishing up their food and getting back onto the trail the Doctor begins whispering in the CL.U.Ber's ears pointing out the Frenchman's deformity, that it can not be hidden especially on a long sea voyage and surely the risk was too great but with a few simple cuts with a bone saw the problem will be gone. The Doctor continued this throughout the rest of the morning building up support for what he had planned.
The weather turned grey and soon everyone was soaked through by the thin drizzle that came with the change. Kings Lynn was still a few hours away though a faint brown stain on the horizon showed its location. The Party found some shelter in a copse just of the road and soon had a fire going, Giulio primed his musket went off on his own and soon the dull report of a musket being fired could be heard. The CL.U.Ber's got out their collection of battered pots and pans and soon had some sort of pottage boiling away in one of the soot-blackened pots. They talked about general things the weather, the rising prices of food and things in general and the current situation regarding the war, the stalemate in the Midlands and what they thought the result of the peace mission to Oxford would be. Giulio returned singing a strange song and carrying a large hare slung over his shoulder. It was quickly skinned and dressed and it's meat added to the pottage, making a meal of the bland pottage.
The Doctor uses his cloak as a crude lean-to and sits down onto his bedroll and declines the meal instead pulling out his pipe and smokes, he also takes a deep sniff of the powder from his snuff tin and with a contented sigh he leans back against a tree winching slightly but is soon asleep. The rest of the Party enjoy the meal and relax for a while. Giulio begins singing the strange song again and tells the others that it's from Dafne written by a fellow countryman by the name of Rinuccini, it tells the story of Apollo who falls in love Daphne. Thomas reveals that he may have some contacts in Kings Lynn he tells the Party that they have unique insights into the types of dark forces that we are fighting against, this is met with some suspicion from the others especially when he names them as The New Mission an organization from across the channel. Thomas explains that all he wants to do is meet up with them and see what information he can uncover, its a resource to be used nothing less nothing more. There is some muttering from the others but they agree that Thomas at least arranges a meeting. The lunch is soon over though and the Doctor is roused, pots cleaned and water bottles refilled from the nearby stream and soon everyone was up and tramping down the road towards Kings Lynn.
About a mile out though the Doctor again brought up the matter of the tail and this time he wouldn't take no for an answer and drawing his pistol and with the others backing him up, he wouldn't take no for an answer this time. Thomas felt backed into a corner and after a spirited argument finally agreed to go under the bloody saw.
They looked around the deserted road and seeing a trackway leading off to the left they followed it down until they reached a small farmhouse. The Farm consisted of a small cottage from which a thin trail of smoke drifted up into the grey sky, a large barn, and a few small outbuildings. The Party seeing no one walked up to the cottage and knocked upon its door and after a few moments, a mans voice calls out asking who is knocking on his door.
The Doctor replies telling the man behind the door that he is Doctor Thomas Norton a soldier in service to Parliament and he and his companions are heading to the garrison at Kings Lynn but unfortunately one of the group has hurt his leg and was now running a fever. The door opened revealing a man who was once stout but was now hollow-faced and whose clothes now hung loosely from him, a woman holding back a couple of children could be seen crouched by the fireplace.
After introductions are made and shillings exchanged and bizarrely a promise made to look into the farmers (whose name was Christopher Garnett) complaint of a thieving neighbour who might hold to Catholic practices they were allowed into the barn. The Farmers good lady wife even agreed to boil up some water. The CL.U.Ber's get to work inside the barn, a stall is prepared, bedrolls are used to provide privacy as the children when released from their Mothers embrace had started to run around the CL.U.Ber's asking questions and yapping like over-excited puppies and no one wanted tales of a funny sounding man with a tail getting around the nervous countryside. The barn had a small workshop for making basic repairs and the CL.U.Ber's soon got the small furnace blazing away and the Farmers Iron shit shovel glowing away nicely. Thomas was tied up and gagged in a bent over position a block of wood placed under the tail and the Doctor got to work. The knives went in first parring away the flesh and then the saw got to work biting through the cartilage and meat. Tomas had to be held up but he remained conscious throughout. The tail was cut off leaving only a small bump at the base of his spine from which now copious amounts of blood and gore flowed the Doctor called out to Wilhelm "Get the shovel and place it firmly hear till it sizzles.
Hours later with the Frenchman laying down propped up on his side and deep in a laudanum-induced sleep his body wrapped tightly in the Doctors new bandages and there was a strong smell of various chemicals wafting from various poultices placed onto the Frenchman's posterior.
Several days later the CL.U.Ber's were still at the farm, the Frenchman was now awake and healing nicely, the others busied themselves with various chores helping around the farm mainly because Mrs. Garnett was one hell of a cook, the amazing meals she could rustle up with the meanest of ingredients. Talking of food there was a couple of odd things that happened concerning food, one the Doctor seemed to be eating less and less and when questioned he just replied that he was fine but that he still missed his cousin, though they also noticed that he also had some trouble sleeping. The other weird thing was that Wilhelm lost a whole days worth of rations from his bag, he checked the bag several times and it was intact, no holes or rips to be found anywhere and for some reason the loss really bothered the Bavarian who spent some time stalking the farmyard, asking questions and suspiciously eyeing up various people.
Once Thomas was well enough to travel if slow and needing a stick to help him the Party said their goodbyes to the Garnetts and the Doctor again promised to bring their difficulties with Teddy Cook, the land grabbing Catholic insurgent of a neighbour to the attention of the authorities in Kings Lynn.
The last mile or so was taken at a gentle pace but the painful journey at least for Thomas was eased somewhat by the herbal biscuits provided by Mrs. Garnett. And as with all towns, the Party could smell Kings Lynn before they could see it, a mix of fish, shit, and rot but soon they were able to see the patched city walls and the soot-blackened roofs of the buildings nearest to the wall.
They approach the new seeming open gates of the town where a queue of carts, heavily laden wagons and people is forming, waiting their turn through the open gateway and into the town beyond. The Party waits their turn and after twenty or so minutes they finally reach the gateway and discover the cause of the delays. The gateway is flanked by several soldiers, to one side a large wooden noticeboard has been placed festooned with Parliamentary posters listing rules and regulations, Wanted posters and most terrorizing of all a long, long lists of all the new taxes. The Gate guards shuffle nervously seeing the Party approach armoured and armed as they were and there was a nervous moment or two before a Sergeant arrived who brusquely demand to know their business. The Party explains that they are from the garrison based at the Castle and needed to speak to an officer, the sergeant not easily swayed demanded paperwork and when the Party produced a letter bearing the seal of the N.M.A the sergeant agreed to allow entry but the Party would be a provided with an escort until the Captain makes his decision, for their own safety.
The Party were escorted to a nearby building, past another set of guards and finally into the presence of one Captain Andrew Ridley of Cromwell's Regiment of Horse, left behind with a small core of troopers after the capture of the town in 43 to remind the locals who now was in charge. He seems harried but efficient, he closely examines the letter and its seal and then asks why the CL.U.B'ers were in his town, he warned them that whilst things were running smoothly now it wasn't that long ago that he had to ride down a bunch of royalists trying to stir things up again for the Kings cause, he didn't want any hotheads upsetting things. The CL.U.Ber's explain that they are not here to cause any problems, they have been sent on a detached duty from their units which are currently in Yarmouth to find out what the conditions of the roads from there to here are and if there was any spare shipping capacity. As Great Yarmouth needed a lot of materials and supplies in general if it was ever to be a useful port again. Parliament wanted the Essex and the surrounding counties secure and the recruits flowing so they needed to sort out the food problem as quickly as possible and the Yarmouth Herring fleets were a vital part of that strategy. The Captain looks at the bizarre group of men currently smiling in front of him, a one-eyed man with a hunted look, a Frenchman in expensive clothing who lent on a staff who wiggled around seemingly finding it a little uncomfortable to stand, a dark and brooding German who looked more like a hunter than a soldier and a brightly dressed Italian who kept flexing one of his hands and carried a strange short hafted glaive which seemed to defeat the purpose of having a glaive in the first place. He sighed and said "Look whatever it is you men are really up to just don't upset the locals the last thing I need is another bloody riot, understand" he hands back the letter before continuing "Bloody M.P's they all think just because you are a soldier it means you must be an idiot as well" he looks at the Party and asks if they have any questions. He is unsurprised to find out that they do, they ask about the current situation if anything is known about a man called Emmanuel Harper and the Three Sisters trading company and a host of other questions about berth spaces, availability of wagons and where could they find reasonable quarters whilst in town. The Captain answers as best he can, calling for a clerk to help out with some of the logistical questions but no he hasn't heard of a man by that name or indeed that company, it's not one that has any military contracts that's for sure he does recommend the Full Jug Inn over on High street, it has clean sheets, good ale and there is only a slight chance of being kidnapped by royalist sympathisers.
That takes up most of the day and its early evening before the CL.U.Ber's finally reach the Inn finding it as described. They manage to get a couple of rooms and after a quick wash they meet up in the tap room to grab a much-needed meal, all that is apart from Thomas who winks and tells them he has to see a man about a dog.
Leaving the Party behind ordering dinner Thomas asks a man armed with a cudgel who was sat by the Inns front door if he knew where the towns foundling home was, the doorman looks at the Frenchman who pauses sighs and pulls out a handful of pennies which he drops into the mans suddenly outstretched hand. Smiling a gap-toothed smile the man gives him directions to Station road on the north end of town. He tells the Frenchman that the home is next to what was once the chapel of St. Nicholas. Thomas thanks the man and head off in the direction indicated and a meeting with the New mission contact for the area, a man currently known as Brother Bowman.
Thomas makes his way through the town which unlike many of the towns and villages he had been through recently was still busy with people mostly enjoying themselves, sure there was a damaged building here and there but most had been repaired and whilst there were patrols of soldiers they seemed to be more or less tolerated by the locals. So apart from a brief stop where he had to escape from some boisterous drunken sailors he made good time across the town and soon found himself stood outside the iron gates of Second House.
Second house was a three-story building which loomed darkly in the fading light it sulked behind its high stone walls the bars on its small windows hinting at its current use. By the locked gate a large bell hung from a chain and written underneath it was a single word ring.
Thomas looked around for a striker but seeing none he pulled out one of his pistols and used the grip to hammer the bell after several minutes a chink of light could be seen as a door was opened and a small wall-eyed boy wearing just a grey smock belted at the waist and a pair of overly large clogs appeared by the gate, he was leaning slightly to the left due to a huge ring of keys that hung from his belt asking who Thomas was and what business he had with the Master of Second house. Thomas told the boy that his name was Nouvelle commande and that the Master would know what he wanted. The boy nodded and returned to the house closing the main door behind him with a thud. Thomas waited another ten minutes before the boy returned and unlocking the gate bids him to enter. Thomas followed the boy across the small courtyard and into the house, the boy closed the main door again and spent several minutes locking it closed using the numerous keys from his ring. Finally all secure the boy picks up a handful of tapers which he lights and beckons Thomas to follow him through the buildings cold and sadly plain corridors.
The boy led Thomas deeper and deeper into the dark building, past several small narrow doors some of which were open and revealed small rooms beyond which reminded Thomas of monks cells from a Monastery. Eventually the boy stopped at a larger door and in with the dying light of the tappers thrown up all kinds of strange shadows behind him the boy turned to Thomas and said "We are here the Master waits for you within" he knocks lightlly and begins to walk away, Thomas calls after him "Wait, where are you going? at least leave me a light" the boy turns and with a bone thin finger merely points at the door and repeats "The Master waits within" and turns back and walks away taking the only light with him, his clogs clack against the stone floor for a minute and then that to fades away leaving Thomas alone and very much in the dark. Thomas is about to open the door himself but as he stumbles to where he thinks it is in the dark the door opens at his approach and he staggers back a little against the sudden glare of light. As his eyes adjust he see that the room beyond is small but comfortably laid out a rag rug covers the floor, a small fire blazes away in a small fireplace, the rest of the room is filled with a cot, a desk and a few chairs. sat by the fire is a large seemingly flabby man whose full face is turned towards Thomas a great grin upon it "Ah Nouvelle it is good to see again Mon ami, I forget,how do you take your chocolate?
After Thomas gets over his initial shock he recovers quickly and with a quick glance back at he cold dark corridors he steps into the homely warmth of Brother Bowman's quarters. The two men quickly catch each other up on Mission gossip before Thomas brings up the point of his visit. He tells the Brother about their current plans to travel to the new world where they hope to track down and stop Mallebeench the Sorcerer but that he is worried that they are ill equipped to undertake such a task especially after recent events showed that they were unable to stop a Witch or her sorcerers brother and they will be as nothing to what he fears he may encounter in the new world. Brother Bowman sighs deeply and placing his tiny cup now sadly empty of the luxury chocolate. He tells Thomas that he finds the Missions supplies in this soggy god forsaken country sadly low but he stands and walks over to the corner of the room and pulls aside the rag rug, he then tells Thomas that he can have all that he has and then he pushes his fingers down between the stone slabs and with a soft grunt lifts one of the huge slabs up and with a careful grace places it down next to the now revealed hole. He kneels down and after moving some items aside he pulls out a rather plain wooden box, he places it to one side then reseals the hole and places the rug back over. He hands Thomas the box and takes his seat. Thomas finishes up the last of his drink looks at Bowman "A single box?" Bowman nods "It is like I say my friend we are sadly supplied and yet we have many enemies to face" Thomas opens the box carefully exposing its contents, a single thin flask containing an amber liquid which sloshes thickly around inside when Thomas takes out the flask to look more closely at it "What is this? it's not some of the holy oil from the chapel of Saint Hubertus is it?" seeing Bowman shake his head Thomas looks disappointed but then asks hopefully in a whisper"No it can't be, its not the Oleum Incendium" Bowman laughs "My friend would I look so careworn if I was entrusted with such treasures, no this is a just something produced by mortal means" seeing the look of disappointment again he added "Have heart Thomas this potion is deceptive as it will fortify a mans mind giving them the strength to resist the effects of seeing the true form of an evil one and their whispered temptations, It is all we have at the moment but I'm expecting another shipment of supplies soon if you can wait a week or so?" Thomas places the flask back into its box and smiles "I'm afraid not I'm fairly sure we will need to sail to the new world as soon as possible" he stands and thanks Brother Bowman before asking "Now not wishing to appear rude but how do I get out this place?"
 
