The Path of Kane

The Killing Night

Heading south through the Schwarzwald, the wanderers came across a small group of Danish pilgrims bound for the Vatican. In their company was a young girl, Agneta, who bore a special gift. Blind from birth, the girl claimed to be able to see angels. The leader of the pilgrimage, Gregos, asked the wanderers if they might journey together through the forest, as there had been talk of banditry. The heroes agreed, though they were clear they were only heading as far south as the abandoned castle of Baron Von Staler. Once there, they would part ways.

On the afternoon of the third day, the group came across a grizzly site: a wooden plaque draped over skeletal remains of some poor soul, upon which was scrawled: WARNING: KOBOLDS! Those not native to the Empire knew little of such things. But Wilhelm der Grosse and Baldrik, the only one of the pilgrims of Germanic blood, had heard the tales all their lives. Kobolds, they knew, were spirits that often dwelled deep in mines. Malevolent tricksters, they would gladly lead men to painful deaths or worse. Since kobolds could not abide daylight, the group thought it wise to return to an inn they had passed some miles before, and turned back north.

Before they had gone far, they met a man in the road. He introduced himself as the Black Rose and bid them to relinquish their valuables if they knew what was good for him. Wilhelm forced him to eat those words at the edge of his blade as bandits set upon the group. In the chaos of battle, Isabella Montrose lost sight of young Agneta for the briefest moment, and in that speck of time the bandits took her. The heroes gave chase through the wild tangles of the forest.

They tracked the bandits to their campsite by evening. In unusually garish fashion, the bandit’s simple camp was surrounded by torches, banishing all but the briefest shadows from the place. Hiding behind the treeline, the heroes studied the camp until they discovered the tent Agneta was being held in. Then, they moved in to rescue the girl.

The rescue went as planned but for the sheer number of bandits. But as the sun sank beneath the horizon, the bandits did not give chase, and the heroes and pilgrims found themselves alone at night in the kobold infested woods. They hastily decided to make camp and set a bonfire to ward off the evil spirits they knew were even then surrounding them.

All night, the little creatures lay siege to the campsite. Foul illusions and guile were employed, and the disturbing scenes wore on the heroes, as did the weather which quickly turned foul. The steel gray night gave way to cruel winds and snow. With the exception of the briefest forays to the fringes of the firelight to collect firewood for the bonfire, the group kept a tight vigil.

With dawn came the bandits. Keeping quiet and fast, the wanderers outmaneuvered them and resumed their trek south down the road.

The next day, they arrived in Denbrach; a sleepy hamlet in the shadow of the Castle of the Devil.

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A Family Affair
Hamburg, Holy Roman Empire

The heroes arrived in Hamburg no worse the ware, managing to lose their pirate pursuers among a small cluster of islands off the coast of the United Provinces. Leaving Captain Otto to unload his cargo and manage his affairs, the rest set out to equip themselves for the expedition south to the forlorn castle of Von Staler.

Breaking his exile, Wilhelm der Grosse made pains to keep a low profile. Still he was recognized and called out, fondly, by his great bear of an uncle, Lord Helfrid Klotten. Overjoyed by this unexpected visit, Lord Helfrid insisted the cadre reside at the family estate as his guests while they were in Hamburg.

That evening, the cadre dined with Lord Helfrid and his wife, Frida. Well aware of Wilhelm’s situation, Helfrid assured him of discretion. On news from Dusseldorf, yes, Wilhelm’s brother Alfreid still reigned there, much to the consternation of Lord Helfrid. Indeed, Helfrid had been amongst the few tied to the Heuber family who had opposed Alfried’s succession, and had paid a personal cost for his opposition.

After the rest of the cadre had retired to their rooms, Lord Helfrid asked for a moment of private with his nephew. It seemed his daughter, Erika, against her father’s demands, had taken to the company of an unscrupulous card player, Kurt Seher. A willful spitfire as a child, Erika’s demeanor had not softened in adulthood. Yet despite her disobedience, Lord Helfrid could not bring himself to send her away.

And so Lord Helfrid proposed a solution to his nephew. Erika did not know of his visit. So go pay a visit to young Kurt and impress upon him the severity of his situation. Perhaps, with Wilhelm’s insistence, the young man would see the wisdom in parting ways with the young woman.

Wilhelm shared the dilemma with his companions, who were only too eager to help. While Renoir scouted the vicinity of Kurt’s usual haunt, a gambling house called, The Red Door, Captain Otto dispatched his crew there for some much needed carousing. The ensuing melee was brilliant to behold, or so Renoir reported.

