Our heroes, Isabella and Wilhelm, arrive in London seeking to book passage on a ship to the German provinces. Wandering the docks, the rescue a young page from a brutal beating by a gang of young ruffians. Grateful for their intervention, the youth gets their names, promising to tell his lord and master of their aid.
Leaving the boy to his errands, the two stumble upon a crew of city watchmen drawing a butchered body from the Thames. The horrified crowd mutters dark thoughts on gang violence, axe-wielding murderers, but many put the blame on recently dead witch still hanging in a gibbet in the local square. Convicted by a local magistrate of good standing, it is said the witch opened her wrists with her own teeth before uttering a death curse upon the people of London. In the week since her death, five bodies have been drug from the Thames, all sharing the same horrible wounds.
Pondering this turn of events, the heroes meet a young monk named Renoir. In the midst of a crisis of faith, Renoir is wandering the land seeking answers. Viewing the arrival of Isabella and Wilhelm in this foreign port as a sign, he graciously volunteers his aid as a traveling partner. The two scarcely have time to consider his offer when a messenger arrives at the inn looking for them. It seems the young page has been true to his word, and Lord Dunningham of Reading has invited them to his estate on the outskirts of London to dine with him.
At dinner, our heroes meet the Count’s two other guests, Lord Lazare Lacroix of France and Gormr Owheilsbrenger, a merchant sea captain from Sweden. There is plenty of talk of the new political landscape of France, what with the recent assassination of King Henry IV. But eventually talk turns to darker, unnatural things as the group discusses the witch’s curse. Impressed with the character of his new guests, Lord Dunningham invites them to witness his duel on the morrow against Lord Axley, a true scoundrel of court. Lord Lazare, he says, will be his proxy as Dunningham is suffering from an injured leg. Hearing that Isabella and Wilhelm are looking to book passage to the German Empire, Dunningham offers that Captain Gormr might be interested in taking them. The captain agrees, but excuses himself from dinner early so that his ship might be prepare to sail on the second tide tomorrow.
Through an interesting coincidence, the evening unites all four of our heroes at a ghastly seen at a home near the inn, where another murder has taken place. This time, it appears the murderer has kidnapped a young girl in addition to his usual butchery. The heroes follow the blood trail back to the witch’s gibbet, where they are suddenly ambushed by the youth gang Isabella and Wilhelm confronted earlier. This time, the gang fairs no better, and with a quarter of their number fallen in less than a breath, they scatter. The heroes dust themselves off, clean their blades, and consider their next move when a horrible scream erupts from the grate beneath the gibbet.
Below, the heroes find the remains of one of the gang members: washed among a splatter of gore lies a severed hand, still warm and twitching.
As our heroes descended into the rank sewers beneath the London docks, they were approached by a stranger in grim breastplate. Robert, it seemed, had been hunting the same villain the heroes were now in hot pursuit of and wished to join them on this errand. Leaving Renior behind to guard the grate and wait for Captain Otto’s reinforcements, the cadre made their way into the shadowy catacombs, battling back the rising bile in their throats as the stench threatened to overcome them.
They rounded a tight corner only to be washed over by a wave of rats. Wilhelm made ready for battle before realizing the rats had no interest in the heroes. Rather, their fear of what lay beyond seemed to be driving them.
The troupe wandered the sewers, following what slim remains of a blood trail remained from the butcher’s last victim. From deep within the sewers, they heard the rhythm of water beating against stone, suggesting somewhere lay an outlet to the Thames.
Then they stumbled upon the butcher’s stash. Pressed into an alcove were the remains of countless corpses: animal, human, and some unrecognizable. Most were stripped of flesh and all gnawed upon by rats. The discovery was too much for poor Robert and Captain Otto, who were overcome with terror and made to flee with all haste back to the sewer grate. Isabella managed to catch Captain Otto who, breathing heavy, succumbed to his girth. Her rush to console the captain left Wilhelm bathed in the pitch darkness. But he was not alone.
As Isabella and Otto made to rejoin their companion, they heard his shriek from the black catacombs. They rushed to find him being dragged into the black by an enormous, hairless rat. The beast was as big as a horse. Wilhelm tried desperately to free himself, but to no avail. Thunder echoed through the catacombs as Isabella freed her pistols and opened fire on the beast. Mortally wounded, the creature dropped Wilhelm and retreated into its lair, where they found the young girl, bloodied but still alive. They were met at the threshold of the lair by Robert, Renior, and a trio of sailors from Captain Otto’s ship.
News of the beasts death spread quickly through the docks, and by morning’s first light, Lady Isabella was the talk of the town. Even the nobles gathered for the duel between Lords Dunningham and Axley inquired about it as she and her companions arrived.
Lord Axley and LaCroix, Dunningham’s proxy, seemed well matched in their battle. But for an unfortunate misstep that misty morning, Axley fell dead upon the Frenchman’s blade. Mortified, the witnesses agreed that it was a tragic accident. Lord Dunningham agreed to make restitution to Axley’s family. The heroes retired, unconvinced of Lord LaCroix’s honor and character, but would say nothing publicly to besmirch him.