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"Where he that shot at a foe might send, His pistol ball through the skull of a friend, But “Shoot Thomas, Shoot” gasped out Wilhelm Teufel “Shoot! Or damn it we both shall swing! Shoot and chance it!” Thomas leaped back, He drew, He fired and at the pistols crack an Associate fell"

Thomas returned to the Full Jug in and finds that the CL.U.Ber's still in the snug and they seem to be having an intense discussion with a stranger. The stranger is well dressed, of undefinable age, but he looks healthy and well fed which means he must have access to funds so no mere beer fop. Thomas walks up and introduces himself to the others greet him warmly and ask if he found what he was looking for? he nods but merely points to the stranger "And who might this fine fellow be?"
The fine fellow turns out to be Cuthbert Sharp, a cold man and he's a fellow CL.U.Ber it seems, in fact, he claims to be a member of Zeal's inner circle no less. He has letters from Zeal proving his loyalty and there is an added note requesting an update which is worrying. Cuthbert seems to be a little vague on certain details but he comes across as an academic of sorts, he certainly comes across as a person of high birth no yokel thug this one. He tells the Party that he has been sent by Zeal to monitor their activities, to make sure that they are still committed to the task set before them, understandably this ruffles some feathers and causes more than one CL.U.Ber to look a little worried. He does though hint that Zeal has a higher calling and that as an officer in the Clockwork Underground Bureau he understands all too well that sometimes loyalties may become a little......unclear.
Cuthbert pulls out a writing kit and begins taking notes as he asks questions of the Parties recent activities. No diplomat this man but he seems to be logical and yet still passionate about the cause, he finishes up his notes and with a smile says "Well everything seems in order, though these dispatches you mention these are worrying as they had not appeared before I set out, in fact the lack of reports was one of the reason Zeal sent me out here in the first place" The Doctor excuses himself and heads back to his room he mentions that his back is hurting again and needs to make up something for the pain and he might as well rewrite those missing dispatches. And as he mounts the stairs he hears Cuthbert offering a tincture that he claims will be of great benefit to Thomas and the Party as a hole the Doctor smiles "Ahh the poltroon is a damned Galenist I knew it"
The Doctor enters his room crossing over to close the window before heading over to the rooms small desk where he pulls out parchment and ink he leaves them on the desktop and he heads towards his medical chest and after a quick rummage he pulls out a clay bottle with a red wax stopper. The Doctor swirls it around before removing the seal and downing whatever was in there, he licks his lips clear of the white liquid and slowly moves his back "Ahh that's better" he closes his medical chest and briefly something floating in a cloudy jar can be seen in the reflected candlelight but its quickly lost to view as the Doctor snaps and locks the chest closed. He returns to the writing instruments on the desk and sits down on the stool in front, he yawns and before he knew it he had fallen asleep, his head resting on the desk his breathing deep and slow. He woke with a start to feel a cold hand caressing his face, his eye adjusts to the dim light and he starts back nearly falling off the stool as he sees Elizabeth looking down on him "Shhh time to wake up sleepyheads she coos softly at him a look of concern written across her beautiful flawless skin which seems to almost be glowing in its paleness. The Doctor looks around confused and though he would never admit it very much afraid. He stands up and splutters questions to the pale lady and she again comes in close to smooth his brow "Don't be afraid my love, can I not visit my special boy?" the Doctor takes a deep breath and slowly calms himself "Ah you just startled me my Lady I apologise for any perceived insult I may have given you" Elizabeth cooed and her hand slipped to the Doctors throat, tracing his jugular she leans forwards as if to kiss him but suddenly her mood changes, her face twisting into something feral with sudden rage her hand once softly teasing now grips his throat painfully her sharp nails drawing blood "You lie like all men!" she screams and throws the Doctor to the floor and before he can catch his breath she is straddling him raining blow after blow onto him "You betray my brother, you send messages of hate to your friends at the castle saying that we are dangerous, that we are evil!" the blows ease off and suddenly Elizabeth is softly asking "Why are you on the floor you silly billy" she picks up the sobbing Doctor and sits him on the bed she sits next to him and placing a cold pale hand onto his and asks her voice full of concern "Why do you cry my love?" the Doctor tilts his head towards her a look of wary confusion in his eyes "It's my back, a man tried to rob me and I ended up with a blade in my back" She brushes his hair back and coos "Oh my poor soldier let me see" and before he can do anything she has slit his shirt open with one of her finger nails and pushed him forwards. The Doctor cannot move even though he really, really wants to and feeling her hands upon his back softly whimpers then he feels something cold and wet softly and slowly moving up from the base of the knife wound up to the top and as it moves across the injury a sudden explosion of heat washes across the Doctor from the wound to across his whole body filling him with a feeling of warmth and peace, the constant pain eases just leaving a dull ache behind. The Doctor moans softly caught in an almost orgasmic feeling of happiness, Elizabeth kisses him gently on his lips her lips were as cold, no colder than ice so cold that they burned the Doctor didn't care, she whispers to him "You are mine now, do not betray us again, I like you but my brother will burn you if you fail him" The doctor begins to mumble an explanation "We needed to look like we were still loyal to the Scoutmaster otherwise he will call us back, we need to pretend that all was well. I knew he wouldn't act against you as you are too powerful and Zeal may yet need to call upon that power" Elizabeth still kissing the Doctor stops to look deeply into his eye "How do you come to this thought?" the Doctor in a state of bliss smiles "Easy, he already knew where we could find you and when we first met him he was scouring the countryside for witches and those he judged disloyal. He could have sent a regiment to Saracenic hall months ago if he just wanted you and your brother hanging from a tree" She pulls away her face unreadable for the moment "Clever boy" she whispers and then in a flash her face twists again into a dark fearful aspect filled with anger she again comes close but this time she plants her head not her lips onto the Doctor face knocking him unconscious with the force of the blow she snarls into his glazed and suddenly vacant expression "You better not be lying to me lover boy I don't want to break my new plaything so soon" she then smiles again her face again smooths and is beautiful again "Oh sleepy head, I'm sorry I know you've been working hard so I better leave now and let you rest" she blows him a kiss and she glides across to the closed window which she opens and climbs out.
Several minutes pass and slowly the Doctor regains consciousness and seeing that he again alone staggers up and makes a run for it, though if someone had seen him they might have noticed a slightly odd smile on his bruised face. The Doctor finds the others gone so he finds a comfy spot by the glowing embers of the fire and huddles up in a corner and slowly drifts asleep. And no one notices the Inns Irish setter slowly backing away from his sleeping form quietly whimpering to itself.
Wilhelm, after washing and getting into his sleeping gown, places his cap on his head and is soon asleep his dreams full of hooting owls which chase him, swooping down at him. He awakes covered in sweat and is surprised to find the room filled with the dawns early light. He gets up and splashes some cold water on his face checks the room for any signs of owls and finding none closes the shutters and gets dressed. The others seem to have slept the sleep of the innocent and unlike the Doctor and the Witchhunter arrive at breakfast looking well rested. The others ask what happened to the pair, the Doctor looks like he had been in a fight whilst the witch hunter looks tired and hollowed eyed. The pair looks slightly guilty but Wilhelm blames the lice whilst the Doctor points to his missing eye and mumbles something about darkness and unexpected furniture.
The others shrug but after a breakfast of suspicious sausage and small beer and explaining to Cuthbert what their plans for the day were they head out into the drizzle and towards the dock district and the Purbright road where they had heard that many of the smaller trading companies were based. They reach the general area easily enough but it takes some time and money to finally find the location of the Three Sisters Trading company. The building is a narrow structure at the end of a rubbish-filled alleyway a stream of shit and piss flows down the alleyway pooling up by the building's doorway before gurgling slowly down the semi-blocked drain. By the double doors a lantern hangs and above the door itself a large crude wooden figurehead of a woman with three faces hangs down from an iron bracket. Guilio looks around and nudges Cuthbert "See its not all glamour and excitement in the CL.U.B" The Doctor trying to avoid the worst of the shit approaches the door and pushes them open calling out loudly "Hello, shop"
A voice calls out "Over here and don't forget to wipe your bloody boots first" the Party make their way through piles of dusty of boxes and rolls of general Bric-a-Brac until they find a small mouse of a man sat on a tall stool behind a lectern a large ledger spilling across its top which he snaps closed as the Party approaches. He climbs off the stool giving the CL.U.Ber's their first good look at the man, he is small of build and constantly twitches, he has a huge beard as if compensating for his lack of hair as his bald head gleamed in the light of the three lanterns surrounding his office area. His clothing was patched and he wore several layers and they could swear that he had straw popping out of his faded grey trousers. He rubbed his woolen fingerless gloves together "Well cat got your tongue eh, boys? what do you want I have work to do you know" he looks at Giulio and Thomas "Ah no speaky the lingo" he points at himself "Me Emanuel Harper" he points at Wilhelm "You?" the Doctor sighs and throws his golden coin onto the table where it spins for a second or two before falling flat on top of the ledger. Harper is suddenly all business his voice and character far less obsequious more confident "Oh its Association business is it, why didn't you say?"

Part two

Harper points to the various piles of boxes which circled his lectern "Take a seat gents, you will find a rather nice Muscat in that cupboard over there" he said pointing to a cupboard set high on the wall, he continues walking off in the direction of the doors before continuing "I'll just make sure we aren't disturbed" The Party settle themselves down and the Thomas tries to have a peek at the ledger but finds its solidly locked with a couple of smokehouse locks. He wonders back over to Giulio who is admiring the drinks cabinet Thomas asks the Italian in a low whisper "This association that we are members of, do you know anything about them? Giulio finding a wooden tray and some glasses and an empty begins to decant some wine into a bottle, he shakes his head "No it's all new to me, I guess we better be ready for trouble when we trip over a lie" Thomas nods and makes sure his rapier is loose in its scabbard. Emmanuel Harper returns and seeing the wine pours himself a generous measure which he sniffs appreciatively, swills it around and then takes a small sip before smacking his lips and sighing. He returns to his high stool and looking at the Doctor asks "Well now that we are all comfy what can the Three Sisters do for you?" The Doctor sitting on his box shifts uncomfortably his back still flaring with a dull ice like pain every so often. The Doctor coughs and sweeping his arms to encompass his fellow CL.U.B'ers "We are looking for a ship to take us to the new world, to the area known as Honduras, and a mutual friend said you were the man to see" Harper laughs and takes another sip from his glass "A mutual friend, ha I know where you get these particular coins from, if his lordship wants you over in the new world then fine I can arrange passage for you on the Peony. The Sisters have charted it for the next couple of months and" he pulls out a small book from under the lectern and quickly pages through it "You're in luck it's set to sail in three days time, and its got a drop off at Roatan and from there you should be able to make your own way to the mainland" The CL.U.Ber's raise their glasses and finish off whatever remains in them as a form of toast. The Doctor looks for the first time in days happy as if a weight has left him "Excellent, excellent thank you very much, Master Harper. Harper coughs loudly "Don't get too carried away I owe the lord but I can't pull money and supplies out of thin air and as you can see times haven't been great recently, plenty of one-off jobs but nothing long-term and that's where the money is" Wilhelm asks him what does he mean and he tells them that he has enough pull to get them on the ship as passengers but there is no money to buy them any supplies nor to get them back home, the journey is one way. The room explodes into noisy chaos shouts off "What do you mean one way" and "You know who we work for" can be heard but eventually everything dies down and Harper smirking a little raises his hands "Look I was going to keep this to myself but seeing your reaction I guess I could let you in to the caper" Cuthbert asks "What caper?" and slowly their seats again and Harper refills their glasses and tells them off the job.
The job seems the solution to all their problems and they can do it maintain their cover, get a lot of cash and yet seemingly keep their hands clean. Harper tells them that he had been approached a couple of days ago by an Association fixer by the name of Gint she was looking for some extra muscle for a team that was planning a robbery. It seems that there were still a lot of Royalist sympathizers who whilst cowed still wanted to help the cause and some of them set up some fund or something. And the Royalists were going to smuggle the raised money out of King's Lynn sometime soon. And since he feels like he owes the lord he will give them a crack at it. The Party somewhat suspicious about this sudden change of luck get into a huddle and have a quick whispered conversation. There seems to be some disagreement but Thomas leaves the huddle and tells Harper that they will do it but will need an invite to his connection. Harper makes some fuss about his percentage claiming he would usually charge ten percent of the take but since it's his lordship he will settle for two percent and that's cutting his own throat. So after some haggling and more wine is decanted the Party finally leave the Three Sisters Harper warmly patting them on the backs as they leave "Don't forget two percent my friends and good luck" as the Party stagger back down the noisome alleyway, if they had looked behind them they might have wondered why Harper who was closing the doors suddenly looked a lot soberer than he did when he gave a soot blacked coin to Thomas as well as directions to a hole in a wall ale house just moments earlier but they didn't and with the thud of the door closing they no longer could.
The Party decided to split up since Cuthbert and the Doctor was at best only lukewarm supporters of the robbery plan, The Doctor thought the risk too great after all they now had passage to Honduras and the return journey, well it was a bridge that whoever survived could cross later when Mallebeench was killed. And Cuthbert was still trying to find his feet and had been caught somewhat by surprise how this particular bureau team worked. The others Giulio, Wilhelm, and Thomas meanwhile followed Harper's directions which led them into even rougher parts of Kings Lynn. They journeyed through narrow alleyways also alert to the cry of "Ware below!" as the inhabitants emptied their chamber pots into the alleyways below. Even staying close into the walls of the ally was no guarantee of safety and they all got at least a good splashing of piss and shit as they made their way through. Small children some in rags whilst others only had muck and dirt to protect their modesty seeing the well-dressed trio immediately began to swarm them begging for alms and offering all sorts of services for just a little coin or something to eat. They had to use the back of their swords at one point just to clear enough room to continue on and had to suffer mud and other less wholesome things being thrown at them from the now unhappy children. They eventually made it to an alleyway which had a green moldering plate nailed to one side announcing to any that would care that this was indeed Grey Lady Hall. "Well it seems that this is the place," said an irate Giulio whose tight purple breeches were somewhat soiled looking by now. They headed down the long alleyway heading through the gloom and shit towards the glow of a lantern and the sounds of voices. The alleyway was fairly wide, the walls of the buildings that formed its sides were of rotting red brick the constant flow of water? coming from somewhere high above was slowly washing the bricks away. Now whilst the smell of fish, human waste and sweat still lingered it now had the added stench of rotten meat and sour ale the gloom thickened as they approached the brewhouse itself as someone in the past had nailed various bits of scrap wood high up on the walls to keep the worst of the wastewater off the patrons, dim figures of men and the occasional woman could be seen now standing up and moving slowly around towards the end of the alley which narrowed further until it presumably opened up again onto another street. Sloshing forwards with Giulio muttering all the while about the cost of new shoes and breeches whilst Wilhelm and Thomas strode along quite smugly in their high leather boots which they had rolled up to cover their thighs it made walking a little tricky but the extra protection was proving well worth it.
They had almost got to the first of the standing groups who seemed to be using wooden boards pinned to the walls as crude tables when they were blocked by a bent over crone. She wore layer upon layer of rags and scraps of cloth making her appear weirdly round and bumpy, the mix of fabrics and colours again only added to her air of strangeness. She wore a harness of leather and fabric from which a pair of much repaired wooden buckets hung each had a ladle attached to them via a length of rusted chain. "Hello dearies, you must be lost I think, a dangerous place for ones such as you this is...Hrmmm? Wilhelm reaches for his book but Thomas steps forwards "Hello madame we are not lost, just looking for someone" the old crone shuffles closer bringing with her a smell of piss and wet dog "Looking for someone? maybe old Granny knows them yes? but first, you buy a drink, only a penny a cup. The Party looks down into her buckets where a dark yellow liquid sloshes around under a layer of froth and foam. Wilhelm taps one of the buckets with a gloved hand "A cup of this is only a penny?" his tap sends the liquid sloshing around and for a brief second he swears he sees a dark furry body at the bottom "Yes we at Grey lady believe in only serving the best ale but only at reasonable cost. Our customers deserve a fair drink for a fair price" Thomas backs away "You're not a Leveller are you" the old lady laughs wetly "Lawks no just an honest businesswoman trying to keep home and hearth together, now buy a drink or feck off" Wilhelm being Bavarian refuses claiming that his family would never talk to him again if they found out that he had drunk such slop. Thomas sighed and handing over a penny asked the crone for a cup, she produced a wooden cup from somewhere under her clothing and into which she ladled a generous measure of the contents of the bucket. Thomas paused but then swiftly knocked back the drink and almost immediately brought it back up again along with most of his breakfast to the cheers of his fellow patrons. The old crone laughing wheezily fills her own battered cup from the bucket and greedily guzzles it down "Ahhhhh a pint of forty day rat is an acquired taste, some just can't handle it I guess" she replaces her cup and continues "Right we've had some fun, and it looks like you came alone so where's your marker?"

