Iron Kingdoms - 500 Fights

To New Beginnings

To New Beginnings
Brock Karn stood silently on the docks of Bloodstone, sword in hand, shield on his back, pack over his shoulder and a smile on his face. I’m a earn here, he thought to himself. Bloodstone was no doubt a place where he could put his skills as an ex-soldier, mercenary and general beat stick to work; and even better he wouldn’t stand out in anyway. As he considered that thought he actually found it funny that for once he appreciated the notion that with the all the thieves and murders around he was not one of them. It was not some moral rightousness or lofty sence of good, after all he was not afraid of killing someone. He just knew that he was not able to do things for his own reasons and right now he had no reason to cause any trouble. Besides, sometimes people just deserve what comes to them. For now all that could wait. He was on his own now and it felt good. The only problem he had currently was nothing to serious, nothing he could not handle; but it needed to be dealt with…he need a place to stay. But standing over 8 feet tall and almost 500 pounds he knew it might be a bit difficult.
Making his way through the filth covered streets; the smell of despair mixed with the spicy aromas of food carts harmonized well with powerful body order to create something that was nothing short of nasty. Pirates, murderers, mercenaries, and cheap whores ran around with purpose in every direction, which he expected. What he didn’t expect were the well to do merchants, soldiers and a few upper-class citizens there as well. Perhaps everyone needs a chance to be bad at times, he thought to himself. As he continued to wander the streets he happened to notice a large female Ogrun standing outside a rather lavish and unusually well to do building in the middle of all the decayed and poorly arranged structures though out the town. He stood to the side for moment watching the lady ogrun check weapons and padding down everyone who entered the large hotel with a sign lit by small ornate lanterns…White Witch Palace. He eventually began to move on when the Ogrun female shouted out. “Hey there!” It was in his own tongue giving him no chance to simply ignore her.
Brock still continued to walk until he heard another shout for his obvious attention. He slowly turned to face the White Witch Place and he before him stood the lady Ogrun.
“Hello, I am Vilin.” “What brings you here to Bloodstone” She said in their language. She stood tall and sure of herself like this was her home and she had nothing to worry about in the mists of all these thieves and murderers.
“That’s it? Brock?”
“Brock Karn”
Vilin looked over Borck for a moment “Do you have a place in Bloodstone?” The question was almost rhetorical he thought to himself.
No I always carry everything I own on me as a walk around the world’s worst places. He thought to himself. “Not yet, just got in on a merchant ship stopping for repairs. Thought I would look around and see if this place was worth staying around”
Vilin looked at him for what seemed like a good 5 minutes. She was obviously sizing him up for something when she said “Hmm…come with me. You may be in luck” then she quickly shouted to another would be bouncer and told him to watch the front door.
Brock followed Vilin into the grand building before him noticing the fine curtains, chandeliers, furniture, rugs and wonderful smelling food. His stomach made a noise that was almost embarrassing. He didn’t’ get far before Vilin put her hand on his chest and told him to wait. So he did. She then walked over to an almost embarrassingly dressed human. Her dress was red and purple with a lot of…filly dilly’s he thought to himself. There was simply not a better word for what that dress was made out of. The two ladies spoke and then the lady in the frilly dilly dress approached him.
“Brock or rather Mr. Karn. This is my employer Lady Rhinehart. She would like to talk to you about a room we may be able to rent you.” She bowed to Lady Reinhardt, turned to Brock “Good Luck” She said to him, and then walked away.
As Brock turned to Lady Rhinehart he found himself looking at her hand elegantly held out in front of him. He had seen this before when he escorted merchant from Ord. He grabbed her hand and kissed it. Then smiled the best smile he could produce. This was all too much he thought to himself but he had nothing better to do.
“Vilin tells me she gets a good feeling about you and as luck would have it I could use another Ogrun at that moment. Tell me…Brock…it is? Tell me why you are here in Bloodstone?” The lady’s presence hung over Brock in a way he did not care for but had to respect.
“Just arrived. Thought I would see if this was a place worth sticking around.” He said evenly.
“Wonderful, you will do”
Lady Rhinehart called out to a small frail girl and told her to take Brock out to the old shed near Vilins and to show him where the kitchen was. She then turned to Brock “Nice to have you here Brock. We will talk more in the days to come.”
The girl’s name was Rebecca or Becky and she couldn’t weight more than 90 lbs. She was powder white but Brock could see bruises under the powder and thought she was way too young for this but he never could understand humans so he did his best not to care to much. Becky talked a lot and he had some trouble heading out the back door hallway as it was very narrow but they eventually went through a gate and ended up in a side yard. It had piles of metal and wood and there was a blacksmith shop to his left. He liked that. On the other side of the yard stood two buildings one was neat and orderly, the other was not. He knew immediately that was his new home. It was not much but he didn’t care as it seemed the proper fit for his requirement…it was big with a bid double door.
As Brock began to clean up his new house he smiled…this place was just fine.
When he finished he decided to continue his walk through the streets. Now that he was staying he needed to figure out his surroundings. Bloodstone had main avenues, if you want to call them that but it seemed to have a web of side streets and alleys. The buiilding were stacked on top of each other and in such a way that couldn’t make much sence of ho to get around. Above the streets there a maze of makesift bridges and planks that connectes houses and roff tops in a web of confusion. He decided to stick to the streets as heleft the hotel and headed out with his armor, shield and weapons in hand. He was unsure if liked or didn’t like the fact that just about everyone in Bloodstone was armed to the teeth. As he pondered that he heard a scream form an ally to his left. A girl was running from two men and she looked like her dress was ripped and torn. He moved to the entrance of the ally and settled next to the wall. He watched the show wondering if the girl was in trouble or simply getting what she deserved. The two men caught up to her and began to beat her and then a third unfolded a large bag. Brock then decided he needed to ask a couple of questions. He jogged down ally and called out for the men to stop but they were too preoccupied with trying to get the girl in the bag. Then without warning one of the men, one farthest from him, shot at him. That was simply rude and all he needed. He pulled his sword readied his shield and charged full force into the first man. The man tried to pull a pistol out but Brock was too quick. There was no hesitation in his movements. His sword came down and the man was in two pieces without a sound. Then two more shots rang out and the men shouted what Brock thought was a battle cry but it was bit too pathetic to be one. Both shots glanced off his shield and brock busted out from behind his shield and decapitated the man next in line. As the blood settled the third man ran around the corner. Brock pressed his attack until he rounded the corner and was looking at about 20 different places the man could have run off to.
The girl laid there screaming at Brock not to hurt her. Brokc once again couldn’t help but think humans were stupid. He just saved her. She was crying, shouting and looking at him like he was the monster.
“I am not going to hurt you.” He said. Stupid Girl, he thought. Are you ok?”
“What?” was all the confused girl could say.
“I said, we should be going as that guy could return with a lot more friends and bigger guns” He offered his hand to the girl.
She took his hand and as he lifted her up she informed him she worked for at the White Witch Palace. He couldn’t help feel like he should get paid for this stuff. “I am Alison the girl said softly”
“Well Alison as luck would have it I am Brock and I now live at the White Witch Place. Let’s say we go home” He was smiling as best he could.
The two made their way thought the streets and by the time they were at the White Witch Place he thought Allison would never shut up. For a girl who was almost abducted she was quick to put that behind her move on with her life. He was actually impressed. He could think of 10 or so men, front line soldiers, who could never do that…good for her the thought…live for the now.
They walked up and Vilin face told Brock he was about to get blamed for the girls tattered look but before Vilin could say much Allison told Vilin the entire story in about a 5 seconds. Brocks head spun from the quick story and as Allison finished Vilin thanked Brock and took the girl inside. He couldn’t help but overhear that that this was not the first time one of Lady Rheinharts girls was messed or taken. Perhaps there was more he could do for this Rheinhart Lady. More money he could earn. Oh..and he just killed two men and the town didn’t even blink. As he laid in bed that night with clean sheets,warm, and not terribly hungry he thought one thing. He was really beginning to like this town.
Brock woke up to a soft knock at his door. He put on a shirt he had and walked over to the door. He could see Becky standing there all dressed up. Don’t these girls sleep he thought to himself. He opened the door and before he could say anything she began to tell him to dress for breakfast. Behind her was a table filled with breads, fruits and meats sitting in, on around very nice table setting. He hoped it was not for him but his belly sang out telling him not to care about all that just eat. He shut his door and told the girl he would be out in a minute. When he arrived to the table Vilin was sitting there and Lady Rheinhart was approaching in another dress. This one was light and airy but still very ornate and worth more than what these girls make in a week, or so he thought. He paused wondering if he should eat or not. He didn’t much care for all this prissiness but at the moment his belly told him to grin and bear it. It seems like a whole day as he stood there looking at Vilin standing there quietly but Lady Rheinhart eventually sat down and told the other two to join her. Brock, Vilin and Lady Rheinhart ate breakfast like the two females talked about nothing in particular until Vilin told Lady Rheinhart one of their girls went missing last night. The two exchanged worry glances and spoke about how it was affecting the other girls.
“You need me to find her” he asked puzzled.
“No but perhaps you could provide escort around Bloodstone for the girls we send to clients” Vilin said.
“Clients?” He said looking sorta stupid.
“The men…and women who would rather have our girls meet them else ware.
“Oh…I guess that sounds better”
“Yes but more to the point of the conversation they need an escort through town from time to time. I would ask you to do so for me and some other work around here in return for your apartment. Do you agree?”
Apartment is that what we are calling it, he thought to himself.
“Sure. Do I get paid?” He asked.
“You will. Vilin shall make the arrangements” Lady Rheinhart stood not even giving him a chance to respond, smiled at each of her Ogrun employees and left the table with group of girls following her.
The two orgrun discussed terms. Brock’s pay was small but he would not be entirely tied to Lady Rheinhart’s whims leaving him able to find work else ware. Escorting whores…not what he had in mind but it would do for now.
Later that night he was cleaning his armor when her heard Vilin’s heavy hand knocking at the door. As he answered the door she wasted no time telling him he was needed to escort Becky to her appointment across town. He had nothing else to do and as jobs went this nothing to difficult. He put on his armor and headed to the lobby. Becky was there looking like a well-to-do merchant trophy wife waiting for him at the bar. He spent a little bit talking to Vilin about the recent attacks and abductions. Vilin seemed to be holding back but he learned that recently there were a few girls who went missing and Lady Rheinhart was not going to take any more chances. As they spoke a man approached them and Vilin introduced the man, Stacks, to Brock. Stacks seemed to live in the hotel for the time being and worked as some sort of messenger. It was all very tedious to Brock but he was nice enough. Stacks eventually moved on to whatever he does and suddenly a girl was inform on him, dressed and ready to go.
Brock took the girl to a run-down inn across town and was instructed to stay at the inn while she entertained her customer. He didn’t like waiting but couldn’t argue so he sat down at the bar ordered a drink and sat there watching people. The room was full of people. Many were gambling or watching the tables the place was loud and tight. Music was being played on out of tune instruments and forcing the entire crowed to yell as they drank and gambled. Brock looked over his mug and say the man he met at Lady Rheinhart’s place, Stacks was the name. He nodded ever so slightly to a man sitting across the room at a gambling table. The man looked serious enough as looked at her cards and the others at the table. Brock wondered if they simply know each other or were here for some sort of business. He sipped his drink, checked his armor and continued to wait patiently. He spoke to the bartender a couple of time asking simple questions about bloodstone and the establishment he found himself a prisoner of in only a little bit.
That girl needs to hurry up and get done with it, he thought to himself.
He turned back to face the crowd noticing a man, a newcomer to all the fun, who by all intense and purposes was looking for a fight.
“Hello, I am Gavin Armsdale, and I am looking for those who consort with the “Keepers of the Gate!”
Many of the individuals looked up and smiled. Brock did not like what he saw one bit. Crazy humans doing crazy human things was not something he wanted to be part of. He quickly moved outside as the shooting began. Shots rang out all round him and one even hit him but not the damage was superficial. He needed to get upstairs to get to Becky. He made his way around the Midnight Star as all hell broke out inside. He ran up the stairs to meet two individuals running on the balcony outside. The looked at him and began to draw pistols. Brock did not hesitate. He charged in with a thunderous roar as his sword came hammering down on the man closest to him. Shots bounced off his large thick shield causing do damage to him. He then squared off against the other man and hit him so hard he flew off the balcony as his entrails scattered as he hit the ground. Brock was worried, not for himself but for the girl he was supposed to protect. But he had no time for that. He walked into second floor and found himself on the balcony. Doors everywhere and a fight below, he had no time for this crap he thought to himself. He did notice many of the men below seemed to be fighting that human Stacks and another man wielding two pistols. The place was getting rather messy and there was caster moving to the stairs casting spells at the two men.
“This could work!” he said out loud.
Brock began to smash in doors and by the time he got to the third door he found Becky hiding naked with a man doing his very best to hide behind her. What a pitiful human he thought as a smile crossed his face.
“Get dressed Becky” He through her clothing at her and then said “Hurry, we don’t have all day”
Becky got dressed as fast as she could and before she could really finish Brock grabbed her and headed back to the stairs he came up. The shouting had settled but people were yelling and crying and he had no time for that too. With Becky in toe he checked the outside balcony saw no one and headed back down the stairs. One man came up them and as he came down and was met with the Brocks boot. He was taking no chances. He rounded the corner and couldn’t believe what he saw. The pistoled man was standing there having shot another man and was walking toward 4 more who were daring pistols.
“Humans sure a funny bunch he said to Becky” and then waited to see what would happen next.