The next evening, Captain Otto again dispatched key members of his crew to deliver a message to young Kurt. They returned with disturbing news. While they had been “gentle persuading” young Kurt, a number of men descended on the Red Door and took Erika away. These men, it appears, were agents of a local loanshark, Oskar Hammerich – a man with enough money to buy himself into the nobility of Hamburg.

A rude peacock of a man, Lord Hammerich mockingly denied any involvement. The sharp ears of the group, however, caught his admission to his chief lackey that the deal would go down as planned, regardless of any bargaining with the cadre. A beggar in an alley across from the gates of the estate suggested that men on horse had ridden north with a young woman.

In the neighboring village of Moskburg, the heroes found Lord Hammerich’s men as well as an unknown party, along with a Romanian witch and an Italian of stature. Hammerich’s men were in the process of handing over young Erika when the heroes launched their attack.

While the Italian managed to escape, the cadre slew the witch and forced the surrender of both Hammerich’s remaining forces and those of the other party. Erika was not only rescued, but proved her worth with shots from Isabella’s pistols.

Under interrogation, the other party admitted they were agents of Prince Dreschler.

...to be continued.

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Across the North Sea

True to his word, Captain Otto and the Maiden’s Breath set off for the port of Hamberg on the afternoon tide. Aboard as his guests were Wilhelm and Isabella. Renior and Robert joined them, but worked with the crew to earn their passage.

Harried by a suspicious ship, the sixth day of the journey found the Maiden’s Breath born down upon by a Spanish Brigantine, the Queen Isabella. The captain demanded that his marines be allowed to board and inspect the ship for contraband. Badly outgunned, Captain Otto had little choice but to allow it.

Captain Ibanez and his marines were accompanied by an unexpected guest: a Dominican boldly wearing the colors of the Spanish Inquisition. While Ibanez and his marines prowled the hold, the priest took time to question the crew as to their nationality and times aboard the Maiden’s Breath. Robert sulked away, hiding within the captain’s cabin (which had been turned over to Isabella for the length of the journey). The priest had deposited his satchel therein, and within it, Robert discovered three interesting letters. Before he had a chance to fully examine them, Captain Otto and the Dominican, Brother Alejandro, entered the cabin, forcing him to hide.

As with the crew, Alejandro inquired as to Captain Otto’s nationality and wished to examine his logs and charts. He inquired after a Norwegian village called Kjeften. Satisfied that the Maiden’s Breath had never visited that remote destination, Alejandro and Captain Ibanez bid their farewell and returned to the Queen Isabella, leaving the heroes to resume course.

Examination of the priest’s letters suggested a sinister character to the village of Kjeften. The heroes, Isabella in particular, would ponder over them for days.

The next morning, the Maiden’s Breath was assailed by pirates.

To be continued…

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Londontown

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.

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The Game is Afoot

Seeking more information on the gems of power, Isabella decides to seek the aid of Andrew Blackwood, Professor of Greek at Cambridge. He has been driven to Peterhouse college due to his unconventional studies in Plato’s Atlantis. He suggests these gems the heroes seek might in fact be unfinished orichalcum, a rare metal unique to the island of Atlantis.

The heroes discover news of recent disappearances of both a Cambridge student and a local deputy marshalman. With the aid of Blackwood and the town marshal, they track these disappearances to the nearby village of Alberny, and a rogue called Rooster, proprietor of the Cock of the Walk gaming house and the Sunset House brothel. In the battle with Rooster’s thugs, the rogue manages to escape into the night. The deputy marshalman is rescued and a potential scandal among Cambridge students is averted.

In their prospective paths of research, both Wilhelm and Isabella hear the tale of Baron Von Staler of the Black Forest. They set off on the road to book passage on a ship to the German Empire, where they might learn the truth behind The Castle of the Devil

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The Red Vengeance

Driven by strange dreams, Isabella and Wilhelm journey to the small British village of Torkertown, where they uncover a conspiracy to defraud the family of Roger Ivens. The scandal has already claimed the life of Ivens. His widow, now destitute, prepares to flee Torkertown to live with her sister’s family in Bristol.

One by one, the conspirators have been found dead, from exposure, it is said. But our heroes discovered the disturbing truth: that it is in fact the vengeful spirit of Roger Ivens who is waylaying these men on the road. Setting things right, they manage to save one of the conspirators and force restitution upon him, awarding the widow Ivens a considerable sum to ease her grief and make her journey to Bristol easier.

That night, Isabella and Wilhelm share a dream of the stooped shaman, N’Longa, who bids them to seek out six gems of power hidden throughout the world. A great evil is stirring in the bowels of the earth and only the unified power of these artifacts can destroy it.

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