The Job

After certain gold coins are examined very closely by Gint she finally nods and beckons them to follow her deeper down into the alley. She leads them to a gloomy spot almost devoid of light four men are standing near one of the crude tables, three of them are crouched low to the noisome floor throwing dice whilst an older man stands just to one side watching them sipping slowly from a clay bottle. He turns to look at the group approaching his eyes squinting and his hand slipping down to the dagger at his waist "Calm yourself Captain it's just little old me" Gint calls out, the older man removes his hand from his dagger and instead strokes his iron-grey goatee beard his narrow face twists into something that may have been called a smile if sharks could smile. He welcomes Gint as the other men stop their banter and begin to stand up taking a position just behind the older man. Gint shuffles forwards and begins to make the introductions and soon the air of violence ebbs away a little and after Gint whispers something into the older man's ear she wishes them the best of luck and with a lewd wink shuffle back to the top of the alley.
The older man introduces himself as the Captain and points to the others "That handsome devil is Muskrat" a badly pox marked youth nods "That there is Collie, a good man in a fight if he stays off the drink and that streak of piss is Pigeon" Collie appears to be an average man dressed in the current town fashion whilst Pigeon was indeed a lanky youth who for some reason seemed to like dressing in somewhat garish outfits and sported a large gold and pearl earring in his right ear like some Elizabethan gentleman of old. The Party introduce themselves and tell the Captain that they had been sent by Mr. Harper from the Sisters as he believed they might looking for an extra body or two. The Captain asks a few questions testing their story and with a final "Well if Gint's passed you over I guess you'll do" orders some slightly better tasting ale and gets to telling them the job.
"Look it's an easy smash and grab job, a few of the great and good haven't figured out that there is a new wind blowing now and have been somewhat foolishly collecting money for the Royalist cause, they have been sneaky though claiming that its to help those widows and orphans caused by the war. And now that they have raised a substantial amount its time to ship it off but not to those poor widowed wives or their mewling brats as they promised as they rattled the tin. No instead its instead going straight into Rupert's lacy pockets. We know the couriers route how many of them are guarding the money and best of all we know they ain't going to bloody report it" he smiles "So we have the plan, we just need a few extra men to make it work." he looks at the Party noting their appearance and expressions "So you have access to guns I'm guessing yes? some of those Dutch Thunderguns would be handy as it's a bugger of a job to shoot a musket at a fleeing horseman and hit and these couriers will be mounted so the sooner we get them off their nags the better" Wilhelm nods "I can lay my hands on a Thunder gun" he smiles a cold smile "Given to me by my dear old Sergeant as he lay dying" the cutthroats all smile.
Arrangements are discussed and pay is haggled over but after twenty or so minutes the two parties break and the CL.U.Ber's agree to meet up later that day at a disused mill on the river Ouse where they will get their final instructions and be punted across to the other side and their final destination. As the CL.U.Ber's leave they nod thanks to Gint and quickly leave the Grey Lady heading back to the less rank environs of the Full Jug and already they are thinking about the haul and whilst the Captain had been careful not to mention any numbers he had hinted that it would be in the hundreds of pounds, so more than enough to cover the fares for the voyage home and any other little incidentals, they just needed to be the ones left standing with the loot after the ambush.

Meanwhile the Doctor and Cuthbert are having their own tense conversation over at the Full Jug, Cuthbert is brought up to speed and after looking somewhat uncomfortable he takes a long pull on his tankard and nods "That matches up with what the Scoutmaster told me, though the incidents at Saracenic hall have me worried" he places a dagger onto the table drains the last of his ale and wiping the froth clear from his face he leans forwards "Now Doctor can you explain why you seem to be working for Edgar Mallebeench?" The Doctor notices that the dagger is now resting under Cuthbert's hand, the Doctor stares into Cuthbert's eyes and also leaning forward whispers his answer which basically is that they really had no choice and since the mission is the same the capture of Constantine Mallebeench is seemed prudent to use whatever sources they could get. The Doctor explained that he fears he may have damned them all but that is a small price to pay to stop Mallebeench before he can complete whatever dark rituals he intends. The Doctor folds back into his chair his one eye taking on a haunted look "Master Sharp you may know a little of what we have seen so far and I tell you we are prepared to do almost anything to stop the madman before he dooms us all to a living Hell" Cuthbert seems to be far from convinced but the dagger is replaced and with a sigh he tells the Doctor that the plan to British Honduras seems to be the logical one for the moment but he warns the Doctor that he will be making a report and will do what needs to be done if he feels that the CL.U.Ber's are straying from the path of light. They are still not comrades but at least now they have a clearer understanding of where the other is coming from.
The others return and seeing the Doctor and Cuthbert at the backorder another round and a couple of bowls of pottage and head over they can still feel the suspicion in the air but after seeing the Doctor nod sit down and when the bowls and mugs arrive begin telling them the job. Both the Doctor and Cuthbert seem dubious the Doctor flatly refusing to become involved arguing that they had passage there already, there was no need to expose themselves to any more unnecessary risk. the others pushed the point that the money would cover the passage back and they could do with some sort of financial safety net and besides it's money going to the Royalists. The Doctor remained unconvinced arguing that the information should be passed onto Captain Ridley and his men. Cuthbert seemed to be deep in thought and then he placed his bowl down and licking his lips said "No Doctor I think we will deal with this nest of treacherous vipers" he raises his hand to stop any further argument from the Doctor "The money is needed and as you said you would do almost anything to stop Mallebeench, you do not have to be involved but this needs to happen, can you not say this opportunity coming now as it does is not Gods plan?"
So the others fill in Cuthbert, the Doctor goes upstairs to finish off another set of dispatches promising to delay passing on the information of the Royalist sympathizers until they have completed their task. The others have a final drink and grabbing their gear they head out towards the meeting at the Mill.
They arrive at the Mill only a little late after Giulio got them a little trouble with the men guarding the South gate but they were soon enough back in the shady company of the Captain and his men. The Captain checks the weapons and smiles appreciably commentating that they look both well used and well cared for and he then tells them of the potential take "I'm not a greedy man and we are all doing this together so we split the money evenly between us......but since it's my idea and I'm the Captain I get an extra ten pounds but since I'm expecting that those bastards to be carrying somewhere in the region of six hundred pounds I don't think any of you will be begrudging me that now?" The CL.U.Ber's look at each other and nodding agree "You're the boss Captain and from the sounds of things you're about to make us all rich" They get aboard a skiff moored at the back and Collie punts them down to the big bend just past old Lyn and then he beaches it onto the muddy shore opposite the Captain looks at a map and then points off into the distance "Right we need to head that way for a spell, there is a lovely spot on the road between Elms and Hill farm, it's a lovely slow bend going uphill with small woods on either side and plenty of cover for us near the road" so with one final look he hoists up his small pack and starts to march off "Come on we do need to get there before them you know" Smiling they all follow the grizzled veteran across the muddy fields towards the network of small roads which surrounded the port town.
After an hour or so they reached the ambush site the Captain told them the plan again he had been told that there would be six riders each lightly armed and the money would be split between their saddlebags. "We shoot the horses and those riders who still live afterward get their throats cut, easiest money you'll ever make boys"
The ambush started badly the Gang let the first couple of riders past and then Pigeon stepped out from his hiding position further up the road and fired his Thunder gun but it failed to fire probably due to the damp conditions but instead of spraying the horses with a lead and forming a roadblock of screaming horse flesh Pigeon was just left there in the middle of the road in full view. The Couriers reacted quickly obviously these were no mere civilian riders but Royalist Dragoons of some sort. They wheel their horse around unhooking carbines from their shoulder belts and shouting warnings to the men following, Wilhelm seeing Pigeons misfire curses and steps out into the road aiming his own Thunder gun low he braces himself and fires hitting several of the horses who rear up throwing a couple of their riders to the floor "Now lads now!" shouts the Captain and everyone fires into the now stunned Couriers who do their best to calm their horses whilst at the same time trying to defend themselves, the clearing is soon filled with the obscuring clouds of musket smoke and the screams of man and beast.
The fight is deadly and swift as the Gang fire multiple shots into the stunned Couriers who weather the first volley fairly well only a couple get hit and then its mainly flesh wounds but blood is starting to flow. Pigeon struggles to pull out his pistol and the delay costs him as one of the Couriers lowers his carbine and blasts a hole into his side, Pigeon screams briefly before the shock drops him, only seconds into the ambush and already the Gang is one man down.
The others redouble their efforts with firearms spent they charge into the wheeling mass of horses and Dragoons who are now starting to regain some of their former cohesion. One man, in particular, seems to be bringing order to the chaos and Cuthbert tries to take him out he is one of the few men to still have a loaded weapon left and he aims his musket squarely at this mans chest and breathing slowly out he fires only to see the shot go wide the Courier seeing the flash swings a horse pistol in Cuthbert's general direction and fires. Cuthbert's world goes very bright suddenly as the shot hits him in the head, knocking his hat to the floor and ploughing a bloody furrow across his scalp, he staggers but quickly regains his sight though its still blurry its enough for him to see a boulder nearby which he staggers towards in a desperate attempt to save himself. The clash of steel now rings out louder as numerous small duels are fought on the road and then there is a cry from one of the Gang either the Captain or Collie as some of the Couriers manage to fight their way clear of the melee and spur their horse into a gallop heading out of the hollow and towards the main London road. There are no shots fired after them as the Gang has had no time to reload and besides are all (Apart from Pigeon and Cuthbert who have other things on their minds) fully engaged with the remaining riders.
Though with those Couriers gone those left behind were sorely pressed and soon the Gang had brought them down through the weight of numbers and savagery, the last Courier cut down by Wilhelm in a welter of blood and gore as his rapier slices almost through the man's neck. In the distance the sounds of the galloping horses can still be heard "Fuck how many got away?" the Captain snarls as he looks down onto the bleeding figure of Pigeon who feebly tries to talk Muskrat looks sheepishly at the brooding Captain and replies "Three" the Captain still blankly looking into Pigeons eyes slowly places his booted foot onto the mans neck and pushes down, Pigeon writhes around and tries to push the foot off but he doesn't have the strength and then there is a wet crack and the light fades from his eyes and his struggles stop. He looks back up and turns to the Gang and quietly says "He fucked up and now we have only...." he looks around "Three riders and more importantly only three FUCKING BAGS!" he takes a deep breath "Well get to it and you lot better pray we got one of the riders who had a share of the money in his bags" the Gang quickly race to the dead Couriers, though one of them showing a little life is run through by Giulio. Discarded weapons and personal items are left in their desperate search for the saddlebags but soon the hollow is filled with a happy cry "FOUND ONE" the CL.U.Ber's find one and so does Collie the Captain calls everyone together and looking at the sun tells everyone to follow him into the woods they have been here too long. The Gang follow him into the woods for about thirty yards or so until he calls a halt in a small clearing "Okay change of plan we divide whatever loot we got now and go our separate ways I don't like the fact that those riders got away so I'm keeping clear of Kings for a while and I suggest you lot do the same", he points to a spot on the floor "Right drop the bags and lets ee if we got lucky" the bags thud onto the soft loam everyone knows they got something but would it be enough?
The CL.U.Ber's find themselves in a little group behind the Gang and a strange atmosphere fills the clearing, everyone is tense, everyone expects a double cross it's just a matter of which group stabs the other first. The Captain stands up and moves to the side "Not bad, not bad Pigeon dying will make up a little for the loss. By my count, we have close to two hundred pounds in these bags, so its a seven-way split" he pauses and wiggles his fingers for a moment "That's what? just over twenty pounds less my cut and some expenses, not too shabby lads" The other two gang members still remain crouched by the bags their hands hidden from the CL.U.Ber's. Cuthbert still bleeding from his head wound is slightly behind the others his hands covered by his coats oddly long sleeves, the clouds overhead darkening and there is a distant rumble of a gathering storm. The Captain steps forward a smile upon his face but stops as a few heavy raindrops splash down onto him causing him to look up just as Cuthbert mutters "Ante oculos micare nunc in tempore suo mori possum sentire cerebrum meum ardere flamma" and the heavens are split asunder as a lightning bolts cracks down from the dark clouds above and earths itself into the Captain who bursts into flames and screams for a minute before his voice is taken from him by the bolts of lightning heat. He staggers around scattering the other two Gang men who stumble back away from this horrific sight.
The CL.U.Ber's never one to look a gift horse in the mouth launches themselves at the Gang members, firing reloaded pistols and slashing with glaives they take a few hits back but soon they have the wounded Gang members on the ropes, Thomas and Wilhelm attack Collie who manages a brave fight back but is killed by a shot from Cuthbert. Muskrat meanwhile stands up and pulls out a wicked looking dagger and faces off against Giulio who smiles and with a casual flick of his wrist extends his glaive and with a yell performs a fierce uppercut which slices Muskrats head clean off with such force that his head fly's clear across the clearing an expression of hurt betrayal on his face. Thomas approaches the smoldering figure of the Captain and slashes at him his blow seems true but somehow the wreck of a man manages to parry the blow, cooked flesh falling from the Captain hands and arms from the force of the swords strike. Wilhelm slashes at the Captain cutting a steaming chunk from his chest, the man collapses to the ground and seems to be surrendering but Giulio steps up and standing in front of the man looks down and suddenly lunges forwards with his mechanical hand and easily crushes the man neck grinding his spine into dust. He steps back and with a thud lets the charred body hit the floor with a disturbing splash.
The CL.U.Ber's look around bleeding and breathing heavily Wilhelm gasps "Well that was interesting.... let's see how much we have got" Giulio looks up and the clearing sky above "Mmm odd that lightning, awfully handy though"
The charred bangs are emptied and the gold pounds are counted, well at least some of them are as a lot seem to have become somewhat melted together but even so the Party had enough money to buy passage back and a little left over to go towards Zeal's coffers.
Thomas cleans of his rapier and goes "right let's get away from here, shall we? the last one back to the Jug gets the drinks in" and with that he shoves a startled Cuthbert over and laughing jogs off back in the direction of Kings Lynn.
 
 
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THOMASON TRACTS - Kings Lynn Pamphlet found trampled in the mud along Purfleet Street... (Butters)

NIGHTTIME RISINGS.