Stay and Defend

Stay and Defend
Even though they pushed themselves to their limits the day before, Marco and Nolan still couldn’t shake old habits. There former lives of living on the front lines forced them to rise early in the morning and make ready for a fight. Before the sun could rise above the Wyrmwall Mountains to make its daily oppressive run across the sky the two mercenaries had already traveled back into the Crag Forest scouting for signs of Crix raiders. Marco was worried that they may have returned to the area looking to make another ambush. The soldiers continued their efforts throughout the area until the sun was at its peak. At that time, with no signs of the raiders in sight they determined the area safe, at least safe from Cryx, and they headed back to the Dig. Marco was not entirely surprised as Cryx were not known for long term engagements, rather quick strikes where they could overwhelm defenses and retreat before they took real casualties. Both soldiers believed in his own heart that Crix were pirates and murderers lacking honor in every way. However, the attack they experienced, although not a military strike, seemed to be more than an opportunistic happen chance. Those pirates attacked with such recklessness and bravado Marco couldn’t help but think they were almost directed to the Dig. Perhaps they were looking for something. Furthermore, they fought as if they did not expect any resistance at all. Marco and Nolan felt a bit of pride in their efforts even thought they could not rescue those taken the day before. The outcome could have been much worse for the inhabitants of the Dig if not for they efforts and he was satisfied with that for the time being.

As the two returned to the Dig they couldn’t help but notice the area seemed a bit less…crowded. Tents were missing and even more being broke down and packed away on carts. They sought to find answers and headed for Max’s Tent, Bar, General Store etc. As they walked in Max asked them if they were staying. It did not take long before Max informed them that many of the students left early in the morning for Clockers Cove and Mircer. He then remembered something, reached over the bar, grabbed a note and handed it to Marco.

Unfortunately I am down to my last few remaining rounds and would be of no use to you and Nolan without the use of my pistols. I will be in Bloodstone if you need further help. Once in Bloodstone you can find me at the Midnight Star, gambling hall in the middle of town. You have my service for one day. I await you in Bloodstone.
Good luck to you and Nolan.

Marco was not surprised as most mercenaries he dealt with live by their own interpretation of the Mercenary Code in the Iron Kingdoms these days. But he could not argue with Jack’s logic. The man was talented with pistols but was most likely as useful as an old lady without them. With Cryx raiders in area now the fights they would encounter in the wilds of the Ditches would demand all fighters be at their best. He handed the note to Nolan and sat down at a table nearby as Nolan read the note to himself.

“Hmm seems we are on our own once again”, Nolan said out loud.
“We often are my friend. Let’s sit for a minute and figure our next move.” Marco responded.
As the sun baked the midday air the two were at a lost as to what to do next. Down to their last few gold coins and little previsions they were pressed to find work, but were in a bad place for it. As they spoke quietly to themselves Max suddenly walked up and offered them some food, water and coal for Nolan’s Warcaster gear free of charge. Telling the two mercenaries he considered it payment for standing up to the Cryx. They thanked Max, ate lunch, and continuing their discussion as to what to do next.

When lunch was finished they returned to their campsite to check, inspect, and clean their gear. Nolan was a stickler for keeping their equipment in tip top shape. Marco hated it sometimes but couldn’t argue with the Rhulic Warcaster’s military baring; keeping your equipment in a ready state was one of the first lessons soldiers learned. While they worked on their gear they couldn’t help but notice the two professors speaking to the people of the Dig. Addlesmith and Harusworth were giving what some would call an inspirational speech to those students who decided to remain. The two professors told the students how proud they were that they chose to remain while Marco couldn’t help but notice that Haursworth was even apologetic about not doing all they could to protect the students. The two men laid out a plan were the two Universities would now work together to unearth the ruins and begin to do what they could to protect the inhabitants of the Dig. They spoke of teamwork and safety in numbers. Most of the other treasure hunters laughed and walked off but Max shook his head with approval and Marco and Nolan decided they needed to talk to the two professors.

“Perhaps our luck has changed Marco”
“I was just thinking that Nolan. These people need protection and we are far from the front lines and the inept leadership than almost saw us killed there. Let’s speak with these professors and see if Harusworth is truly the righteous man he believes he is..” Marco then moved straight for Addlesmith, walking slowly but assuredly. He was sure Harusworth was full of himself and intended to prove it.

Addlesmith couldn’t help but notice the two veteran soldiers now turned mercenaries approaching as he and Haursworth finished speaking with students needing a bit more reassurance. Addlesmith, Harusworth, Marco and Nolan did not take very long to agree on a mutual beneficial agreement between the Professors and the mercenaries. With Harusworth doing most of the negotiation much to Marcos surprise.

As the two soldiers walked away Marco spoke softly to Nolan. “It seems our new found employer does not hold grudges.”
“It does seem that way my friend.”
Marco continued to speak softly, “We shall see. How many other have we worked with that seem all to willing chose the high road when they have no other road to take.”
“In-deed, I will keep my senses alert”, responded Nolan.
“Don’t you always?”
A smile crossed the Rhulic’s face as he and Marco continued to their tent to make preparations. Marco and Nolan were now working for Harusworth leading the defense of the Dig. They were now in charge of all defenses and any one supporting tasks towards the defense of the Dig. It was not perfect but Marco, Harusworth and Nolan settled on a fair trade between manpower for defense and that for the archeological work that brought the University out to the Dig. The two mercenaries were promised students to be used to shore up defenses and conduct watches throughout the night. During the day they would chose some students to be trained in fighting.

Before the evening watch began Marco and Nolan were formally introduced to Harusworths body guard Bosh Halghat the giant Ogrun they met in Harusworth’s tent when Marco and Harusowrht were arguing over the safety of the students two nights ago. Bosh was being sent to Clockers Cove to gather gear for the Dig. Harursworth was paying for all of it and Bosh was sent to find out what Nolan and Marco wanted. The conversation between Marco and Bosh was quick and easy given both Nolan and Marco had a better understanding of the Ogrun. To both of them he seemed to be a true mercenary, a soldier who would stand his ground until his duty or charter was finished. He recognizes how bad it was but still stays by with Harusworth and the students.
“At least there is one who understands the severity of this” Marco looked to Nolan with a smile on his face.
“Yes but he is off for supplies and we are still are here with these kids Marco. This may not end well. You know this.” Nolan spoke soft but assuredly to Marco.
“Yes but I feel we can make a difference here and that matters. Something is telling me to stay. I do not know what it is yet but I am sure we will know soon enough”
“I hope it is not death that calls you to your doom Marco. I do not plan on leaving this world just yet.”
The two mercenaries laughed a bit then began to plan for the evening.

The student’s first night was long, tiring and strenuous under Marco and Nolan. First, the students were instructed to gather up all debris that could be used for defenses. All remaining tents from Harusworuth campsite were moved to a more defensible area next to Addlesmith’s tents under an overhang. As the evening turned to night the two mercenaries spoke to the students about their new roles in their own defense. They stressed the importance of good watch keeping and depending on each other to stay alive in harsh conditions like those in the Ditches where the Dig resides
Night was cold and the students pick at random were not use to being out in the cold for such a long time. Worse they had a hard time understanding what Nolan and Marco thought was simple…basic soldiering. For veteran soldiers it was, but for those who spent their days in lecture halls and dusty libraries the idea of a cold watch waiting for something to come at them from the darkness was a foreign concept at best. The idea of walking alone from one point to another looking at the darkness was not only confusing and frightful it seemed a bit silly. Marco noticed that many of the students were having second thoughts and he had to talk to them to reassure them what they were doing at the Dig was important and taking an active role in their own defense was a the right thing to do. Nolan was shocked at how many times he heard “What do I do if…". It seems those you spend their days in books look a precise answer to every situation and now they found themselves facing a challenge were there were no right choices. Only death.

Nolan and Marco were presently surprised when only one person fell asleep but remained on their feet until another student ran to them to wake them and keep them moving. The two mercenaries did more reinforcing and praising of the worst soldering they ever thought imaginable but it seemed to do wonders for the freighted cold student’s nerves. As the sun came up the camp started to wake up and the two mercenaries were pleased and a bit shocked everything went well. They still had a lot to do. A lot to do, but even everything that has happened they were better today than they were yesterday; and that was a good thing.

A Journey Home

A Journey Home
Stacks woke up and could still feel the previous day’s fight in his bones as he woke up. His mouth was dry, he was hot and the tent he as in was sweltering from the suns continual attention. When he finally stood outside, the air still had a lingering smell of burnt wood, canvas and flesh, a constant reminder of the Cryx attack a day ago. He took in the camp scanning left to right and couldn’t help but notice the group of people gathering around wagons being readied for travel. He decided it was his time to be headed for home as well. He wrapped up his bed roll, checked his gear, dusted himself off and decided…he needed a bath. Five days in the Ditches makes a man awfully dirty and more importantly smelly, which can be a death sentence with some of the beasts out here in the Ditches.
Jack played cards by himself as he waited to see what the day would bring. He was tired, hot, he stunk and he was simply done with this place. Down to his last few rounds he needed to return to Bloodstone one way or another. When he saw Stacks walk through the dusty tent door opening with his gear and bed roll in tote Jack took that as a sign. Time to go he said to himself.
“I am with you Stacks. Just let me gather my things and talk to Marco.” Jack walked past Stacks and left the tent.
“Sounds good, I’ll meet you at the wagons over by Addlesmiths tents.”
Stacks looked around the tent and noticed it was unusually empty. He decided he would fill his canteen with fresh and grab and a shot of whatever they offered. He downed the shot checked his canteen, gave the tent one last look and stepped outside to figure out if he could get work escorting a group back to Bloodstone.
As he made his way to the group he noticed Professor Addlesmith in almost panic state talking to the group as they backed the wagons.
“Please don’t go.” Addlesmith said anxiously.
“We are so close and we need all the help we can get. Give me a few weeks to get some help; we are close to a major discovery I can feel it.” Addlesmith was reading each person loading the wagons. If he could get a few to change their mind more would stay. Just then a young student slowly walked up, looked Addlesmith in the face and spoke so all could hear him
“Professor Addlesmith, we have been here a month and have seen more death than some may see in the front lines. The cave collapses took our professor, the undead zombies or whatever they were killed 5 and with the Cryx attack we lost countless more”.
“But please…” Addlesmith knew he has lost them.
“No!” The student interrupted.
“I don’t know a lot about Cryx but from what I have heard they will return if they believe this an easy place to gather slaves for their foul magic and war against Cygnar.” The student was now standing directly in front of Addlesmith. “I beg you to come with us until the Universities provide us more protection.” The students face was calm but Addlesmith could not help but recognize the sorrow and loss behind his eyes.
“I understand.” Those were the only words Addlesmith could muster as Stacks approached the conversation.
“Hello,” Stacks said questioningly as he held out his hand to the student.
“Dorn,” “Blake Dorn” the student responded as he shook Stacks hand. He was taken back but still remained determined.
“I may be of some use to you. Do you need an escort back to Bloodstone?” Stacks asked
“No we are going with our two mercenaries our university hired but you are more than welcome to join us” The student responded kindly.
Stacks thought about and Jack gave him the not that simply said maybe now is not the time. “Let’s just get back home. “
Stacks, Jack and Addlesmith spoke briefly before the wagons took left and Stacks offered to help Addlesmith if and when he needs help escorting his people back to the Dig. Addlesmith thanked him and left to gather what was left and get back to work.