Your intrepid reporter has heard rumors that the garrison commander at Castle Rising a certain well known Colonel Ingram Laws received a visit from a mysterious pair hot-footing it from Kings Lynn. A well-placed source informed this reporter that these two mysterious men demanded to see the Colonel as soon as they reached the main gates "They were in a terrible state looking behind them as if the very hounds of hell were chasing them. It was a bit hard to figure out what they wanted them being out of breath and such, but they were most insistent that they are taken to the Colonel"
The two mysterious men were then quickly hustled away and through the Keep to the Colonel's office where unfortunately the door was firmly closed in this reporters face and a guard from the Colonel's own personal command barred all further passage.
This reporter tried to find out more but was thrown out by this very same brute of a man even after I offered him double the going rate! the stolid Puritan whilst an ideal soldier makes for a poor source of information, could this be a threat to our new democracy?
See page 12 for comments from our Westminster reporter Freeloading Jones.

The two mysterious visitors were next seen leaving the office several hours later, less a few of their oddly large leather bags. This reporter wonders, could King Johns lost treasure have been found at last? after all, there had been rumours of men seen digging in the area of Holbeach recently.
When questioned the two men refused to comment and when asked about the treasure the one who seemed to be called Bert a most sinister man of a weak thin build but whose eyes blazed with unholy anger actually laid hands upon your brave reporter resulting in a bloody nose and a torn coat.
Further investigation was to no avail sadly as the two men stayed securely locked in their rooms for the remainder of their oddly brief stay. This reporter wonders if the New Order is already cleaning up some loose European ends or are the notorious smuggling gangs that infest the Wash prepared to pay this new officialdom for a blind eye to be turned towards their renewed nighttime activities? your obedient servant promises that he will keep both of his eyes open on this potentially Apocalypse heralding story.

Page Three's, Suggestive Sermons continue and this week sermon is Denise from Blackpool.
 
 
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THOMASON TRACTS

The Depressed Rodger

Rumours still circulate that something dark and foul occurred recently and with the recovery of four bodies this morning from the road leading to Oxford your reporter is inclined to agree. After the strange incidents at Castle Rising your intrepid reporter decided to put his life on the line once more on behalf of the truth, after all the readers of Thomason Tracts deserve no less, so I followed several leads and discovered that the two mysterious agents had left the Castle during the early hours of the morning and headed back to the sinful environs of Kings Lynn, I hastily packed and swiftly followed.
Unfortunately, I was too late to question these two men as they had just joined up with a larger party which I discovered was made up of unscrupulous foreigners of a most unsavory reputation if the local gossip was to be believed.
One lady, who wishes to remain anonymous told your reporter that one of them who oddly kept replacing the letter w in words with a harshly spat v scared her as he kept asking about her Jugs and if the were really full? "Oh lawks sir we get some odd ones are in the (edited for the Ladies safety) but he was a strange one. Was he always on about Jugs and Steins? I don't even know what steins are sir being brought up a good girl but I think its something unnatural by the way he was looking at me and drooling onto his leather coat, you do hear such things about these foreign gentlemen don't you. Later he would ask me up to his room so that he could share with me some sheet music from a gentleman called Robert Smith esquire who seems to love cats or something but like I said earlier I'm a good girl so I told him no! and no mistake" Your humble reporter had to interrupt her at this point as she was becoming somewhat flushed but after calming her down she did let slip that she had overheard that the Bert Gang was heading out to sea on a ship named the Peony later this very day.
I thanked the young lady and made all haste to the badly smelling docks and the chance to head off and finally uncover these men's dark secrets were they Royalist assassins, smugglers or are the new masters in Parliament up to dark deeds already? As readers will know that there were reports earlier this month of a secretive peace mission heading to Oxford to seek terms from the archdevil himself Prince Rupert? and does the foul Prince not also suffer from this terrible W into V sickness?
Unfortunately due to too many pies consumed at the (edited again for the ladies safety) your humble and slightly overweight Reporter has to sadly report though that he was unable to make it to the docks in time to see the dark ship unfurl its mainsails as it headed out into deeper waters. Though fear not as there were still questions to be asked and I got back to it..... as soon as I had managed to catch my breath and still my racing heart that is.
I started with the harbour Master, a giant of a man by the name of Master Staines, who was once a proud seaman himself, but he told me that the laundry bills got out of hand or something or other so he left the high seas and instead found honest work here enforcing the local by-laws of the port with his cudgel Mabelle, After gaining the man's trust he was more than happy to tell me a little of what he knew of the merchant ship Peony and he revealed her very shady past. Her current Captain was a goatee-sporting Dutchman who went by the name of Cosse Waterman who it seems mostly kept to himself preferring to let his English first mate, a brute of a man called Webber do his talking for him but it seems that he was only the most recent of Captains on the ill-omened Peony as her owners over at the Three Sisters trading company seemed to get through them fairly quickly, one even drowned it seems in the Droitwich salt mines!
Master Staines whispered that the Peony had a "Reputation for returning on midnight tides if you know what I mean", I hadn't but it seemed jolly mysterious.
Talking to the other dockworkers including the lovely Amy Goodtime I confirmed the Peony's dark reputation, worryingly in this time of Frost war, I learned that the ship was sailing to Africa with a hold full of Bristol best Matchlocks no doubt captured royalist booty from its recent recapture.
In closing, this reporter asks is it a good time to be sending weapons abroad as it's clear that the Royalist threat is far from over? can this be further proof that the Levellers were right that there is indeed a faction in Parliament that has chosen base coin over the betterment of their fellow countrymen? Or do Royalist traitors still hide within the New orders bosom?
As always your obedient servant will endeavour to uncover the truth behind these rumors of corruption.

Sadly tomorrows Spot the ball competition has been canceled due to football now being banned as a sinful waste of time....apparently.
 
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THOMASON TRACTS

From our undercover correspondent Henry Morgan Polly Cracker, to be edited later.

After being told by my Mum to contact the editor of the Thomason Tracts I learned that he wanted to know what happened during my last voyage on the Peony so here is what I can remember of that ill-fated voyage.
We sailed out of Kings with a good wind and fair weather, the Captain and most of the crew including myself were still fairly new but we were already a pretty tight ship and this seemed to be a more normal trade voyage than the last trip to Bombay well apart from the strange passengers we were told to take by Master Harper. They seemed a rum bunch five men all looking a little broken like my Dad did after what my Uncle called the battle at Runaway down, but we don't talk to him now since he's a dirty heathen Royalist. So these men had that look, all of them apart from the funny Italian fellow dressed in dark clothing that looked hard worn and much repaired Signor Giulio though his clothes were all brightly coloured and clean and looked almost new, his doublet slashed to reveal a brightly coloured shirt underneath and his breeches were fitted tight he was fair exotic looking and unlike the others he often smiled, he had a strange hand it looked normal but he told me it was clockwork or something he even gripped a cannonball so hard that he left his handprint in the iron. Oh the others yes oh they were an unhappy bunch especially the one everyone called Doctor Death he gave me the willies I can tell you he only had the one eye that was all bloodshot Master Collins the Gunners mate made the sign to ward of the evil eye when he thought no one was looking which was still dead brave of him considering that one of the passengers was dressed like a witch hunter. You know he had one of those tall hats on that's how you can tell, well at least that's what me Mum says and she should know what with the problems we had with Granny last year. Well, let's see there was Doctor Thomas he was the scary one, Giulio the nice one, the one that looked like a Titman you know the sneaky ones who collect the tithes for the local church all smarmy like I think he was called Cu...Bert? or something he became chatty with the First mate which was no surprise as he was a Pickthank swill belly too, and the funny talking one Thomas was his name but he made everyone call him Tomas, I think he was a Catholic spy and that was a test or something him saying call me To Mass you see? So do you think they were killers sent by the Pope? cor that would be smashing. Er that's about it they talked to the Captain and without barely looking at the crew or the ship they headed down and took over part of the castle. Didn't see them much those first few days and besides Webber told us to leave them well alone, Meloncelli later told me he had been speaking to Giulio and he thought they were connected men and it would be best if I stayed away from their sort.
Well we sailed down the coast a bit and then crossed over the channel to Portugal keeping an eye out for any, well anyone really no one seems to happy about us at the moment even the Dutch seem annoyed but anyhow we didn't see any other ships up close a few in the distance but that's where they stayed the Captain made sure of that. So there we were sailing down the coast we anchored up for a couple of hours at Lisbon just to take on supplies really and for the Captain to get a news of conditions ahead and a few of the senior ratings went over and brought back a few casks of Port, you know a little for the Captain the rest to trade with, you can get a lot for a little Port I can tell you. The passengers came up, hurled up and dropped off if you know what I mean the Doctor still looked sick Meloncelli told me that the man hadn't eaten any of the food he had prepared for him when asked he said he was suffering from seasickness but after a few days at sea everyone eats a little something don't they but not him. The others seemed a little friendlier, the Frenchman walked a little funny and insisted on sitting on a blown up pigs bladder instead of just on the wooden boards but after he had changed into clothing a little like the Italians and had covered himself in perfume he too was quite a jolly chap I know he played a lot of cards and dice with some of the crew later on that's for sure. Bert just kept himself to himself didn't really talk to anyone I think he was scared to for some reason he went really quiet when the Doctor was near almost as if he was trying to hide from him.
The Captain returned and seemed happy with whatever gossip he had managed to pick up and we headed off, following the coast until the pillars and across the mouth of the Mediterranean, the Lord was certainly smiling on us as the weather remained fair and the wind strong and we crossed without incident. And like I said the Passengers started to mingle with the crew a little after all we had been at sea for just over a week by now, Bert was often talking to Webber about the cannons, Giulio and Thomas were either gambling, drinking or singing in the case of signor Giulio's, boy did that man love to sing but the Doctor kept to his bunk mostly still not eating much just a little pottage in the morning at least according to Meloncelli as for the Holy Roman he chatted away but seemed to scare most of the crew after a while something about the wages of sin and the whispers in the night. So there we were sailing down the African coast sweating in the humid heat and watching those jungle hidden coves and bays very carefully until we reached the insect-infested Port of Mbey. Meloncelli told me we would all do well out of this when all was done as the natives were always fighting each other and so had a desperate need for guns and would exchange them for as many slaves as we wanted.
 
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The shorter Thomson tracts are an attempt to catch up with where we actually are in the game currently as it was taking me longer and longer to finish these reports, I was getting somewhat carried away going back because I'd forgotten something cool and of course those endless, endless spell checks🙄 

They are going to be somewhat short lived though as I'm not sure how I'm going to smuggle the reporter, Old Thomason into the deadly jungles of South America where the gang is currently, hot on the heels of that evil madman Mallebeench.

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Edited by Butters

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THOMASON TRACTS

More dispatches from our undercover reporter Polly Cracker

We made good time down the coast of West Africa and apart from a few native canoes which approached the ship selling fresh fruit and other luxuries we encountered no other vessels, though Captain Cose did have the cannons run out and the ready ammunition lockers on the top deck filled, just in case as Meloncelli told me later as I was washing up that it wasn't unknown for ships to be attacked this close to the coast as everyone knew that ships sailing down would be full of trade goods. He also told me that he had overheard some of the passengers asking the Captain about Bombay and the Association but the Captain had ordered him out before he could overhear more, Melconcelli added that the Captain seemed annoyed and Webber who was lurking in a dark corner looked ready to murder someone "I was glad to get out of there, to be honest, some things are too dangerous to know" he shot me a meaningful look before adding in a concerned tone "You no tell anyone whata you hear? could get us both inna trouble, capiche? he then grabbed me tightly by the arm until I nodded. He let me go and smiled sadly "I talk too much sometimes"
We continued to have a fair wind that kept the sails full and the Peony fair flew across the crystal blue waters until the Captain ordered that sail be taken in, it seemed we were about to reach Mbey.
The weather remained clear and humid as we sailed closer to the shore, the Captain ordered the cannons manned and for old Toby to get into the crows nest and to keep an eye out. The Passengers were asked to remain between decks as the Captain ordered Webber to start steering four degrees starboard. Suddenly we heard a shout from Tom, it seemed he had spotted a mast poking up from behind the rapidly approaching rocky outcrops. The Captain ordered the remaining sails reefed, the men to ready stations and if Tom could make out any flags or anything else to help identify the ship. Tom soon shouted out that he could see a red ensign, could this be a friendly ship then? The ship slowed but we still had a lot of speed to bleed off and we wouldn't be able to hide much longer. Webber steered the slowing ship around the headland and we saw the harbour of Mbey for the first time.
Mbey was large bay scooped out of the rocky coast a large sandy beach sloped down to meet the water, and a few jetties big enough for skiffs and rowboats snaked out from the sand, a few flat-roofed buildings could be seen at the edge of the beach and Tom pointed inland and shouted out that the could see smoke and thatched roofs about a quarter of a mile in. Activity could be seen on the other ship now as it's crew finally spotted the Peony, the cannon were being run out and cries of alarm and command could be heard over the buzzing of insects and cawing of strange gaily coloured birds. The Captain ordered the red ensign and the flag of Kings Lynn to be run out and for a signal to be sent "Long live Parliament" I looked up from my position next to the ammunition bin and I could just make out Grace painted in gold across the other ships stern as she turned broadside onto us.
After a tense moment or two where both ships faced off against each other Captain Cose ordered the gun ports closed and the cannons run in, I can tell you I let out an explosive breath that I didn't even know I had been holding. I hadn't been in a naval battle yet but the others talked and well just one look at one eyed Stumpy was proof enough of how dangerous they could be.
So it was with some relief when I heard the Captain call for the remaining sails to be furled and the anchor to be dropped this was done in silence, the only voice to be heard was Davids as he called out the depth from his position on the bow. When all was ready the Captain ordered the ship's boat lowered and crewed and for the Passengers to join him. The Passengers came up from their bunks, heavily armed and with grim determined looks, I thought they could have seen off any boarding party that tried to take our ship. They walked over to the Captain and after a brief talk seemed to agree with him and they climbed over the rail and down into the boat below. The Captain quickly spoke to Master Webber and then he to was gone into the boat. The boat was rowed across to the Grace and I could just hear them calling up for permission to come aboard.

This next part has been pieced together from what Polly Cracker overheard later on

Craven told me that it was pretty tense on the boat as they neared the wooden bulk of the Grace as armed men could be seen waiting for them. Craven said they were feeling pretty naked but then that one of the Passengers stood up causing the boat to wallow somewhat alarmingly but before anyone could ask what the fuck he was doing he had called out to someone on the ship and after a pause a voice called back "It's alright gentlemen, they're friends of a sort." The passenger who had stood up I think he was the one called Doctor Death or something sat back down with a smile and seeing the expressions on his friend's faces and our own calmly said "Oh sorry did I startle you? seeing how worried everyone seemed I thought it best to let my associate know who we were, Quentin Lambert is his name, he's a merchant from Norfolk. Must admit I'm surprised to see him here but his red hair is somewhat hard to forget" We hooked the boat onto the grace and the Passengers and the Captain went up. We were ordered to wait until they came back. And after half an hour they did look somewhat pissed off but alive and I didn't see any muskets pointing our way as we rowed off.
Now wanting to do Mr. Thomason proud I asked around and the rumor was that the Grace was sailing under the flag of the Virginian company out of the colonies but that it was currently under contract to Parliament itself and had travelled here for the same reasons as ourselves. In fact, Meloncelli told me later on that there wasn't a slave to be had anywhere within fifty miles of Mbey and that we would have to wait until the next war party came back or one of the Muslim merchant caravans travelled through the area which could take weeks. I asked him why Parliament wanted slaves as weren't all Englishman free, were they making a new army? Meloncelli shook his head and laughed "They aren't Englishman remember Ha they are not even Scottish so it's okay for them to be slaves, no it's coin the men in Parliament want, the slaves will be sold in the New World for a healthy markup and the profits will go back to keep Parliaments soldiers loyal and the dockyards busy.
When I was changing the Passengers slop buckets I heard two of them, the Doctor and the grim Imperial discussing someone called Saul who the Doctor had spoken to on the Grace. The Doctor was asking if the German had heard of him as he to had fought both men and witches on the continent. Whilst the Doctor seemed happy that his friend was on the Grace the Imperial seemed somehow impatient to meet him, but smelling the shit they noticed me and walked away deeper into the ship.
A message came from the shore, the local chief was throwing a feast in honour of both crews, I heard Webber grumble that the man just wanted us to stay around so he could get our guns cheap knowing that we couldn't stay too long. The Captain would have to decide what the most profitable course was stay and sell here or sail down the coast for a few days and hope that there were slaves for sale in another town. I was picked to go along with the Captain the Passengers and some of the senior crew to the feast. I knew I would be waiting on the Captain but I was still excited to see a King even if he was only a pretend heathen one.