The trip was slow as the horse drawn carts were old and need repairs along the way. Stacks and Jack kept pace with the group flacking them when available keeping an eye out for trouble. They couldn’t help but feel they were being watched the whole time but never saw anything. They were actually surprised to see the watering hole around the corner just as the sun was about to settle.
The camp was quiet, the night air was cool and the area they camped in eh Crag Forest was extremely dark as the moon was covered by clouds. Stacks climbed up to the top of the craggy rock and lay down to sleep.
Stacks woke as he heard movement on the cliffs above the camp. Something was there but he couldn’t make it out. He lay quietly as he allowed his eyes to recover from waking. Suddenly in the distance the moon cut through the clouds and he saw a two headed wolf. Making it worse it seemed there a few and they were heading off; most likely to make their way down to the camp site. Stacks sat up on a knee and looked down to the camp site. The mercenaries were trying their best to stay awake but were of no use. Jack was sleeping next to the camp fire. Stacks concentrated on the magic that flowed through his body and called forth a small bit of wind. The spell was actually more difficult to cast as he only learned it as an offensive spell used to cut through people and push them back. As the spell went off the air around his hands glowed bright as the runes lit up the night sky. A strong wind flew forth and Jack was suddenly rolling back to the wagons.
Jack seemed to be ok as woke and looked around protecting his face. He could see very well but he must have noticed the light above him as and could see Stacks point off to his right. He stood and pulled his revolvers looking to the darkness off to his right and giving Stacks quick thumbs up.
As the men tried to adjust their eyes the mercenary to Jack’s right was attacked by something big. It hit the man with incredible force possibly breaking the man’s back. As Jack went to help the man he heard heavy footsteps behind him and side stepped just in time as an Argus snapped at him. He dogged the first attack but the send head, which he was not expecting, bit his side. Jack shrugged of the attack as it did not penetrate his armor and readied his pistol. Two blasts range out and Jack couldn’t believe he missed the beast right in front of him. Stacks sent a large blast of wind at the Argus just below coming up behind Jack and sent the beast flat to the ground saving Jack from a surprise attack. Two more Argus came in one jumping past Jack right into the group of the students behind him the screams of the humans was almost defining. The Argus was headed straight for Jack. Jack had no time to worry about the Argus behind him as he had not one but two heads in front of him. The Argus attacked with a hunger Jack could see in its eyes. Each of its head moved as one but independently. Jack just dogged both attacks and rolled to his side as he steadied his revolvers and sent three rounds at it. Two rounds hit the Argus and it rolled back with a gasp as it lost its fight. Jack rolled and pulled a bandolier to reload his rounds as he saw a flash of light above him and the Argus behind him was sent rolling. As the two men looked to see what was going on they saw the last Argus run off into the darkness. They remained vigilant for a few moments until they felt it was safe.
The students were screaming as they tried to save the people attacked by the Argus and Jack was quick to remind them that there were other things in the Ditches far worse than a large dog with two heads. The student who spoke to Addlesmith understood and told the other to quietly help the other and make ready. Stacks worked his way down the rock formation and checked on the horses. At least they were ok. Once calmed down the group decided unanimously they would prepare to leave as soon as possible as the sun would come in in few hours. Stacks knew the rest of the way well enough to travel in the dark and he and Jack knew at the pace they kept they would be ok.
As the group arrived in Bloodstone they broke up immediately. No one spoke or said bye they simply just left for their own destinations. Jack retuned to the inn and the gambling table and Stacks returned to his work with nothing better to do. As Stacks walked up to his office he noticed a friendly face, Alger Cobblewood, local messenger/fencer sitting on the rocking chair of the office porch.
“Hello, Mr. Cobblewood” Stacks greeted Cobblewood with a friendly smile. “Do you have anything for me?”
“Yep, a couple of things back at my place was about to leave then I saw you coming up the hill?” Cobblewood responded with a smile across his leathery looking face.
“Sure do let me put down my things and we can head into town”
The two men headed into town to Cobblewood’s small and relatively secure storage house. Cobblewood unlocked the locks and pulled on the heavy wooden door to his storage area reviling two wooden crates, 2×2×2 with only one oddly disturbing label burnt into the wood…To: William Robert. Stack’s real name.
The boxes were unusually heavy as they loaded them onto Cobblewoods small wagon and when they loaded the last box on the wagon Stacks suddenly stood and looked behind him. He couldn’t help but feel someone cast a spell.
“You alright hoss?” Cobblewood asked with a cocked smile on his face.
Stacks felt a bit embarrassed. He suddenly realized his actions may have looked a bit out of place or overly worried. “I am fine just had a one of those moments when you feel like you are being watched” he said to ease up the situation.
“Understandable, here in Bloodstone I get that feeling all the time. It’s not a bad way to act around here”
Once Cobblewood secured the crates they made their way back to Stacks place. Stacks couldn’t help but feel something was not right as he once again felt the presence of arcane energy creep into the air around him.
Once they reached Stacks’ office they quickly unloaded the crates and Stacks paid Cobblewood for his services even though he had no one to bill back at the moment. Something told him to act normal and not to attract attention to this odd situation and to keep act as if nothing was out of place. However, no return address made him a bit suspicious about what could be in these boxes and who would send something like this. Perhaps someone simply made a mistake. He decided to open the boxes to see what was inside as it was addressed to him. Perhaps this was a new way to get provision to him for his work he thought to himself.
When he opened the boxes his heart skipped a beat, his jaw dropped and he felt suddenly small and exposed. He was no expert on matters of jack construction but he was looking at what he thought were two military grade Cortexes. Something was certainly not right and he became nervous as he knew he did not have anywhere to put these devices.
Stacks lay in his bed staring at the ceiling trying to figure out his next move. With the recent and rather unnerving delivery he received the day before he was worried; best case someone made a mistake somewhere or worse case he was being played. In either case he felt a large target on his back and he didn’t like it. As the sun peaked up over the Wurmwall Mountains cutting through his window he decided he needed to deal with the situation rather than sit and worry. He quickly dressed and headed out to his office. He kept an eye out as he headed up the hill looking out over the town. His head on a swivel he kept looking for anything suspicious; anyone following him, undue attention, anything that made him feel funny. As he opened the office door he half expected the crates and cortexes to not be there. But there they were, he felt relieved and a heavy burned fall him at the same time. What in all the gods names am I going to do with these he thought to himself. The boxes sat there quietly, sitting, and staring at him from the corner of the room. Stacks was at a loss until he looked down and saw dirt through the floor boards. It hit him. He would bury the crates below the office. He locked up his office and headed into town to pick up some tools.
After nailing in the last nail to the floor boards his long day of cautiously digging out a shallow hole big enough for the two crates was near the end. He swept the office floor clear of dirt and dust as the sun was setting over Gulf of Cygnar. He felt a bit better knowing he did what he could for the time being. Now he had to figure out why these were sent to him; directly to him. More importantly he had to ensure they did not fall into the wrong hands.

Potential Truths

Potential Truths
The girl looked down at her broken and bruised body and she was scared. She knew her life would soon be over one way or another and she couldn’t help but cry softly as the cold twisted knife of the Satyxis caressed her naked back. She kept repeating in her head her brother’s last words to her as she left for the Ditches;
“You don’t need to go, that place is cursed. For all we allowed the Orgoth to do, you know. You many never come back…..please don’t go. Please don’t go."
But she had to go. Four years studying under Addlesmith compelled her to take her work to The Dig. Two years of study could be over in one if she played her cards right and she would have been back home working as an adjunct professor. Now all that was for not as she was led toward death or worse; on a ship she only knew from childhood stories. Stories she thought were made up to scare her into minding her parents, stories now proven true.
As the ship rocked back and forth, she could smell blood and shit from those who were dismembered around her. People she knew and worked with. She could see their lifeless eyes looking up at her. It was hard to tell whose eyes held more despair, hers or theirs. She seemed to be begging them for a quick death as much as they were begging for the return of life. She knows she’s next. She knew the Saytixis was so frenzied and her only hope was she would be killed quickly. She cannot handle the same fate that met the others. The Saytixis would ask her a question she did not know, a question about those who killed seven of her own; the ones who would die for their heroics. The ones she must learn about. The girl, like the others, didn’t know who the Saytixis was talking about. At least not in any real detail as no one knew them; they just arrived to The Dig. As she began to faint from loss of blood and shock, all she could remember now was her boyfriend’s smile, her little sister sweet voice, her mother’s loving hugs and father’s smell. That would all be lost to her now. She had nothing; was nothing. She whispered a small prayer for it all to end quickly.
“Tell me child, why do you cry?”
The poor girl’s shaking drew her back from unconsciousness. She could barely look at the sea witch as her head felt like a rock. She only looked down at the sea stew that was the floor.
The Satyxis moved from one side of her prisoner to the other like the stalking predator she was; calmly even in the heavy seas. She liked this girl. She was brave and beautiful. She didn’t have the look of fear in her; only loss, regret. The Saytixis put her lips next to the girl and whispered “look at me girl, see me as I am. Naked and perfect with the storm in my control”
The girl was exhausted but something compelled her to look up. She saw the witch and was suddenly taken aback by her beauty, her raw, energized power. She began to see the witch for what she was. A smile began to from. Questions began to race to her mind and then pain as the witch’s blade across her breast.
“You look to long girl. Tell me, what you know of that place”
What? The place? What about the ones who would pay. What about the 3 heroes? Those who were the cause of the mounds of rotting flesh surrounding her. Her mind began to spiral. Then pain from a punch to her abdomen caused her to throw up. She couldn’t believe how powerful the witch was. How smooth and graceful her actions were. She was eerily beautiful.
“I will not ask again girl”
The girl, now reeling in pain from the last blow, began to talk as she found her feet beneath her and pulled herself up using the chains that dug into her wrists.
“The place”, she spat the words out clearing her mouth of vomit.
“The place is an Orgoth temple of some kind” She began to worry as she was not sure if it was a temple.
“Perhaps a small town at one time”, she shook but found comfort talking about something she knew.
“We’re not sure, sorry.”
The witch smiled. “I sense something in you girl, something I want. We shall have fun extracting it, I just know it”
The cries from the girl could be heard over the storm as the ship made its way back to home port. None who heard cared. None who heard made any attempt to change the fate of this poor girl; except the girl.

Hunters Become the Hunted

Hunters become the hunted
The rain began to let up over The Dig. It was now much easier to hear the cries of the wounded echoing off the rocky cliffs that loom over the area. Marco looked around and couldn’t help feel remorse for these poor people. He for too long has seen the faces of the innocent after battle. Their confused and scared faces made Marco’s hate for those like the Cryx burn hot within him. Many called out in fear insisting the attack was not over. Many more could be seen running to flee the area; run away from the horrors they have just seen. As the chaos continued an unnaturally fog settled across the area and in the middle of it were three figures stood quietly assessing the damage and looking for more attackers.
“Could they be waiting to regroup and attack again?” Jack asked as he assessed the area.
“No, it is not their way.” Nolan replied. “They got what they came for.” Marco added “The fog is to help them escape back to where they came from”
“Cowardly” Nolan added as he spit the words out of his mouth.
Marco continued to access the area and suspected the Cryx were gone for good. He knew a raiding party when he saw one. However it was what they came for he feared most. The Cryx attackers may have taken prisoners as this attack did not last long and seemed focused. It seemed logical enough but something was not quite right and he felt there was more to this attack. He couldn’t figure it out and he did not have time to worry now. Then the unsettling fog grew heavier giving him pause to do anything else for the moment. Then it hit him, he couldn’t figure out how the Cryx knew of this area. People have been here for only a couple of months. Are the Cryx normally hiding out in The Ditch wondered to himself? Just then Nolan spoke up quickly pulling him back to the now.
“Movement in the Fog” Nolan’s voice was that of the soldier; calm and impassive.
Stacks moved fast though the tall rock formation area of the Ditches known as the Crag Forest because of the all the pillars of rock that stretch to the sky like trees. He was tired and a bit winded moving throughout the morning trying to get back to the Dig. He saw the Cryx ships earlier as he moved south down the coast and something didn’t fit right. He decided to return to the The Dig to warn Addlesmith of Cryx movement in the area. As got closer he could hear the sound of battle and began to fear the worse. His pace quickened and he kept his rifle ready. Just as he feared; a Cryx raiding party attacked The Dig.
“Damn, by all the Gods is there no safe haven from the Cryx?” He said insultingly as if to call down the Gods themselves.
He rounded a large rock formation and could see the Dig on fire. The fog was thick and the only thing he could hear was the sounds of wounded and dying.
“Seems the cowards hit hard and ran” He said out loud again this time talking to himself. He moved slowly but surely thought the fog toward the Dig and then noticed three figures standing in the middle of the Dig. It seems they noticed him too.
Nolan spotted the lone figure and moved to a defensive position. Marco sword in hand called out to the stranger.
“Who are you?”
The figure slowed but continued to move toward them.
Marco called out once again and moved to intercept the new comer “I say again who you are!”
Stacks stopped as a Cygnaran Officer moved toward him. He put his hands up and shouted back
“My name is Stacks; I work for Professor Addlesmith from time to time. I saw the Cyrx raiding ships along the coast early this morning and thought this place could be in trouble. I traveled back as quickly as I could to warn Professor Addlesmith”
Marco looked at Nolan then Jack. “You know him Jack?”
“He’s ok. I came here with him a couple of days ago and he and I survived a local…dispute back in Bloodstone.”
Marco turned back to Stacks and simply told him “You’re too late” then signaled to move forward. Soon the men exchanged there recollections of what happened. Stacks could see the five or six dead Cryx at the feet of the 3 men in front of him and guessed that these new comers were solid fighters or Jack was better than he thought.
After the introductions and catch-up Marco and Nolan decided help the area that was burning and speak to the local leadership trying to figure out if anyone or anything was taken? Stacks spoke with Addlesmith and made sure his team was ok. The four heroes meet back up in the main tent where they found Jack waiting patiently. Drinking patiently, Marco decided he was going after the Cryx invaders after speaking to Harusworths people. Students were taken and Marco feared the worst. He relayed his plan to rescuer the prisoners the mercenaries around him knowing Nolan would be at his side no matter what. Surprisingly Jack was in. It seems his word is good and with the money Marco paid him earlier Jack said he is still in Marcos employ. With Nolan and Jack ready to go he decided to hire Stacks for added support and move out after the invaders.
The four of them moved swiftly through the grounds with Stacks tracking the Cryx with relative ease thought the area known now as the Crag Forest The place is known for Dreg ambushes and kept an eye to the sky as they traveled. Before too long they could smell the sea air and knew they were close. Stacks noticed dark smoke rising above his head as he quietly worked his way to the top of the bluff. As he reached the top he noticed just how he was going earn the gold he was being paid. The raiding party was moving the slaves into long boats and oh…they were being watched by two Bone Jacks.
Stacks moved back to his group and told the bad news and what they were up against. Marco and Nolan were concerned more about the time they had left to act as the prisoners were being moved to the rather large ship in the middle of the bay. Marco wasted no time putting a plan together. Risky as it was he put himself and Nolan in the middle of danger with the two mercenaries flanking them and giving cover. They all check their gear and made to the top of the bluff.
The group quickly charged down the bluff toward the beach and the Cryx pirates. Jack was surprised at how fast the soldier Marco and his Warcaster were at navigating the rough terrain down the hill. Jack moved slower but was reading his pistols at the nearest Cryx pirate as he made his way toward danger. The fighting broke out immediately with Marco and Nolan’s war cries ringing out. The Cryx at first were stunned and those in the long boats rowed quickly to escape what they thought was a full blown Cygnaran attack. Those on the beach were taken by surprise but recovered quickly as the Bone Jacks began to fire on Marco and Nolan. As the fighting pressed on Marco was beginning to worry about the numbers they were against. Just then the Bone Jack to his left erupted in flames and smoke as Stacks ripped a shot straight through it.
“Worth it” he thought to himself.
Jack continued to press the Satyxis marshaling the Bone Jacks firing his weapons with what seemed to be reckless abandon to Marco. Nolan kept a watchful eye on all party members and added concentrated support where needed. In the end they defeated the Cryx on the Beach but sadly, were unable to save the prisoners. In the middle of all the fighting the Cyrx had killed the remaining prisoners on the beach. As Nolan began to inspect the bodies for signs of necromancy Marco noticed the long ships were retuning.
“Those ships are retuning and there in nothing we can do now” He yelled out. He hated leaving but knew they were no match for an entire boarding party. Nolan protested but knew their limits as well. The four quickly ran back up the bluff as the long ships made their way on to the beach and began to disembark.
The four mercenaries ran back through the Crag Forest and could hear the sounds of the Cryx pirates all around them. They were tired, outnumbered and wounded and decided to dig in. They found an area where there was limited entry points and high ground for Stacks to rain down fire from his rifle. They readied themselves and waited. The cryx became louder and louder as their war cries echoed ominously off the stone walls. Then silence.
The mercenaries waited. The pirates came at once. Marco, Nolan and Jack held their ground below as Stacks began to unload a hail of fire from above. Still the attackers pressed toward them. Jack dispatched the group before him with precision shots, quick thinking and a little help from above…Stacks. Nolan and Marco moved back to back and fought like they always have…for the man next to them. It worked. Before too long the Cryx attackers noticed they were outmatched and began to retreat. But our mercenary heroes were not that lucky. The noise of the fight caught the attention of a Thrullg. It charged into the battle and quickly moved toward Nolan with hunger in its eyes as Nolan’s arcane energy was strongest. Nolan tried to cast a spell but was stopped short and his whole body range out in pain as the thrullg’s ability to consume arcane energy tapped into Nolan. Marco noticing his friend’s pain moved to intercept the new attacker. The thrullg’s attacks were not reckless as Marco believed they would be. Making things worse the power of the beast was overwhelming. He was losing ground but was quickly relieved as he began to hear shot after shot from Jack and Stacks. Nolan recovered and joined the fray. In the end, our hero’s defiance in the face of death proved to be enough. They lived. Battered and bruised they may be…they lived.

Trouble At The Dig

Trouble At The Dig
With professor Addlesmith and his team safely returned to The Dig, Stacks decided he would head back to Bloodstone as his work there required his immediate attention. Jack, on the other hand thought it prudent to stay behind. He had no reason to be anywhere else but where he was. Curiosity was getting the better of him and he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Also, the long days he spent forced to listen to Addlesmith drone on and on about the importance of this place, called The Dig. All that talk almost forced him to take a look for himself.