Polly Cracker can again give a first-hand account

We took the ships boat across the harbour just as the sun was setting, the night was still and humid and the Captain was in his best uniform, the long velvet coat and matching petticoat with all the lacy bits which take ages to clean especially if soaked in gravy, his baggy beeches with white stockings and his new leather baldric from which his best rapier hung, overall he looked very commanding. The Passengers seemed to have made an effort as well but their finery still looked a little ruffled and creased to me as if they hadn't had chance to wear them often. They were obviously heavily armed and in the case of the two Doctors slightly jittery as Doctor Norton kept looking around intently as if he expected someone to jump out and attack him whilst Bert the leader remained in his seat and barely moved a muscle just occasionally snorting if asked a question, he seemed to want to be far as far away from the other Doctor for some reason but that's rich folk for you. The few senior crew had also dragged out their best and it was a surprise to see Bradshaw the ships carpenter/surgeon in breeches. We pulled up alongside one of the jetties which was lined along one side by very lean and tall black men each one held aloft a flaming torch and I admit I was a little awed. The natives all wore similar clothes, a long loincloth which ended just below the knees, thick brass rings which went up to mid-shin from their bare feet. More rings were worn on their arms but these seemed to be made of jade and polished stone instead of brass and their heads were covered in a strange looking cap of bright colours which had a short crest which ran from the back to the middle of the cap and overall they looked truly terrifying. The ships boat bumped against the stone pillars of the jetty and a boy ran out of the line and gathered up the thrown rope to secure the boat. The Captain climbed out and he was swiftly followed by the senior crew and looking around he called out in his oddly accented English "My name is Captain Cose Waterman, Captain of the Peony and I have come to brake bread with the great Chieftain Ngoone Sobel" the black men remained silent and still like some sort of statue but just as the Captain was going to call out again a silky voice with a strange accent spoke from behind the nearest tribesman "Ah good Captain Waterman, It is so good to finally meet you at last" a small dusky hued man wearing a set of gaudy clothes in the Spanish style appeared and held out one hand to shake the Captains whilst he twirled his moustache with the other "I apologise for not meeting you earlier but affairs of state you understand?" he bowed slightly and gestured towards the beach "This way please" he then stops almost immediately and turns to the Captain "Oh I do beg your pardon I always expect everyone to know me down here" he gives a grin "My name is Senhor Tadakki Marcelo, the Portuguese consul for this region" he then continues heading towards the beach "Please follow me, we wouldn't want to keep the Chief waiting now would we?" he then strode off leaving the rest of us to sort ourselves out and to quickly follow, the tribesmen remained still and silent.
The Consul led us to a trail that led up from the beach and as soon as we were close enough he started to point out some of the local features "Ah good of you to join me as you can see we have everything set up to make everything run as smoothly as possible, those huts there are the final holding cells for the merchandise each one can hold fifty slaves securely until they can be transported to the ships. Giulio stops and looks at the stone buildings with their tiny windows which even though barely more than a slit in the wall were still barred and whistled quietly "Fifty men in each? I have seen bigger cupboards" The Consul continued to talk about the effectiveness of the operation as if he was a stall holder at a village market. He leads them past stocks, posts which hung heavy with chain, some of the posts I saw gleamed wetly in the setting sun and various blockhouse and pens all which seemed empty. Senhor Marcelo then took a cobbled path which led off towards the right and after passing through a wooden stockade did his slight bow again and said "Welcome to Mbey gentleman"
The village was fairly large, a stout wooden stockade surrounded it keeping it separate from the forest and the slave pens the gate was guarded by more silent statues in their strange caps these ones though held short spears and had large wooden clubs thrust through wide belts of leather instead of the torches. More men could be seen walking along the parapet above each one armed with a bow and a wicked looking dagger. Captain Cose called the Consul over and pointing to the armed men "What is the meaning of this? I was told this was a secure station and yet I am seeing a lot of armed men." the Consul smiled "Oh rest assured gentlemen it is, all of this is to honour you and the men from the Grace" he pauses before continuing "Well to be honest it's mostly to honour the crew of the Grace but since you are here..." the Consul leads us towards the middle of the settlement chatting all the time telling the Captain how it all works that the slave caravans arrive every so many weeks bringing in the tribes defeated enemies, the poor and the indebted all to be sold to the West to till the land and work the plantations in disease infested Caribbean. I was very interested in the settlement and was surprised how closely it resembled my home village back in Lincolnshire, well in general looks and feel at least. The walls of most of the buildings seemed to be made out of wattle and daub just like home and though the thatch was some kind of native jungle plant instead of straw it still looked similar enough. The streets were of packed earth and very narrow I could see pens for animals built close by to the homes as well. The few people we saw stayed in the shadows but I still saw flashes of colour from their robes as they watched as go past. The route was fairly winding and every few yards one of the statue men stood, silently watching us a short spear with a wicked looking point grounded at their sides, even though parts of it reminded me of home they only made the whole thing somehow unreal as when you added the people, heat, smells and the noise of the strange animals. I felt very far from home yet I was still fascinated by what I saw. After about ten, fifteen minutes we were near the middle of the village and suddenly one minute was in the close winding streets then in the next we found ourselves in a wide cleared space with a walled compound sat in the middle, sounds of music and laughter could be heard coming from the large center building and as the sun dipped beyond the horizon we were ushered in past the gates and the formidable men that guarded them, these men were tall and wiry not an ounce of fat on them and their jewelry was of a higher quality than any we had seen before, their arms and legs were covered in bands of gold and they had necklaces of precious stones hanging from their necks, various other trinkets seemed to hang off from the belt of their loincloths but the worst thing for us was that each one was not only armed with a fearsome looking sword but that they cradled in their arms a shiny new wheel lock musket. Seeing us all fall silent the Consul looks around and seeing what has caught our attention sighs "Yes I was going to mention that, that's the reason there are no slaves here currently is that the Grace sold a shipment of guns to the Chief mere days ago and as you can see they are of far finer quality than the wares you brought"

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THOMASON TRACTS

The Feast of Fools

Marcelo the Portuguese Consul who nominally ran this Slave port on behalf of the Royal House of Braganza gestured to the home of the real day to day power here, the hall of Ngoone Sobel and it took my breath away. The building was made from mud bricks that had been smoothed into one flat surface the curved around and there were small low walls that flowed out from the main structure and encompassed cooking areas and animal pens. The main building was large and flat-roofed almost two stories high, a small mud brick staircase flowed around from the ground to this roof area which we could now see had wooden frames covered in brightly coloured cloth to act as private shady areas to relax in during the heat of the day. The most amazing thing about the building was that it was painted in this wondrous diamond design with checked borders and dark black spots painted in the center of each diamond all against the pale brown of the mud walls. The effect in the smoking torchlight gave it a strange air as if the building moved as if somehow alive, especially given the drums which boomed from inside the building accompanied by a strange sound almost like a guitar but only loosely, it had its own unique sound which just added to the feeling of the beyond. Marcelo nodded to the two guards who stood by the buildings double doors and they turned and grabbing the large iron rings hammered into the thick wooden doors gave a mighty heave and we got our first real look at the true wealth and power of an African Chief.
The main room was large, one great hall surrounded by curtained of areas which presumably led into the living areas, the hall itself dipped down a few steps to the main floor which was covered in thick brightly coloured homespun rugs, a square mud-brick fire pit dominated the center of the hall intricately formed iron poles stood at each corner and a great copper pot hung down from the ceiling. The huge blazing fire gave the painted interior a demonic air and scattered around the floor great carved logs lay covered in grass padded rugs for seating. Surrounding the fire pit the crew of the Grace sat upon them whilst eating and drinking the pulsing loud music continues to beat out and watching over it all is the great Ngoone Sobel himself who sits upon his raised throne placed opposite the gateway. The blast of light and heat almost staggers us at first, the rich smells of cooking food and the vast quantities of it displayed cause many a mouth to water. The Chief looks up and across to us and opens his meaty arms wide in greeting, and more than one crewman notices the enticing gleam of gold and jewelry from amongst the animal hides which were piled up behind the throne. Their spirits were dampened somewhat by the four muscular men draped in the hides of strange fearsome beasts. Each man held a massive sword which easily looked capable of splitting a man in half with just one blow.
Now Chief Ngonne Sobel himself was a heavy-set man who seemed to be in his mid-thirties, and he radiated power and force of will with just a glance of his eyes people rushed to fulfill his every desire. He wore a baggy white smock of some fine material which reached down to just beneath his knees. Over this, he had a long green coat which was loosely open and only tied closed at the waist over all of this he wore a thick red cope richly embroidered with thick gold thread in strange unchristian designs that somehow wouldn't come into focus. Looking down I noticed that he was the first native I saw to wear something on his feet. He seemed to be wearing slippers of some short but these were no simple cloth coverings these were of fine material, dyed in Royal purple and precious jewels had been threaded into them making every movement of his feet a riot of colour. In one hand he held a fly whisk which was in a constant but languid motion the other hand remained serenely still. And then in a deep bass voice that spoke English with a heavy accent and which easily cut across the noise "Ahh more friends from across the Oceans" the music stopped and the volume dropped "And again from England, just like the crew from the Grace" he looked at Portuguese Consul Marcelo "Inglaterra, não é o cônsul Marcelo correto?" Tadaaki Marelo looked deeply unhappy but smiled a Merchants smile "Isso é correto meu senhor, mas os ingleses são marinheiros ruim e comerciantes ainda pior. Eles provavelmente foram perdidos e apenas encontrou Mbey por acidente, seus produtos não são tão bons como os de Portugal justo" he ends with a little creepy laugh. Most of the nearby crew didn't seem to understand the conversation or were too distracted by the food or the treasure piled up alongside Ngoone Sobel but our Captain understood that was plain to see and he didn't seem too happy about it. Switching back into English the Chief continued "We shall see my friend we shall see, now" he stands up and opens his arms wide "Now my new friends come in, come in" we all shuffle further into the hall and the doors slam shut behind us "Captain Cose, please take a seat here on my right" the Chief points to one of the padded logs near him "We have much to discuss, your...crew? can sit where they like. Eat and be happy" we all looked at the Captain and he had one last look around seeing that the crew of the Grace had until our arrival been happily stuffing their faces and then nodded but added in a harsh whisper "Don't you be showing me or the Peony up men, remember Mr. Webber is a dab hand with the cat" and with that he walked off towards his seat.
(Editors note, It seems young Polly Cracker had a fine night he mentions that the Passengers headed over to speak to a very grim looking man who stood to one side away from the main seating area he tried to get close but the grim man noticed and threw a pebble at him. So he couldn't hear much of the conversation but he notes that the grim Doctor seemed very happy to meet this man again and was surprised to see him here of all places, whilst the Imperial apparently kept asking the man from the Grace to sign his book, the hammer of bitches or some such nonsense. Unable to hear anymore he decided to join the feast. Polly has then jotted down a list of foods, Chicken, Lamb, Peas, couscous, lots of rice and sweet potatoes, goat and a strange tasting wine which was made from the sap of the palm tree. He also mentions a drink called boy or buoy which comes from a tree or was it a monkey! he seems to be a little unclear, imagine that a wine made from pressed monkeys, he was very taken with some of the deserts though from the sticky pages that we received. From Polly and another source we managed to get a general feel of the feast. Captain Cose heard again that the Grace had pulled into Mbey a few days earlier and had indeed bought up every Slave that was currently confined to the pens as Quentin Lambert had boasted about on the Grace. They had managed this feat by offering Chief Sobel a hold full of Norton Wheellocks, minus of course the Portuguese cut. So suddenly the market was now flooded with better weapons and besides there were no slaves to be had even if Sobel wanted the Matchlocks. from the Peony. So as mentioned before Cose had to make a decision stay and wait or risk traveling further down the coast and selling for more profit but risk losing the cargo to bad weather or pirates. Chief Sobel didn't want the Peony to sail as even though the guns were of a lower quality to the ones that now supplied his men he could always do with more and besides he didn't want his neighbors getting muskets. So this feast was a way to please the English and to convince Cose that it was worth waiting. Normally the Captain would have just defaulted to gold but he instructed by the Three Sisters that it was guns for slaves only.
So the feast seemed somewhat bittersweet and the Crew of the Peony felt foolish for not getting here sooner somehow they had all heard rumours of how the new owners dealt with disappointing staff. The feasting continued though for the moment and then Chief Sobel clapped his hands and the music stopped "In honour of my new friends we will have a....lan...lan" he clicks a finger "Ah yes a demonstration" an elderly native comes in, he is wrapped up entirely in a blazing white robe he bows to Sobel and stands back, more natives rush in and clear away the remnants of the feast and after a bit of confusion they manage to
re-seat everyone along the edges of the sunken hall. A lady wearing a robe of dark material walks in carrying a copper bowl filled with water she then walks towards the old man who is something called a Marabout, nods and holds the bowl out towards him. The Marabout closes his eyes and in a deep voice begins to chant something whilst moving his hands over the bowl. This only takes a minute or so and when he finishes he turns to face Sobel and again bows Sobel then claps his hands again and the Halls doors are opened again the rush of colder air jolts some of the Europeans and clears more than one fuzzy head but coming into the Hall stride two young men stripped to the waist and wearing the baggiest trousers anyone had ever seen. Deep scarlet in colour but with strips of different coloured fabric running alongside the outer seams they made an impressive sight. They slowly walked towards the Marabout and dropped to the floor in front of him, he said a few words and pulled out two daggers from under his robe he dipped each into the bowl and flicked first one dagger then the next at the two men in front of him splashing them with water and said a few words which sounded like a question they replied and stood up, the Marabout spun the blades around and offered them hilt first to the men. A hush descended amongst the crews and even the Passengers seemed suddenly interested. Guilio whispering to Thomas that one of the men seemed to be wearing a tiger pelt belt Thomas shrugged and Guilio sighed "but there aren't any Tigers in Africa" Thomas replied that maybe it escaped from somewhere and Guilio looking shocked said "What from Asia? do you think it swam?" Thomas waved him to silence as the men in baggy red trousers began to fight. (Editors note both sources confirm that the fight was spectacular the men displaying amazing skill and though each attacked the other as if in a real fight not a drop of blood was spilt, every impressive blow was countered by an equally impressive parry or dodge and from what Polly Cracker reports the Hall rang with the sounds of blade on blade, great sparks leaping from the tortured metal until Sobel called a halt. The men parted sweating and breathing heavily the Marabout said a few words before retrieving the daggers from the exhausted men. Sobel then clapped his hands again and the chatter died down the area was cleared again and then Sobel spoke"You have seen our men now see our women" and again the doors were heaved open and women in green robes jumped and leapt into the Hall each more beautiful than the previous, more food and drink were also brought in and the music began its hypnotic beat again. (It seems the feast was enjoyed and was successful as the Crew of the Grace as well as Lambert were happy/hungover and the next day found them still at anchor and Lambert was believed to be in talks with a slightly annoyed Marcelo and Captain Cose chose to remain as well but that might have something to do with what Polly overheard as he was waiting on the Captain.
I was having a fantastic time this was nothing like anything I have ever seen or heard or indeed tasted, those deserts were wonderful but the Captain would only let me have two of them something about a deadly sin but the dagger fight and then those women. You never sure anyone in Lincolnshire even on Mayday. Well everyone was having a good time the Captain spent a lot of it talking to that Portuguese gentleman who started to look a little sick if you ask me. The big Chief occasionally spoke to the Captain but seemed to spend most of his time talking to one of the elderly men in the white robes or talking to the red-haired gentleman from the Grace, Lambert? even that grim gent came over and spent some time talking to Lambert, Sobel and Marcelo before snorting and heading back to the Passengers. The feast went on for several hours but finally, Chief Ngoone Sobel signaled it was time to leave, the fire was allowed to burn down and the crews were escorted out not by Marcelo but by the chiefs servants. It was a shock to walk in the cool early morning air after spending all that time in the sweltering heat of the Hall. The crews parted and we were shepherded towards our small boat. I had fallen back a little as it had been a long day and was somewhere near the back when I overheard a conversation between the Passengers and one of the natives I only caught the end of it but it seemed to me like the native fellow was unhappy with his lot and wanted to know if the Passengers could help, something about when we get the guns and he is dead you will be richly rewarded. Gold, slaves and trading treaties were demanded and offered. I don't know what the passengers agreed but they suddenly seemed happier and they hurried towards the front where the Captain was just stepping aboard the boat. Upon re-boarding the Peony the Captain and Passengers hurry down to the Captains cabin the tiredness of the night festivities seemingly dropping away. I'm sent to my bunk but it's not long before I'm summoned to the Captains cabin, this job is not all fun and games you know at least I'm better off than my friend Rodger whose the cabin boy to Captain Pugwash . As I approach the cabin I can hear the tail end of a conversation through the voices are somewhat muffled, "You sure this will work? we could stay well out of it" Another voice which sounded guttural so maybe the Imperial "Nien we are on a timetable and we need slaves and this is the quickest way, your men should be safe as we intend to be in the front. We just need you to provide covering fire.another voice now "But do we need to betray them? we would be rich if we helped overthrow Sobel" The Italians voice this time "I think we tell Sobel, he has the guns and the men, even if this slave manages to overthrow Sobel he would betray us in an instant" there is the sound of paper rustling "These people only follow the strong so he could not remain Chief for long if his people think he only got there because the white man helped" I knocked and the voices stopped there was a brief pause and then the Captain shouted "Enter" I pushed open the door and went inside, the cabin and in the weak lamp light I saw the Passengers who most of them were standing around the Captains desk and were looking down onto some hastily drawn maps. The grim Doctor though was off to one side and was reading a book entitled Captoptrum Microcosmicum and seemed to be taking copious notes from it with an expression bordering on...fear? the Captain seeing me in the doorway bid me enter and handed me a sealed letter to give to Master Webber he also gave me a a list of tasks that I needed to complete before four bells, I was to wash and dry his second best uniform, clean his pistols, get his cutlass Red Razor sharpened and tell Jenkins and Lugi that the ships boat needed to be ready and crewed again by three bells, with my instructions given and sleep a mere memory I was dismissed.
At four bells the Captain and the Passengers were aboard the ships boat and were being rowed back across to the settlement. Master Webber was getting the Peony ship shape again working the men hard finishing off all those little jobs that you could only do at anchor. I did notice with some dread that ammunition was being brought up from the main magazine to fill the ready magazines on deck. Several hours passed before the Captain returned, he said nothing about the fact that the Passengers hadn't returned with him but immediately called for Webber to join him in his cabin and then seeing me patching the up the Moonraker told me to quickly finish up and to tell Meloncelli to prepare a quick meal for him and Master Webber and for it to brought to his cabin. Twenty minutes later I found myself back at the Captains door carrying a large tray heavy with stews, bread and a bottle of wine but bringing in that tray of food allowed me to get an idea of what was going on. Sometimes being the cabin boy does have it's advantages though I'm not sure they counter balance the disadvantages, maybe I should have taken Mr Styles up on his offer as an apprentice chimney sweeper. Anyway from what I can understand a native slave by the name of Lagunda who whilst serving at the feast saw that Captain Cose was disappointed that Chief Sobel was unable to provide slaves so he went up to the Captain and whispered that he could help, he wanted him to know that he
would be very happy to provide many, many slaves for the guns. Unfortunately there was a catch he needed a little help first as not only did he want the guns on credit but he also wanted the Passengers and the Peony to actively help in his little rebellion. From what the Captain was telling Webber Lagunda had convinced many of the Jolaf tribes slaves he also hinted that he had other supporters ready to fight close by. He promised that whatever men remained loyal to Sobel would be given to the Captain as payment for his guns as well as favourable trade rights for the Three Sisters. Webber then asked if we would be supporting this rebellious slave the Captain shook his head before replying "No I don't think we will but either way it helps us. I have spoken to chief Ngoone Sobel and informed him of the situation and he has been most generous in his appreciation Lagunda may later be able to do as he claims but Sobel already can. He pats his pocket with a smile "If this works out as planned the Portuguese will be out and the Association will be in. Webber laughs but then catches himself "And the Passengers?" the Captain smiles "They remained at the settlement, they are playing along with Lagunda find out if these other supporters exist and then they will lead them into a trap. He turns to me "Morgan" he throws a key to me "Break out a bottle of the good stuff, we have much to celebrate"