The next morning, Jack woke up, took a look around and felt a bit apprehensive. He felt a little out of place; the Dig was surprisingly full of University folk doing what he thought was playing in the dirt. Worse, they seemed to be teaching people how to dig in the dirt. Such a waste of time he kept thinking to himself. Addlesmith of course found him and spent the better part of an afternoon and early evening walking the rather large site with Jack telling him his theories of Orgoth civilization and some of the political problems his University is up against. Jack was mainly lost in thought and he was positive he made the wrong choice in staying. Then Addlesmith’s show and tell session finally ended at a large tent in the middle of the camp. Where, at night, everyone gathered for readings, some drinking and food, but more importantly the occasional card game. This part of the day made Jack’s decision to stay a little more tolerable.

Later that evening:

Marco Deft walked quietly next to the caravan as the sun settled over the Ditches. He was told by Hank, the Gobbo caravan leader, that they were close to a place called The Dig and they would be settling down for the evening there. According to Hank it was an archeological site discovered a couple of months back. It had water and safety, as it was home to about 40-60 archeologists and treasure hunters. Before long they rounded a large boulder and the lights from the treasure hunter’s tents became visible. Marco pointed out the tents to Nolan, his traveling companion and squire, for lack of a better title. They were close and he should ready his armor as they never took anything too lightly. The war in Lael taught them that even the best laid plans can go a rye.
As the caravan settled in, Marco and Nolan were quick to recognize a larger tent in the middle that seemed to be the hub of the camp with several people gathered around. They unpacked their gear and decided to head to the center and see if this place had food. As they entered the weathered, dusty tent they were taken aback when they noticed more students and professors than mercenaries, fighters and treasure hunters. After all, they were in the Ditches, home to all sorts of nastiness. This place was hardly a place for these folks.

As Jack played cards with other mercenaries hired by the universities, he noticed two more of his elk enter the tent. Paying no real attention, he returned to his game as a female voice cried out, rather rudely he thought, saying something about “they are all dead!” Jack couldn’t help but make a comment under his breath about his current hand being “all dead”. But the poor girl ran in the tent and declared “they’re all dead” and had a look of dread on her face. Perhaps something was wrong, he thought to himself. Jack turned his attention to the man dressed in what Jack couldn’t help but notice was a Stormblade, a soldier of Cygnar. To see if he was ready to do his soldier duty – gave a shit. Seems he was going to care as he ran to the girl backed up by what Jack couldn’t help notice was some kind of Dwarven Micahanikal mercenary. As Jack pondered that notion the dwarf become even more intriguing as rune circles formed around the dwarf’s hands and glowed in ways Jack never saw as a spell was released. Just then all hell broke out. Everyone ran out the front of the tent. The do-good soldier disappeared out the back of the tent with a war cry and the dwarf was readying another spell. With the card game over, and good to that Jack thought, he decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Jack’s inquiry was greeted by Bane Thralls. He heard of then but never saw one. As confusing as it was to think about how they got there he decided he would be better off seeing how they reacted to bullets. His quick assessment of the situation had the Stormblade engaged with 2 to 3 of them and another was flanking him. Jack put 3 holes the one flanking and it fell as the Dwarf took care of another on the right flank. Jack smiled, cards and a fight, this place was picking up he was impressed with these new guys but was saddened to thing that he was using his skills for not pay. He would have to remedy that and soon. The solder was living up to the talk of Stormblades as he released the stored energy in his sword and lit up another Thrall. Jack fired another and the Dwarf cast what Jack thought was a protective spell but could make out these new runes. Before long, five Thralls lay on the cold ground as a cold breeze passed over the area. All eyes were looking at them to have answers but the three heroes were at loss.

Jack found what he was after shortly after that nasty Thrall incident when Nolan, the dwarf, offered Jack a job working for his boss Marco the Stormeblade. Seems Marco did not take lightly the thought of Thralls and needed answers. To get answers it seemed Jack would have to go with the two heroes and poke around in the dark looking for more injured students. Jack hated the idea of conducting this would be rescue mission in the dark but couldn’t help going as the price was just right. For all their efforts they found nothing, good or bad. Jack, in good faith, told the others 3 gold would keep him employed for another day or two to conduct further investigations if they would have it. Marco agreed and thanked Jack. But Marco was troubled as he couldn’t figure why 6 students were out in the Dig at night alone with no Mercenary support. Before they settled down for the night Marco couldn’t help the nagging feeling there was more to this story. He spoke with Addlesmith and inquired why students would be out there at night. Addlesmith had his suspicions but thought it would be better to talk to the survivor; the hysterical girl. Addlesmith took Marco and his two companions to camp site of the University of Mercir lead by Professor Harusworth. There they met and questioned the girl and it was discovered that the unfortunate students were directed by Professor Harusworth to work the Dig at night. From what the girl could recall the thralls were in that area in the ground and were “woken” for lack of a better word by the students as they worked near them. Marco decided the 5 deaths lay at Harusworth feet. He felt the loss of the students could have been prevented if not for Harusworth’s bad decision. And as Marco confronted the man he was not surprised to discover Harusworth was a contemptuous ass who didn’t care for anything but his own well-being. Harusworth and Marco exchanged words and Marco decided cooler heads would prevail in the morning.


The next day the three conducted a minor investigation of the events the night before and watched the team lead by Harusworth. Much to Marco’s dismay the day was uneventful as a storm quickly settled on the site. The heroes decided to wait out the storm in the main tent. As they spoke of the past 24 hours and played cards a harpoon smashed through the front of the tent and was even more suddenly retracted with great force ripping the front of the tent off revealing a small raiding party of Satyxis and Black Ogrun. Recognizing the this serious threat to lives of everyone in The Dig the three wasted no time taking the fight to these would be murders. They quickly engaged the attackers with Marco taking the lead. He engaged three Satyxis and nimbly deflected another harpoon shot. Nolan was quick to recognize his friend’s precarious situation and cast protective spells over him as he engaged another Satyxis with a spell. Jack let go with a barrage of bullets ripping the chest cavity of a Satyxis apart. As Marco served as a front line defender trading blows with the Saytxis Jack decided to make a move on one of the Black Ogrun before he could reload his harpoon gun. He quickly moved past the front Satyxis dodging blows and slid past by the two Ogrun taking advantage of the slippery terrain from the rainy weather. With the Black Orguns confused and off balance Jack blasted the Ogrun nearest him from behind and dropped him much to his comrade’s dismay. Taking advantage of the insane move by the gunfighter Marco and Nolan began to press the two Satryxis noticing Jack’s heroics put him in a bad way. The second Ogrun, recovered and enraged at the sight of his fallen brother in harms charged Jack with a fierce set of blows from a large cutlass. Jack was able to dodge and parry the main blow but was overcome by the raw fighting prowess of the orgrun and was cut across the arm. He was hurt but lived. As the Ogrun prepared to finish Jack, Nolan released a spell with a crack and flash of light as magic was released and the Ogrun dropped. Jack simply smiled; he was really starting to like these two, they paid well. Marco took out the last Satyxis as the scene ends with our heroes standing in the rain; cold, hurt and angry.