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I have fallen somewhat behind (shock horror) on these but if you crave more thrilling seventeenth-century adventure involving this motley bunch then check out the G.M's blog page at http://vanishingtower.blogspot.com as we are experimenting with YouTube live (Now that is an existential horror) 😮

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FAST RECAP

The ship

The Party jumped into the dark political world of slave trading with both feet and after some bargaining, spying, and betrayal they ended up leaving happy and with a hold full of dejected Africans who now found themselves chained up and heading to the New World. The Peony made fantastic time fair flying across the waves none of the sailors could remember the weather ever being so favourable in the past the skies remained clear and the wind always seemed to be strong and from the east filling the sails and pushing the ship onwards. Well, that was until the last leg of the journey when the ship entered the dreaded doldrums and with the wind dropping to almost nothing Cose had to lower the ship's boat and with heavy ropes attached they began the back-breaking task of towing the ship across the now mill pond like ocean. After a couple of weirdly timeless days pass another ship was spotted a quarter of a mile of the Port Bow and the Captain ordered the ship's boat untied and a boarding party to go across and investigate, the boarding party consisted of Cuthbert, Wilhelm, the first mate and a couple of English sailors in rather fetching red flannel shirts.

The ship was a technological wonder it was half submerged and leaning at a 45% angle but still, the boarding party could see that it was not a wooden vessel but seemed to be made of metal this was worrying news as when the vessel was first spotted the rumour was that it was one of the new Spanish treasure ships that gossip had  been sent over after the last Pirate attacks. As the boarding party got closer they could see signs that the ship had been attacked as huge rents could now be seen in the ships metal hull. Huge holes had been punched into the ship and sections of plate had been peeled away. The ship was full of strange fungi, moss and other exotic plants and one of them seemed to have seeds of pure gold. The gold fever this sparked was cut short somewhat by the attacking squid and the clockwork spiders. Investigating the main hold they found a wonderous carriage that was extremely opulent and again had strange technological embellishments as they paused to examine this wonder they failed to notice the clockwork spiders unfurl jerkingly from the ceiling of the carriage before dropping behind them. More and more clockwork spiders started to appear and with startling speed, they attacked and soon the boarding party was fighting for their lives. They made a run for the ladder leading out of the hold and almost made it apart from a few cuts and contusions but as they were stacking up at the bottom of the ladder the clockwork spiders suddenly surged forwards again and managed to drag down one of the sailors before he had managed to climb high enough.The others deciding that discretion is the better part of valour leave him to his fate and instead rush back through the black goo filled corridors and head back at a rate of knots to the Peony. The Captain was informed and he decided that gold or not they would leave the strange ship for the more foolish to deal with. His decision was helped by the wind finally picking up and the ship's sails started to twitch before filling out with a weak but growing ever stronger breeze.

The Peony was soon again heading to the island of Roatan and the Party was kept busy with various tasks, Cuthbert learned to handle cannons and the Doctor tried to keep the slaves alive and ready for the auction.

Roatan 

The tropical island was reached and the Peony anchored off the small English outpost that was located on the western end of the island. A wooden stockade sat high up upon a wide beach which faced a reefed lagoon. The captain, some crew and the Party went across and gifts were exchanged with the man who presented himself as the Governor and after some dealing the word went out that a new batch of slaves had arrived and was ready for viewing. Buccaneers sailed across to the mainland to make arrangements and to inform the logging camps that new flesh was up for sale. The Party and crew enjoyed the pleasures of the small village the one drinking establishment saw heavy use, as well as the makeshift church and everyone, was starting to feel safe and rested as injuries healed and food and drink were consumed which didn't contain weevils. That was until the stockade was hit during the night by a raiding force of Spanish. The Party barely made it through the night unprepared as they were and if it wasn't for the well-trained militia and the cannons of the Peony the stockade would have been wiped out leaving nothing but ash and the warning that the English were not welcomed in these waters. In the smoke-filled morning, the burnt remains of the outer camp could be seen the tents and rough cabins were burnt out and it looked like that many of the poorer inhabitants had paid the highest price for a hope of a new life. The stockade itself was in a pretty bad way a huge opening had been blasted through the wooden wall by the island-gate and some of the buildings had suffered the same fate as those beyond. Bodies lay strewn in piles by the gates and outside alongside the walls where the Spanish had tried to break through before being stopped by the militias firepower. Cuthbert was blackened by soot and seemed oddly saddened when he saw that many of the stockades canons now lay bent and buried in the sand. The Governor angrily refused to leave instead claiming that they would rebuild bigger and better and that no Spanish scum would force them to leave their new homes, they had all sacrificed too much already just to get here. Captain Cose ordered his crew to help out with the initial clear up, fires were put, supplies gathered, Spanish bodies stripped and dragged into the jungle to be burnt whilst the small church soon had a large number of sad sandy mounds surrounding it but the Captain said that he could only stay until the last high tide as he planned to leave and seek shelter instead on the mainland and its stronger fortifications. 

 

More later ran out of time....

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Edited by Butters
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So has anyone watched the live recordings and if so what do you think, good bad or indifferent? and does anyone have any tips or advice should the Doctor concentrate on upping his medical skills or should he improve his swordsmanship in an effort to live long enough to actually heal people? 

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No opinion about the doctor's skill advancement, but I did enjoy listening to you guys play. Sounds like a 'normal' group, fairly focused, not apeing for the camera.

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FAST RECAP II

The shabby stockaded trading post/settlement on Roatan was left smoldering behind as the CL.U.Ber's took a skiff to the mainland they wished the Governor well and said they would pass on his warnings to the main British settlement that the Spanish were again trying to wipe out any possible rivals to their colonial power in the area. The Peony to left and headed for safer waters Captain Cose did not fancy his chances if he encountered the Spanish warship now identified as the Trinidad captained by that notorious Pirate hunter Alcola.

The CL.U.Ber's reach the mouth of the Haulover Creek and are rowed into the shabby but bustling village of Belize. The place stank to high heaven everywhere there was an everpresent smell of rotting wood but the place seemed thriving there were people of all colors moving around, dockers loaded up ships with barrels of dye from the processed logwood whilst others unloaded the goods needed to keep the port alive, sailors headed to ships some oddly heavy armed with cannons, street hawkers plying their trade selling everything from the mundane to the exotic. Animals scurried everywhere and the sounds of cows and pigs being slaughtered added to the general cacophony. The place smelled bad sounded worse but the CL.U.Ber's didn't seem to mind as to them it smelled of home and civilization even the smell of all that sweaty humanity seemed reassuring after the long sea voyage. 

They were dropped off by an Inn (The inn was called the Throbbing Prickle 🤪) which the boatman recommended, the ale was hardly watered down and the bedding got changed at least once a month and the lice aren't a problem as the scorpions eat most of them. 

They got themselves a couple of rooms and after a meal and a few drinks and listening to the local gossip which was all pretty bad as rumours were flying of a large Spanish military campaign getting underway but most of the older patrons didn't seem too worried merely saying that it's happened before and it will happen again no doubt but the jungle is none too far and the Spanish never search that far. The CL.U.Ber's tell their story of the attack on Roatan and even manage to get a few free drinks out of it, especially after they heard about the huge explosion that nearly destroyed the landward gate. A quick note was dispatched to what passed as Alderman here informing them of the events on Roatan, the Spanish ship and Captain Alcola. After a restful day trying to adjust to the humid local conditions the CL.U.Ber's retired for the night. The next day was spent exploring the settlement and trying to pick up any local gossip about Mallebeench. The C.L.U.Ber's experienced the full force of culture shock in those sweaty stench filled alleyways and roads the town was filled with people from all over white, black and everything in between natives strolled around some wearing a strange combination of western and local dress strange monkeys howled from cages whilst oddly long-limbed ones stared mournfully at the passing of the CL.U.Ber's only a few tried to reach out for food before being brought short by the thin chains which hung around their necks. Gaily coloured birds flew overhead their squawking adding to the sense of otherworldliness felt by the party. They had to force their way past crowds of people, defend themselves from hawkers and pickpockets until they reached the main market/civic center. The building was one of the few stone buildings in Belize and it rose two stories and sported a thickly thatched roof which overhung an arcade of stalls and auction blocks the dim porch was cool and provided much welcome relief from the humidity. All their inquiries had brought them here and asking around the finally met a man who could provide the information. The man provided services to some of the explorers that passed through here from time to time those that came to find their Eldorado or just the men who worked for the lumber Barons all needed guides all needed supplies and he could provide both for the right price. The wheels suitably greased he told the CL.U.Ber's of a man who matched the description of this Mallebeench fellow but that apart from a few basic supplies he sadly hadn't purchased much from him deciding instead to spend his coin hiring scum from the gutters before heading out towards the deep jungle. The man sighed and when pressed replied "I do not think your friend made a good investment he spent foolishly not enough food and water and those scum he hired will have him dead and naked as soon as they hit the jungle" he did not know of any city called Bendal Dolum but he admitted that there were still plenty of strange native cities out there now hidden by the dense jungle so who knows what treasure filled temples remained out there ready for the plucking. He rubbed his thumb and forefinger together indicating that some more money needed to change hands and afterwards smiling a black gap-toothed smile he told them that the furthest outpost of civilization in these parts was the Jesuit Block and Tackle mission run by old Father Goodchild who constantly battled to save the souls of the heathen savages and it seems they were in luck he points languidly to a thin man a couple of stalls down the man seems to be wearing faded and patched robes and has a wagon full of fruits, barrels and other farm produce. The CL.U.Ber's swallowed their disgust at having to approach a Catholic priest but needs must. The man was weather-beaten and thin but otherwise seemed healthy enough and his eyes still held some conviction in them and when approached by the CL.U.Ber's he apologized and gesturing to his overloaded wagon politely asked them to wait but as soon as he had completed his business he would be more than happy to speak to them.  

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Edited by Butters

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🤪FAST RECAP III

The Priest soon conclude his business, selling the contents of his wagon and buying a few tools and goods in return the Party sweated even in the shaded spot they had found the expedition guide kept chatting away mentioning the countries deadly flora and fauna with some relish everything from the Manchineel Tree and is poisonous sap to the Tommygoff snake the CL.U.Ber's started to realise that they were indeed far from home where the worst they had to worry about was feral dogs and the occasional Adder. So it was with some relief when the Priest finally came over and they had an excuse to leave, so bidding their ghoulish yet informative friend farewell they strolled beside the Priest.

Father Goodchild was luckily a rather pleasant man one who was more than happy to talk to anyone especially those new from back home he hungered for gossip from the courts and palaces of the old world. He was shocked and horrified to hear that King Charles was dead and it became a little awkward, the Doctor had to be moved further away from Goodchild and reminded that it was too early to be making waves. Luckily Wilhelm was able to steer the conversation into safer waters by mentioning that the Spanish and Dutch were now at war over some Spanish holdings in the far east. This interested Goodchild immensely as it confirmed some gossip he had heard, he crossed himself and muttered "Beata María Madre de Cristo" It now took Giulio to skillfully avoid an incident and coughing loudly told the Priest why they were there. The cover story wasn't that far from the truth really we were looking for someone it just wasn't a friend. Leading the Party to a house which had a small shop taking up its lower floor he gestured to some empty benches and told the Party to sit he went up and spoke to the elderly native lady who stood behind a small counter next to a simmering fireplace. The eating house was tidy and smelt wonderful and the CL.U.Ber's suddenly remembered it had been a while since breakfast. The Priest returned shortly followed by the lady both were carrying trays of dishes and steaming bowls of food, the food smelled wonderful but the CL.U.Ber's were somewhat hesitant Cuthbert broke the silence by asking Goodchild "Err it all looks lovely but what is it?" Goodchild laughed and began describing the food, Tortillas, pasty looking Panades, and Bile up now this took some explanation but after Goodchild started to dig in the others apart from the Doctor tentatively at first then with increasing gusto started to cram the food in. The old woman pushed a plate of brown stew at the Doctor and seeing the look of concern on the ladies face when he gently pushed it away asked Goodchild to translate that he had lost his appetite due to the recent death of a family member, the old lady smiled sadly and taking the bowl away gave his hand a gentle squeeze Doctor Norton suddenly missed his Mum mustache and all.

Over the meal, Father Goodchild answered what questions he could, yes he remembered a man matching Mallebench hiring men but never really spoke to him he just thought he was another foolish Englishman looking to get rich quick on some harebrained treasure hunt. He did know they Kayo tribe though, in fact, they were quite a large tribal group near to his mission it was his task to convert these heathens to Christianity. He said he had made some progress but still had a way to go as the natives didn't see any reason to follow the one true God over their pantheon, in fact, some were happy enough just to add the all mighty to it, of course, he did his best to stamp out such heresy.  The meal over Father Goodchild agreed to take the CL.U.Ber's inland as far as his mission if they could be ready to leave in the morning as had various reports, as well as the previous months, accounts to hand over to the curate at the towns only church he also agreed to try and arrange an introduction to the chief of the Kayo tribe, he seemed oddly happy about this. The CL.U.Ber's head back to the Throb and begin to prepare their equipment and gear, for the trip inland there was a lot of chatter as after so long at sea they had a solid lead now and a direction to follow and hopefully, it would lead them just that little bit closer to the man they hunted.


 

 

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Edited by Butters
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FAST RECAP IV


The morning found the CL.U.Ber's waiting outside the large whitewashed building that served as the settlements church and the group was already grumbling about idolatry, the heat and the constant clouds of biting insects which seemed to be attracted to them. The sun rose slowly casting it unforgiving light across the smoky settlement and the roughly cleared land around the town leaving only the jungles in darkness. The gates of the church suddenly bang open startling the CL.U.Ber's. Father Goodchild strode out waving back at someone but as he turned and saw the CL.U.Ber's standing there in various forms of undress he paused briefly before smiling and continuing forwards into the muddy street to greet them. Most of the CL.U.Ber's were slowly learning to adapt to their new conditions and were now wearing partial armour, an open buff coat here a pushed back helmet there and as Goodchild greeted them in turn he noticed that there was something lost in each of them a sin that weighed heavily on them especially the odd man out the one who introduced himself as the Doctor who was still wearing full Harquebusier armour and as such was already slightly swaying and sweat was already pouring down the mans skeletal features he also refused to remove his gloves to shake Goodchild's hand which he regarded as if it was some sort of poisonous snake.  
The introductions made again and with the Fathers escort and overladen wagon rumbling into the main street, the Father began to talk the CL.U.Ber' s through the journey ahead. he told them it would take just under two days to reach the Block and Mission so at least one night under the stars he also told them that the first leg was going to be fairly easy as it would be taking place over ground near the river though he did warn everyone to stay away from suspicious logs. He said that after the first day they would be turning away from the river and heading North West into the deep jungle and then the going would get progressively worse and yes that meant the CL.U.Ber's would have to help push the wagon.
The journey was an eye opener for the CL.U.Ber's the settlement mix of peoples from all over the world seemingly they heard everything from gruff Scottish to something similar to what they had heard in Senegambia and everything in between. Even at this early hour, the town was bustling with people stalls were being set up, fishing boats already heading out and the constant sound of 
axe on wood was already becoming just background noise. The small convoy passed through the towns landward gate and the CL.U.Ber's were relieved to see militiamen patrolling the walls and streets they were even more relieved to see a brace of cannon in a formidable looking bastion just outside the town which was placed to keep watch on the road and from the strong smell of match cord they were ready, no Spanish raiding party would be getting past them without paying the full price. The Father had brought a small escort with him consisting of natives and slaves or so the CL.U.Ber's first thought but as the humidity wore on people talked and they found out that all were freemen even though two of them admitted to being runaways all of them had been looking for a safe place and in the Mission and Father Goodchild they had found both that and a purpose as well. The area around Belize town was given over to small farms and further out the logging camps more than once the convoy has to pull over to the side of the road to let past wagons heavy with logwood and mahogany some of the waggoners waved and smiled whilst a few just scowled at the Father one even made a sign to ward off the evil eye. The river was a sewer close by the settlement muddy and stinking with the overspill from the farms and camps but by midday, the convoy had traveled far enough up that the water seemed clearer though still muddy with silt and Father Goodchild was able to point out the strange log creatures or as the CL.U.Ber's who had been to school called them, Crocodiles. A few of them were sunning themselves on a nearby mudflat they were fairly modest in size but still had more than enough of an air of menace about them to keep the CL.U.Ber's away from them.  The journey along the roads alongside the river was easy enough and the groups slowly mingled and got to chatting and tales were exchanged, there were also a couple of lively debates about which was the correct way to worship. Father Goodchild turned out to be a very amiable and even the Doctors barbs simply washed off him. 
The Party camped up as the sun started to set and soon there was a cheery fire blazing away with some strange animal cooking away over it. The natives had left the convoy and disappeared into the light jungle an hour before camp and had returned with some game and a variety of berries and plants, the Doctor became very interested and even Cuthbert shuffled over from where he was lurking to chat to the natives about the local flora. Wilhelm chatted to Goodchild and seemed very interested in something called a water vine and it seemed that Goodchild was telling him how to correctly cut this plant.  The night passed comfortably the CL.U.Ber's somewhat battered bedrolls still providing excellent service even after all this time.
The morning arrived and even in the shadowed jungle the heat hammered down, the camp was struck and the final leg to the Mission got underway. And it was as Goodchild had told them the trail was barely that and they traveled at a snail's pace. The wagon needed to be pushed and pulled several times the worst incident was when they were crossing a small river, the combination of river mud and rocky ford took time and strength to get through and there was a lot of swearing and arguing over the best way to get the wagon across, but after nearly three hours they had dragged, pushed and kicked the wagon across to the mocking hooting of the numerous monkeys which had soon gathered to watch the farcical actions of these strange pasty creatures. Their howls really seemed to annoy Guilio who as soon as the wagon was across began throwing stones up at the trees causing the monkeys to howl even louder and in a couple of cases throw things including evil-smelling feces which drove the Italian into an even greater rage. After calming down the Italian who kept muttering something about "Bloody Imps" whilst rubbing at one of his older scars the small convoy got underway again Father Goodchild casting a few worried glances Guilios way walked over and told the CL.U.Ber's that they should reach the Mission within the next few hours and certainly, before dark he also warns them not to go near any bright yellow vines which they find hanging down from the trees as they would more than likely be Vipers which would doom a man to a painful death if bitten. The CL.U.Ber's stayed close to the wagon now that they were in the deeper jungle it had been several hours since they had seen the last logging camp and four hours since the last lumberjack.
After a couple more episodes of pushing the wagon through muddy creeks and clearing away the occasional fallen tree, they finally stumble out into some cleared land the sudden increase in light was causing them to squint as their eyes watered in the sudden light. The mission was a fairly large building a house/chapel surrounded by a rough stone wall which formed a courtyard. It once must have been fairly impressive once but now it was showing signs of disrepair. The walls were no longer whitewashed though patches of faded white could still be seen here and there also as they got closer and their eyes adjusted the CL.U.Ber's could see rough patch repairs in both the outer wall and on the building 
it surrounded. The area outside the compound was cleared and the small fields were being worked upon by a couple of natives who when hearing the sound of the wagon and Goodchild's cry dropped their tools and rushed out laughing and calling back to the Party. The small convoy was soon surrounded by people all laughing and joking a few of the more impatient ones already searching the wagon before Goodchild shooed them away and in a whirlwind of movement, smiling faces and gentle prodding the CL.U.Ber's found themselves alone in a tidy but basic room with jugs of cool fresh water, and cups of something called Cacao. Father Goodchild bustled in smiling and full of energy whereas the CL.U.Ber's were beat the Doctor swaying dangerously still wearing his armor his one good eye gleaming dangerously. Father Goodchild told them that he had sent a runner to Chief Ticocha the man who led the Koyoh tribe, he smile grew even larger "See my friends your quest to find your lost friend is nearly at an end Ticocha will know all there is to know about this, and I've  just invited him to a feast celebrating new friends from across the seas." Thomas de Fronsac stalked over his hand resting on his rapier "Father" he hissed "we are grateful for all your help but you seem somehow unseemly happy to have us here and somewhat hasty in organising this feast" Goodchild stepped back raising his hands palm outwards at the Frenchmans approach "Ah I'm sorry but please do not think I mean to do you harm I just saw the hand of God at work us meeting like we did and you looking for your friend and the Kayo tribe.....you see they are one of the larger tribes in these parts though they are known by many other names and it's been my life's work to convert these benighted heathens to the one true god" the CL.U.ber's looked at each other in surprise the Father continued "You see with you coming here I can finally get the Chief to come here into this house of God at last and surely he will listen to the good word"  seeing the CL.U.Ber's relax
 and that Thomas had moved his hand away from his sword he smiled "Now hurry up and get ready we have souls to save!"
 