The Beginning

The Beginning
Stacks locked the door to his apartment, leaned against it and gazed down the dimly lit hallway. The sunrays were cutting through the windows amusing any who would watch the late afternoon show. The sunlight reflected off the millions of dust particles in the air making the sight rather magical. As dust and filth danced around in the air, Stacks could only think of how truly filthy his apartment, the hotel, all of Bloodstone for that matter, really was. He caught himself; laughed at how distracted he has become and continued to make his way down the hall to the stairs. When he arrived at the top of the stairs he couldn’t help notice how loud the streets where this evening. He made his way to the bottom of the stairs and through the lower level of the inn he called home. Stacks could see he was right, Bloodstone was alive with all her people moving about like rats in a hot barrel. He knew why. Everyone in town was taking advantage of the unusually agreeable breezes coming off the bay. He smiled when he reached the streets noticing the natural bouquets of filth, despair and sea air. He noticed the amazingly grotesque bouquet from the streets of Bloodstone seemed to be diminished if only for the evening. He pondered how long these cooler spring nights would last. He hated to think of the summer heat and how soon, it would return to Bloodstone bringing with it those notorious hot and humid weather patterns ripe with powerful storms. The storms of Bloodstone were nothing to take lightly he reminded himself, for no other reason than to assure himself he was ready for them. Laughing again to himself he remembered those storms were the only way Bloodstone seemed to clean herself up in the heat of the summer. Good or bad he decided to leave the weather alone for the time being and to simply enjoy the night.
He made his way across town, keeping to himself, as he ate something not too terrible on a stick. He hoped it was meat.
“Looking for a game sir?” shouted a female voice from above.
All sorts of voices came from above in Bloodstone as many of the buildings were built on stilts or the building below to avoid the seasonal flooding.
Stacks looked up and noticing he was under one of the Golden Star’s ladies. She was sitting on the porch railing calling out to all who would listen to her solicitations. She no doubt was working the crowd below enticing them to take a chance at Fanegarden’s gambling tables. Perhaps it was her or his thirst but he decided he would head up and grab a drink. The Golden Star had a reputation of running honest games in a relatively well kept establishment, boasting some of the better wines and beers of Bloodstone.
The Golden Star was full of the usual unsavory characters and some of the newly arrived university types and their mercenary protectors. Stacks recognized one of these university types in particular, Professor Addlesmith from the University of Corvis. He had recently escorted Addlesmith to the Dig, not two weeks ago, an archeological site just over a day and half north of Bloodstone. He was surprised to see him back in Bloodstone so soon. The man could hardly wait to get to the site and wouldn’t shut up about the importance of it. Stacks thought he might sit down with the man as he may have news from the Dig; perhaps the man found something worth talking about.
As Stacks continued to gaze at the faces of the crowd he couldn’t help but noticed a new comer. Stacks had always had a keen attentiveness of those around him. Being able to differentiate between those individuals worth paying attention to and others, let’s say, less dangerous. At times he could determine their goals and motives before they themselves even knew what they were after. He almost made a living doing this. Being able to detect a man’s intentions, especially in an environment like Bloodstone, is what kept Stacks out of harm’s way most days. And this particular man had the look of a gunfighter based on the two pistols he carried. However, what made the man worth paying attention to was how he controlled his table, care to wins and losses, to not draw unwanted attention; he was good at that too. A calm and almost anticipation for something to happen on the man’s face is what made Stacks nervous. It was as if the man waited patiently for a reason to draw his weapons and show an unlucky fool he knows how to use them.
Stacks spent the night gambling and enjoying the lighter side of Bloodstone at the Golden Star. The new comer seemed to like the place himself, slowly and deliberately building a 3 gold profit. As the night continued, Stacks enjoyed watching the crowd and kept his eye on the new member of the town. Mr. Grimes, he discovered, was his name. He seemed to have a way with the cards and was rather comfortable in the chaos that is Bloodstone.
By the time Calder was highest in the sky, a dwarf, Stacks knew as Ecken Garlav entered the Golden Star.
“Mr. Fanegarden, are we to continue this game of cat and mouse” Garlav spoke quietly as he entered the large gambling hall with his pirate crew from the Eclipse flanking him.
Garlav’s men smiled as if they knew something the rest of the gambling hall didn’t. Many in the hall began to watch but others, on the other side of the room, were still going about their nightly business clueless of the trouble that just walked in the room. The new comer, Jack Grimes, seemed to recognize the threat almost immediately. He folded his hand and began to gather his winnings if ever so cautiously. Stacks simply took a position of defense and watched for trouble.
Fanegarden paused for a moment as he noticed some of the people watching him. He then spoke smugly,
“Garlav I don’t owe you a thing. It seems your fool captain does not realize there is change coming to Bloodstone and soon you and yours will have to find a new place to hide.”
“You build your house before you count your stones Mr. Fanegarden, This place is hardly under Cygnaran rule. We are simply being blessed with honored guests from the universities’.” Garlav raised a hand to Addlesmith and his students as if to toast them.
“I believe it is you who is blind to the larger picture. Soon the wars will be over and this town will be brought under Cygnaran rule. I have no doubt this mess in the North will be worked out sooner rather than later. I have paid my taxes to the crown I will not pay any more to you or your captain”. Fanegarden temperament seemed to be rather arrogant, Stacks thought to himself. Not a wise choice when dealing with Garlav.
Garlav smiled a wicked smile.
“Very well Mr. Fanegarden. I shall be on my way. You seem to have insight no one can match. “As Garlav spoke his men behind him looked puzzled and lost.
“Make ready the ship men it seems we have work to do elsewhere.” Garlav moved towards the door. Took a few steps then turned quickly.
“But before I depart.” Garlav turning on his heels as he spoke the words. “I ask all of you to… move on for the evening. I fear this place has become too congested and it may simply fall off its platform into pieces … one day soon. Good night Mr. Fanegarden. Our game s has come to an end. It was a pleasure in deed.”
Fanegarden looked a bit puzzled and gestured to his men to watch the Garlav and his pirate ensemble as they left. And they did indeed leave. One by one they simply walked out the main door. No commotion. No one was harmed. Stacks noticed Fanegarden’s smug smile as the feeling of victory settled over him. Had he really won the battle, Stacks thought to himself. Fanegarden seemed to calm himself and as he did he grew in caution. Stacks noticed how he decided that he told his men to stay alert and posted men outside the door and sent others below just in case.
The room picked up where it left off before Garlav entered. People were laughing and drinking as if nothing had happed. Jack decided he may be able to get in another hand or two so he sat back down and began to settle in. Stacks on the other hand new Garlav was not a dwarf to take lightly. The way in which he surrendered to Fanegarden did not sit right with him so he began to move towards Addlesmith and his students. Something told him to help these poor souls get out of this place before anything bad really did happen. As he crossed the room dodging people in the crowed he thought her hard cannon fire in the distance. He turned towards the door to see what the sounds were as a man opened the door in a rush and began to speak. No words made it out of his mouth as a cannon ball tore through the man and another ripped through the southernmost wall splintering it and disintegrating the poor sole who sat near it. Stacks really did hate being right sometimes. He thought he had more time but Garlav was one not to waste time and to Stacks horror was going to punish all who ignored his advice.
Another cannon ball smashed into one of the main pillars and two more bounced thought the room ripping off limbs as they went and exploding in the back half of the room. Stacks began to push thought the crowed and gabbed Addlesmith and his students. He wasted no time moving through the room as Addlesmith shouted.
“We need to take cover don’t you think? I thought in times like this you soldier types take cover”
Stack turned to see the man was actually smiling like this was some kind of play and all around him were actors.
“There will be no place for us to hide in a second or two. Keep your team moving as fast as you can; our only chance is to get outside and as far from here as possible”
The new comer, Mr. Grimes, seemed to be doing the very same thing. Moving for the exit with reckless abandon they all meet at the door and swiftly made their way out as three more cannon ball entered the room and exploded. The sound was defining and the cries of those inside even worse. When they reached the bottom of the stairs Stacks and Mr. Grimes pushed Addlesmith and the others forward keeping them running at a breakneck pace. They all continued to run until they heard the Eclipse’s entire broadside of canon rip the place to pieces climaxing in a large explosion. The Golden Star was simply leveled with all who were trapped inside left to die.
The lucky ones who got out tried to save those inside but the ships kept up the bombardment.
“Caption Oreblood is making a point” Stacks said out loud.
Just then a rat the size of a medium dog ran out followed by many others from the just underground. The building next to The Golden Star had caught on fire, the nest of rats were struggling to get out. Some began to attack the crowd. As Stacks moved to protect Addlesmith he heard gunshot after gunshot as rats fell one after another. Grimes stood there calmly shooting all the rats. Stacks thought for a moment, as he hated using his mage abilities in front of others, but decided the situation had actually gotten worse. He spoke the words he had been taught and a ring of runes circled his hand. As they glow bright, a shot of arcane energy shot from his hands and engulfed a rat. The two stood side by side clearing all the rats they could until one blew up.
“Skiggs! Great !” Stack shouted over the other explostion. “There must be gunpowder stored in the bottom of one of these buildings. These rodents, believe it or not, like to eat it. It turns them into a bomb with an awful disposition. We need to get these people away from here.”
Grimes was more interested in getting himself, out of there, but moved to intercept the Skiggs and give Stacks time to help the others. Besides, he thought to himself, having a sorcerer with him would be beneficial under the circumstances. Stacks cast a spell once more and Addlesmith and his students were lifted by the very winds around them and moved safely out of the way. Stacks and Grimes ran after at the entire building blew up in torrent of flames and destruction.