After the CL.U.Ber' had smartened themselves up and they had managed to get the Doctor awake and focused (This took a lot of water and a cold compress) they were escorted by one of the Missions Christian natives who took them through the semi-ruined building to the house/Chapel at the back. The doors were open and the CL.U.Ber's could see wild natives standing around talking and drinking a few of them stare at the passing group a couple even nod and smile the Party step across the threshold and into the building proper. The centre of the room is filled with a blazing fire from which a variety of soot-darkened pots hang over bubbling away and producing strange and mouthwatering smells. Along the sides of the room low tables have been arrayed and behind them a variety of pillows  had been placed most of them currently occupied by natives and free Africans, the top table has an elderly yet still powerful looking man whose elaborate clothing and general regal bearing marked him out as this Ticocha fellow he was currently engaged in deep conversation with Goodchild stood behind them was a young powerfully built man whose intelligent eyes swept the room constantly his hands resting upon a large wooden club-like weapon which glittered darkly with some glass like objects which had been set along both edges of the club. One of the natives who had walked back with the wagon was chatting away with a wild native and one of the Africans effortlessly switching between the languages. Seeing the CL.U.Ber's Goodchild stands and waves them over "Ahh welcome, welcome he gestures to the man who was still sitting "This is Chief Ticocha leader of the Kayo tribe in these parts and soon to be baptized......hopefully" the old man just smiles slightly as if this is a conversation he has heard many times before. 
The CL.U.Ber's settle down and spend an entertaining night in the company of the Kayo tribe the Chief did see how the winds were blowing and 
was almost ready to take the plunge but just couldn't give up on his old gods quite yet and this is where the CL.U.Ber's and their quest came in as it seemed that the Chief was very unhappy and worried when he found out that we were hunting another white man. The hunting part was fine it was that we believed that he was headed for Bendal Dolum. It took some persuading and the fire was mere embers but finally, he began to tell the CL.U.Ber's through Goodchild and the native translator why this was such a problem.
There was once a mighty city-state by the name of 
Bendal Dolum which was wisely ruled by the Ahau and his caste of priests the Maya there were of the Itzel and they and it had grown wealthy and prosperous on trade the city controlling access to the nearby mountain passes. The people grew fat and happy but the Ahau were no fools and still kept the warrior lodges full of lean warriors who lived to fight, to capture powerful victims for sacrifice so that the gods would notice them so none of the other nearby states dare challenge them. Then the years of sickness came, the fields died and the rains stopped falling, City turned upon city desperate to take by conquest what they needed to survive, desperate to gather enough victims for the priests to sacrifice to appease the gods so that they would bring back the happy times.  The happy times did not return and the once mighty cities became ghost cities as the few living retreated into the jungles to survive all that is apart from Bendal Dolum. The city suffered like the others at first even more so if the rumors of civil war and cannibalism are to be believed but no one checked as all were too busy trying to survive themselves the last rumors were that there had been a purge and that the current Ahau Kinich Ajaw Janaas had been deposed by a group of the younger priests. Then the city fell silent no word comes from there no voice told of the conditions and no one returned who traveled to it. The Chief shakes his head sadly his voice like gravel "We should have sent someone, some help to Ajaw Janaas and his people we were suffering but the sea still held a bounty but we did not blinded as we were by our own problems and by the time we did it was too late, far too late." 
The old man continued after a brief coughing fit the only other sound was the last of the wood popping in the fire with a shower of sparks. It seems that as the years of sickness reached its terrible peak and the people thought the gods had forsaken them people slowly came from 
Bendal Dolum they were pale and sickly their faces concealed behind grotesque wooden masks which were shaped as if they were in constant pain. These were the followers of the Old Gods the ones who once walked between the stars but who now slept waiting for the time to be right again but whose dreams could be sensed by these new Priests and through these dreams, they were taught how to worship properly and in return gifted true blessings. These diseased ones stalked the land trying to convert the other cities and for  a time they were successful their magic worked they could provide food and full bellies and all they asked was that the new convert take a token to their city as a sign of their faith and they would be taken to the great Temples on the lake and be reborn in the faith of the Old Ones. Now was that too much to ask for all the gifts of food and safety that the Old Gods would grant? A lot of people went to Bendal Dolum taken in by the smooth whispers and promises of these Priests but not all as others felt repelled and soul-sick in the presence of these very selfsame priests and refused to go on the pilgrimage of the weeping eyes. The city in the lake swallowed all those who entered but with the road to the city reopened things could now get out and the stories and rumours troubled those remaining cities but they were far too weak to do anything.
It took a while but the years of Sickness finally came to an end and those left were no longer troubled by the disease of brown water which stole their energy and finally their lives also the rains returned and again the rivers flowed strongly once more and the maize grew tall and strong. 
Apart from the masked Priests and a few heavily hooded men who traded rubies for slaves and a few other items no other left the city on the lake, no diplomats arrived seeking allies or tribute no people left to meet up with old friends or to see family, 
Bendal Dolum had returned but was not the same city as before. The old man sighed "All continued for a year or so some cities never recovered and remained grim reminders of the gods fickleness but others started to fill up again the farmers returned to their fields and people got on with living but always Bendal Dolum squatted in that valley  and then the villages nearest their valley started emptying no one knew why but nothing living remained the only thing found was a strange symbol carved into the ground and those who saw it experienced nightmares and death. The tribes and cities finally united behind a powerful Chilan who claimed he had seen the gods world plan was being changed and corrupted by those now in Bendal Dolum.  An army was sent down the High road to seek answers and put these new Priests to the test.  He smiled "Well you can guess what happened but let's just say it ended badly only one man returned and he was half mad with the things he had witnessed. The Old gods were real and they were hungry after their long slumber. He went on to describe the terrible war that almost finished off the Mayan people but they knew they had to cleanse the corruption before it spilled out of that dark valley. Everyone united as they had never before the Mopan, Yucatec, Kayo and even the Kekchi sent all the men they could spare and the War of the gods had begun. He told tales of desperate battles against suicidal attacks launched by the scared ones of the slow grind towards the city on the lake, of the villages put to the torch the women and children burnt alive and how these deaths became seen as a mercy killings as the people had been changed somehow. The battle of the peaks where the Maya finally forced themselves into the valley of the Itzel became the watershed as all now could see how far the Itzel had fallen under their new gods. The valley was once one of the most fertile areas in this part of the country the soil rich and irrigated by the numerous streams and rivers which flowed from the mountains and into the great lake now instead of fields of maize interspaced with fruit and nut trees nothing but barren fields remained all coated in a strange black ooze and it was through this strange landscape that the army marched through. Many became sick as the ooze burnt into them causing yellow blisters to form almost instantly whilst others started to cough up blood these men were sent back and so as the army marched it slowly became smaller. The old man coughed and asked for a drink of spicy chocolate the fire was prodded back into life which cheered up the Chief as he said "Some tales are best told in the light lest the things in the darkness become curious" Once all had returned and sat down again the Chief continued "This is what we thought was the ending but maybe "He looks at the CL.U.Ber's "We were wrong, the army marched into the precincts of the eerily quiet city no one was encountered, not even a child all was still until they reached the central temple and they learned why. The central plaza was piled high filled with the stinking bodies of a cities population fat flies buzzed lazily through the rotten charnel remains. All those people had been killed in the same way but not in the holy way their hearts remained caged behind their ribs instead their heads had been smashed open and the brains removed. The enemy who had fought so fiercely before had been killed by their Priests but for what reason? With the Itzel and their converts dead surely they had won or so they thought but then the chanting began and a green mist began to flow down from the temple. The mist flowed amongst the dead and the air became heavy with the stench of rotten meat, waste, and blood....the flies gathered together in a huge central ball buzzing loudly as their feast was interrupted and the buzzing reached almost painful levels before they poured through the shocked living, crawling over their sweat soaked bodies forcing their ways into eyes, mouths ears and noses all the time the volume of the buzzing increased until with a bang of displaced air that knocked down a few of the panicking warriors. And then the reason why Bendal
Dolum is now known among my people as the city of the Necromancers becomes obvious............................. the dead moved.

It was nearing two am and the fire had long died out and now only a lantern and a few sputtering candles remained to keep the darkness at bay as the Chief continued his tale. "Hundreds of dead shuffled and wormed their way upwards to stand blocking the way to the Great Temple. Arrayed before the living the dead now stood rank after rank, this disrespect to Lord Ac Puch could not be allowed to stand but the living wavered most of the dead were unknown but here and there was a corpse that someone recognised with a start of horrified shock, a Mother or a sibling those that had been taken in by the honeyed words of the pale priests. Silence descended and the two great hosts just stood inches apart, the green fog still flowed down the Temple steps forming a thick bank that covered the plazas stone floor. The tension was almost a living thing and then a loud mellow sound rang out from the top of the Temple looking up the living could see a giant painted man he strode down the steps followed by an escort of pale priests, he was blowing into a huge painted conch horn the loud single note it produced echoing out across the silent city and as it faded the dead moved and the giant laughed.

Many heroes were born that day only to die soon afterward's dragged down by the hands of the dead and ripped asunder but the living would not give up now not after sacrificing so much just to get this far if the peoples song was over then so be it but they would avenge their loved ones and their gods. prayers were offered up to Buluc Chabtan and the living surged forwards. The battle of the mouth of Xibalba lasted two days and nights and on the third day those that remained among the living found themselves climbing up the Temple steps surrounded by a sea of gore and rot. They looked up into the rising sun and knew that Kinich Ahu was with them and even though they were soul weary, tired and near death themselves they continued to march upwards. The first tier was held by the hooded ones but they were swept away their forms now exposed to the blessings of the sun, they were pathetic things thin, broken and diseased their flesh covered in deep brands and scarification. The second tier was filled with the masked priests whose very presence disturbed those close. Here the battle was hard fought the priests though unarmed prove hard to kill and their nails were like claws and they were able to rip great chunks of flesh and muscle away with just a single swipe of their arms but again they fell to the chipped and broken daggers and axes of the living. The once vast host of Mopan, Yucatec, Kayo and yes even the Kekchi was but a shadow's shadow of what it had been only a day ago" The Chief laughed "You white men every think how you conquer us so easily? why you found so many of our cities already empty? between the years of sickness and the Itzel, we never had a chance we were broken before you even sailed across the great ocean" 

He coughs and asks for another blanket "Well those that still clung to life now crawled up to the last tier their shields broken their once splendid outfits of feathers tattered and bent or ripped away completely only those who wore the salted cotton could still stagger upright and even these few mighty warriors leaned heavily on their spears but still they all climbed upwards to face the painted giant. 

The Chief paused again "I warn you this is not like your fairy tales life I find rarely is" with that strange warning he began the end of the tale."The last few hundred warriors climbed to the top of the Temple and surrounded the altar which the giant stood before watching their approach with complete indifference. The few remaining K'inich struggled to the front of their retinues and they looked to K'inich 
Jaakal of the Kayo for leadership and with a nod he straightened up and with his jade embedded macuahuitl  gripped tightly in one hand whilst the legendary shield of scales hung from the other he strode towards the painted giant who had finally turned towards him a strange mocking smile across his face. K'inich Jaakal pointed his macuahuitl at the giant's chest and opened his mouth only to be cut short by the giant "You want answers? why did this happen? how did the dead escape the halls of Xibalba? why did all these people die?" he looked around at the tired and battered armies of the Maya and laughed and with a huge bellow he shouted up to the skies "Why did your gods allow this?" he then points at K'inich Popool Jaakal and the warriors beyond "How did they allow me to corrupt the people of the Hero twins, how was I allowed to make them turn their backs on all that they believed and instead perform such foul rites and cannibalistic orgies to the glory of the Old Gods and with such joy in their hearts? he reached for an obsidian dagger that was thrust through a beaded belt, K'inich Jaakal raised the shield of scales and prepared to fight. The giant just laughed again and looked down at the dagger "You are worried about this tiny thing?" he suddenly thrust the stone dagger into his chest and began to feverishly work it past his rib cage gouging out a huge red hole in the process he began to laugh again "That is almost my Masters final gift to you, the seeds are planted it just remains to gather in the harvest" with that he screams as he rips out his heart
nd contemptuously throws it into K'Inich Jaakals
face before slumping forwards in death. The Chief sighed and that's the story of how the once mighty Maya were reduced, the armies searched the city finding only a few Itzel left alive these were dealt with as they saw fit. The only thing of note was the shaft that pierced through the Temple to a cavern below it was searched and the priests insisted that it and the Temple be sealed never to be used again. The rest of the city gave little else up no silver, no maize no jade nothing all was barren. The little food found was all spoiled by the same black ooze that covered the plain outside the city walls. So after all that effort, we were no closer to finding out why nor did we understand how a city once so mighty had fallen so far. The priests tried to read the numerous Stele that surrounded the Temple but after three had dashed their brains out they were just toppled, maybe ignorance is bliss but still....we wonder" he shakes his head as if to clear it before continuing  "Since the city had nothing to offer the priests and the K'inich decided to give the city back to the jungle so that whatever corruption it held would soon be hidden and safe. We of the Kayo tribe were given the task of guarding the city and its lake which have done so until your kind arrived mad with the lust of gold and conquest. If this man you seek has gone to the city of the Necromancers then" he pauses looking each of the CL.U.Ber's in the eyes as if searching for something  "Then you best be stopping him before he finds out what we could not"

After Chief Ticocha had told his story he asked if we realised what we were asking for, the Kayo tribe had kept the secrets of Bendal Dolum safe until now, he also told the CL.U.Ber's that normally they would have been ambushed and killed in the old days to prevent them from even reaching this far but times were changing even the degenerate descendants of those Itzel who avoided the purges are now crawling out of their hiding places. He nodded to the powerfully built man behind him "I am old and tired and have given you what help I can so I will leave you now in my son's care, his name is Unjay you will be provided with some men and supplies one of the men will be a speaker" the old Chief staggered up helped by Prince Unjay he looked back at the CL.U.Ber's "The Old gods must not return and I fear that all those deaths in the past were just a first step towards something terrible" he gives a snort "Ha, even the painted giant was just a puppet for all the terror he caused, we will give you a chance to capture this white fool Mallebench but if the Itzel leave Bendal  in numbers we will be forced to call what remains of the peoples together and finish what was started all those years ago, and this time we shall not leave a stone standing"


 

 

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The Doctors Journal

Well, it seems that even here in these far-flung lands Satan schemes to overthrow the natural order of things. I don't know if I beleive everything the old man said but is not the Bible filled with tales even more fantastical? I guess we will find out in a few days time if what Prince Unjay tells us ends out to be true, though I must admit I'm not looking forward to hacking my way through this blasted jungle again even with Ralphs hatchet it is hard work. It seems that our escort would consist of the prince, a couple of veteran warriors, a speaker which turns out to be a native who can actually speak English (It's been very hard on the voice shouting at bemused looking people whilst trying to get a drink) and rather surprisingly Father Goodchild. I suspect he hopes to make some political gain out of this dire situation typical of the Catholics all show and no substance. The supplies they have supplied will come in handy though especially the water and sharpening stones well I must get some sleep as the sun is just below the horizon and I suspect it will be a long day tomorrow.

I'm still barely eating.................... 

It seems we are not going to Bendal yet, the blasted natives seem to have forgotten where it is so we are heading to a way station of sorts it was part of the Mayan road network before being abandoned after the trade routes to Bedal were closed. Through the Speaker, the Prince told us that the temple there had a map that would show us the way. How can anyone lose a city? I know I temporarily forgot where Norwich was but it was dark and I was very, very drunk. that damn Croat mercenary had bought me doubles in that last Inn in celebration of making it through the war and being so close to home. You know he wasn't a bad sort for being a foreigner, shame he died after that incident at St. Godwalds he may have been the first to die but I fear there may be many more deaths before this saga reaches its conclusion. 

 

 

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The Doctors Journal

Well, that was a lovely break, it rained and everything is soaked through luckily my powders remained dry the medical chest again justifying that extra money I spent on it and all that Bees wax and Tallow I've rubbed into it over the years, Lawks that stuff smells terrible. On the good news front the natives whilst excellent hunters where poor cooks but for the first time I was able to eat something and enjoy it even though the meat could only be charitably classed as rare.

After a quick breakfast, we headed towards this way station apparently it was called Karkemel and according to the Unjay, it was only another five hours of backbreaking work cutting a path through the jungle to get there I can now understand how this accursed city remained hidden for so long. Godzooks,! I'm thirsty.

Finally, we reach the small clearing where this way station is, must admit a little disappointed, to be honest, it was mostly in ruins through the stepped pyramid at the one end of the small plaza seemed to be in fairly good condition. The opposite end was just broken walls and jagged stone blocks yet to be claimed by the jungle. When we got closer the plaza was in pretty bad condition roots and trees pushing through the foundation stones but it still had a faded glory about it. Near the Temple steps lay a stone cover which seemed to cover up a well or some kind of shaft, the cover was cracked through the centre and was only held together by some sort of opposing force. Two stone stele had been placed either side of the plaza their sides covered in the curious pictographs of these people. Unjay pointed towards the Temple and headed off towards it, the Temple was of the same basic design of many of the other buildings designed as important civil buildings though this one was much narrower it also seemed to have built not on the floor but on top of a huge stone block and stairs needed to be climbed to even reach the Temples base.  Which cheered me up no end I can tell you what with me wearing al this armour but I've learned it's better to be safe than sorry especially after Ralphs death. After some more climbing and then a little more climbing in the heat (Good news the rain has stopped...finally)we reached the top and the small building on the top. Cutting through some vines noticing some new growth caused by someone doing something similar to us in the recent past we managed to get into the room beyond.

What a room, the walls, and ceilings were covered in wonderous mosaics made from coloured stones and glass all revealing an intricate network of roads and paths which connected a great realm of city-states I was shocked what was displayed in this room, this mere way station hinted at a great empire that covered this land thousands of people separate yet all connected by trade all flowing down these arteries. And yet we were only just figuring out how to send a letter to Edinburgh without it getting lost. The others recovered quickly and soon the Speaker and Unjay were calling for torches they had found an area cleared of the vines and ancient moss and taking lantern and paper and I saw a tiny carving of Bendal Dolum, the plains of ooze and the dark lake. The map was roughly copied and double checked and when nothing else was found to help us we left the Temple. 

It took us a moment or two to realise what was different, the jungle was quiet and still, Unjay looked around and called his men close and then we all heard the chanting. It seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere no one could be seen but soon a green fog roiled from out of the jungle and soon the plaza was buried under this unnatural fog. Goodchild crossed himself and backed up his crucifix was gripped firmly in his hands. The Speaker also backed up muttering  "Muerte verde, muerte verde" Cuthbert had to slap him around the head and yell "Speak English you bloody heathen" several times before the Speaker who now looked terrified muttered "It's the Green death" and shaking off Cuthbert's weak grip he ran towards the map room. 

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