When Stacks and Grimes stood they were looking at each other with that wired feeling they should be introduced but no one was there to do it. Just then Addlesmith walked up with an almost youthful exuberance.
“You two know how to handle yourselves.” He said with almost proud face. “I would like to hire you both to get us back to The Dig but we have to leave tomorrow and move fast” he continued on.
“I believe I can help” Stacks replied.
“How much?” asked Jack.
“What” Addlesmith almost forgot notiung his Bloodstone is free especially protection through the Ditches.
“How about 5 silver?”
Jack walked away.
“One gold”
Jack turned “two”
Addlesmith thought about it. “Fine” He hated paying that much but his protection seems to be one of the unlucky ones were currently still inside, if you can say that, the Golden Star. He had no choice.
Jack walked up the dusty hillside road looking down at the town of Bloodstone. This place didn’t fall short of the stories he thought to him. Just last night he was almost blown to pieces in some sort of gang/pirate related incident he still didn’t understand. What made it humorous and almost welcoming was the fact no one seemed to care much one way or the other. Well after they put out the fires of course. People did seem to be a bit ruffled around the edges with the town almost going up in flames. It’s to be expected. But there was no fall out. No cry for “justice” or what have you. Yes Jack couldn’t help but think to himself how this place was going to be very interesting. He just wondered how long he could hold out here until he was forced to move on.
As Jack came to the top of the hill he noticed Stacks sitting there checking his gear while he waited. Stacks raised his hand and stood as Jack was close enough to talk. The two exchanged empty words. They were still figuring each other out. Both were capable mercenaries but they had different paths. As continued their discussion Addlesmith’s team was seen moving slowly but deliberately up the hill. Stack couldn’t believe Addlesmith still kept that awful excuse for a labor jack. The last time he took Addlesmith to the Dig it cost them hours as the jack was simply too old to keep up.
“I hope Addlesmith paid someone to fix that walking scrapheap. I don’t know how he keeps it working” Stack said out loud trying to wave off his frustration.
Jack just smiled. He didn’t care one way or another. The money promised to him would be worth the pain of a slow pace.
“Addlesmith I hope you found someone to fix that heap” Stack shouted to Addlesmith.
Addlesmith could hear him over the heavy steps of the jack with the distance between the two men but Stacks could not believe he was wearing a leather helmet with goggles on.
“By Morrow this man is impossible. He thinks this is all a game or something” Stack didn’t know why Addlesmith almost childlike manner in the face of real danger bothered him but it did.
Jack kept smiling. He was going to like this show. Just a slow walk in the park with money at the end.
Addlesmith’s team stopped with the loud release of steam as the Jack release some of the pressure built up inside its boiler.
“Hello my would be protectors are you both ready? You seem to travel light?” Addlesmith couldn’t help but recognize the two men had considerably less than his team with a loaded up wagon and Jack.
“I was just telling Jack here” Stacks said deliberately “I hope you found someone to fix this rusty beast you call a jack so we don’t take too long. The Ditches can be a very dangerous place and we don’t want to be out there for days on end.”
“I did!” Addlesmith exclaimed with large smile on his face. “Took Borus here to that mechanic…umm… Pug. For very little money he did wonderful things with it. Borus is back to new…well more or less” Addlesmith scratched his head as he gave Borus another look hope the two other men would agree.
Stacks knew Pug and new his work was good. He hoped the Gobber was able to pull off a miracle and give this thing enough fortitude to make at least one last trip. He did not want this thing to slow the down.
The sun was hot as the adventures moved slowly but surely through the badlands known as the Ditches. Jack and Stacks did not like high walls and winding paths that made up there route to the Dig. It left them vulnerable and easily cornered. The two men looked up more than anything else and tried to not to listen to Addlesmith’s continuous ramblings about the Dig. They constantly had to remind the Professor and his students to quiet down. The Jack made enough noise as it was but the noise it made was consistent and easy enough to discern from other noises. The continued on for until the sun began to slip behind the high walls enough to make the valleys they were grow darker than the day really was. The team was growing tired and the Stacks new they were close to a watering hole but was beginning to get that feeling that they were being watched.
“Just up head we can camp for the night”, Stacks told the party.
Addlesmith sat up in his cart with a smile. “Seems we made it thought the first day without any trouble, not to bad”
Jack spotting something jumping over the pass in front of the group spoke up “Most things that mean to do you harm come out at night so I wouldn’t say we haven’t found trouble” He glanced at Stacks, “Did you see that up ahead?”
“Yes and we have some above us and behind” Stacks grabbed his rifle and told the group to take cover on the wagon but keep moving. “We are no doubt being watched but we need to get out of the narrow pass. Addlesmith time to see what Pug did for Bores. Let’s pick up the pace.”
The small wagon and Jack began to move at runner jog and Stacks and Jack ran alongside. As the got closer to the area Stacks called the watering hole Jack could see a large well with buckets next to it. “That the watering hole?” he asked questioningly.
“Yep, with caravans moving back and forth from the Dig and Bloodstone over the last month or so this well is getting a lot of use. I am not surprised we are being watched. I just hope whatever it is decides to watch and nothing more” As he finished his sentence he saw there would be hunters…Dregs. Stacks realized they were in greater trouble than he thought.
“Jack, what do you about Dreggs?” Stack as Jack as he saw 3 more Dreggs pop out from behind pillars of rock?
“Not much, only there a some sort of underground race of evil humanoids.” Said Jack.
“Yep but normally they are out at night and with the sun up they usually don’t come out as it causes them harm. Not sure why there are out this early” Stack did notice they wore layered clothing and kept their face under hoods. “Something is not right”
Just then the Dreggs opened fire and Jack broke for cover “Well I don’t intend to ask them why there are out this fine evening” He shouted over the gun fire.
Stacks took moved for a better shot and gave Addlesmith a quick glance warning them that this was serious. He saw the student take cover and Addlesmith was now holding a rifle. The poor man looked like he simply did not belong.
Jack continued to move to the right flack of the Dreggs as he noticed some above he pointed the new comers to Stacks.
Stacks was already reciting a spell and as the runes around lit up he was propelled by wind and magic to the top of a pillar 20 or 30 feet tall. From his new vantage point he was able to see the group was really in trouble. With 4 or 5 dreggs on the ground beneath him and 4 more up top he realized the only way to live though this was to shoot his way out.
Shots flew by Stacks ears as he took aim at a dregg sliding down a rope from one pillar to another other. His shot proved true the Dregg fell to the floor beneath him. He couldn’t help but think these dregs seemed to be better prepared than he ever noticed before.
Below on the sandy bottom floor Jack continued to move to his left with Stacks at an elevated position to his right. He know the man was capable so he diced to test fate once again. He move into the open and too aim and two more Dreggs and fired repeatedly. He knew he couldn’t last long trying to hide as there were more of them then Stack and himself. Addlesmith was still trying to figure out how the rifle the carried worked when he looked behind for second. The whole thing was rather funny in some way. Another boom from above and to his right meant Stacks was still alive and doing his best to keep whatever was above from making it below. As he looked up he saw two more Dreggs moving on is right below Stacks headed right for the Jack and the Professor’s team. Jack sidestepped and swung aimed his pistols in unison on the two dregs as his leather jacket flared out behind him. He stepped forward slowly as he shot once twice and a third time killing the Dreggs. As he continued to move toward them the rock behind him exploded as rifle shot from across the opening ripped the air as it passed by him. Jack quickly took cover and decided to keep his head down for the moment as he figured out where exactly the shots came from.
Stacks felt like his decision to take the high ground may have been in earnest as he was now fighting 3 more attackers in the open. The only thing working for him at this point was his training while in the service of Cygnar. Make your shots count he keep reminding himself.
Stacks took aim another dregg all the way across the opening and let fly another round. He wasted no time watching the result as the sound of bullets flew by him in what he felt was all directions. He dropped to a knee and swung his gun back behind him as he pulled another round from his bandoleer.
Stacks watched Addlesmith finally take aim then almost fall over as he squeezed the trigger to his rifle. As amusing as it was he was begging to question his motivation for taking this gig. But when he peered over the rocks behind him he noticed the two dregs there had taken cover from Addlesmith’s shots. Wasting no time he stood up and closed in on the two dregs. As each rose to take aim and shot he retuned shots. His hit there mark. Theirs did not.
Stacks looked down and Jack taking cover and Addlesmith almost shooting his Jack in the back with the rifle he carried. He did not know where that rifle came from but he was sure to hide it from Addlesmith if they made it out of this alive. Just then he raised his rifle, and invoked the ruins on the round inside and fired. The round exploded as it hit its target and dregg beside was knocked to the ground. Stacks began to reload as his noticed the dregs on the floor below were all lying dead as Jack reloaded and looked up at him with a look that could only mean…where you want me. Stacks swung again toward the dregg but noticed it retreating in the distance with others in front of it. Seems they had enough.
“Addlesmith! Get your Jack watered and coaled up. We are moving on to the Dig tonight!”
“Sounds like the right thing to do Mr. Stacks!” Addlesmith replied.
Jack reloaded his weapons as he confirmed with himself that this was not the right thing to do.
As the team continued through the night they all could feel the eyes of something watching them. Nothing more did happen as they saw the light of the Dig as they rounded a large rock pillar just as the night sky was covered in an ominous blanket of dark clouds.
“Seems we made it after all gentlemen” Addlesmith was tired but he still had that glow in his eyes like this was all some sort of adventure he was reading about. Stacks decided he hated that about that man.


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.