USW: Early Modern Magick

Session 5: Better Than Any Man, Part 4

N.S. Sunday, October 12, 1631 / O.S. Sunday, October 2, 1631

With Goffhilf unconscious and the others injured to varying degrees, Gasparo, Maksymilian, Mannfried, and Ross decide to flee Thüngen as soon as possible. They gather their comrade and sneak out the back. Fortunately finding two scrawny horses, they load the gear and their unconscious companion on the beasts, and leave town.

As they leave, smoke trails from one of the homesteads on the farmland.

After getting turned around and wandering for a bit, they find their way to a stream and start walking downstream to avoid the madness of Karlstadt, Würzburg, and the approaching Swedish Army. As the river terminates in a lake, they stop to wash themselves. As they rest briefly, a woman comes crashing through the brush. She is quite surprised to see the group, and immediately seems resigned to whatever fate they have in store for her, but is pleasantly surprised when they seem wary, but not hostile.

She explains that she is fleeing the witch trials in Würzburg, and as the group seems somewhat amenable and is also moving away from there, she asks if she may travel with them. They, in turn, ask if she can aid their friend. She says she helped her son when he had the croup, so she can try…

She does her best to clean, handle, and wrap Goffhilf’s wounds, and the group goes on its way.

They spend the rest of the day marching to the northeast. At some point, it becomes clear that Goffhilf has come down with some manner of fever. They return to the pond so that Mannfried can treat him with scrounged leeches and muddy water. They then continue marching until night falls, when they sleep and take watches. Having run out of food, they continue marching in the hopes of finding some village. They find none before nightfall.

The next day, they awaken to find that Goffhilf is very sick. They decide to press onward in the hopes of finding a settlement where he can obtain treatment. They wander until they find a clearing with several large, ominous dirt mounds within. They decide to take a 90° turn and start heading southeast, away from the mounds. They finally come to a stop when they hear Goffhilf shudder and breathe his last.

Gathering flattened rocks, Gasparo, Mannfried, and Ross start digging while Maksymilian and the woman, Gerdrut Sprinthoffer, go foraging. They return a few hours later with nothing.

Meanwhile, Ross finds a skull while digging and decides to recover the spot and dig elsewhere. Mannfried and Ross manage to complete the hole by nightfall and inter Goffhilf within. The group says a few words, and then moves a little ways away to camp for the night.

The next morning, they awaken to find that they have spent most of the night next to a plague-infested corpse. They quickly gather their things and flee, wandering until they see a city. They immediately recognize the walls around Eger. They are all overjoyed to have found civilization again, and as they are speaking to Gerdrut about it —

Gasparo, Maksymilian, Mannfried, and Ross suddenly find themselves along a road, next to a cart. Ross and Maksymilian recognize the road to Würzburg, back on January 26, 1611. Although everyone is pleased to note that the backpacks stuffed with large gems came with them, they also find that Goffhilf’s maggot-infested corpse has come back with them. Ross starts screaming, which awakens Konrad from the cart. He leaps out, sword in hand, ready to do battle. Seeing two new people whom he does not recognize, as well as Goffhilf’s corpse, he demands to know what has happened. Ross and the others quickly explain what has transpired, and proceed to gorge themselves on food. They rebury Goffhilf’s body, say a few words, and proceed on their way in the hopes of seeking asylum in France.

Over the next few days, Gasparo, Maksymilian, and Mannfried each succumb to the plague. Konrad and Ross successfully reach France and liquidate their stolen goods, finding that they have over twenty thousand ducats worth of wealth. Ross, reverting to her real name of Rosaria, joins a convent and lives out the rest of her days under the auspices of the church. Konrad takes his newfound wealth and privilege in the courts of Europe, and returns to what he does best — killing for pay.

Session 4: Better Than Any Man, Part 3

N.S. Thursday, October 9, 1631 / O.S. Thursday, September 29, 1631

It is January 25, 1611, and Gasparo di Mercurio is waiting in a small tavern in Würzburg at the request of his friend, Cassius Adamoli. Soon, a well-dressed man with piercing eyes enters and asks Gasparo if he is, indeed, Gasparo. He indicates he is a friend of Cassius.

Gasparo bids him to sit and they drink while the man explains that he has a job for Gasparo. He indicates that he wishes for Gasparo to warn some people of coming danger — they were also performing a task for this man, but will subsequently find themselves in danger. Gasparo’s job is to travel to the town in which they will find themselves, determine the problems in town, and then tell them about it. For his services, the man will pay Gasparo fifty ducats, and he will likely make more by aiding these people, as they are quite wealthy.

Gasparo takes the afternoon to contemplate his options. After drafting an astrology chart, Gasparo decides that this is a decent idea and meets the man outside the tavern. He find the man sitting upon a barrel and smoking a pipe. When Gasparo arrives, the man gives him a pouch of coins — Venetian ducats, as promised. He then reveals a little more information — the people he needs to save are roughly twenty years from now, in the nearby town of Thüngen. Gasparo is intrigued, and still agrees. The man sticks a long-handled match into his pipe, and uncorks the side of the barrel, giving Gasparo a brief moment to realize the barrel is stuffed with powder. As Gasparo starts to flee, the man sticks the match in the side, causing the explosion.

Gasparo awakens, sitting bolt upright in bed. He immediately checks and finds the pouch of ducats to still be in his robes. He then takes stock of his surroundings, finding that he is in a small inn room. He spots the man sitting in a corner.

The man explains that he is now in Thüngen, twenty years in the future. A war between Protestants and Catholics is raging across the Holy Roman Empire, and the Swedish army is about to steamroll through the area in roughly a week. Once they have passed, the spell will reverse itself and Gasparo will return to 1611.

Gasparo then offers to buy the man a drink, hoping to get him drunk and divulge his secrets. He is not quite successful, and the man leaves after a couple of beers.

Gasparo stays in the inn, ordering drinks and talking to the barmaid until she finally lets slip that the town has been overtaken by bandits. They have the town’s children locked in a barn and will torch it if anyone tries to approach it or otherwise causes any trouble.

After seeing a rough-and-tumble man in the inn, he decides to retire to his room, requesting one with a window so that he can watch for the group of five individuals described by the strange man. He then dozes throughout the day so that he can watch during the night.

Meanwhile, Goffhilf, Maksymilian (and his man, Aleksy), Mannfried Orben, and Ross are wandering through the brush, picking their way back to the town they passed earlier in the evening. As they approach the low wall surrounding the town, they decide to camp outside the town during the night and wait for daylight.

During the night, while Maksymilian takes watch with Aleksy, he is surprised as a crossbow bolt embeds itself in his torso. He has enough time to dimly register the bolt before the shock drives him into unconsciousness.

The rest of the group is awakened by bandits demanding the group’s money. Aleksy, following the last order given by Maksymilian, vainly attempts to awaken him. The rest of the group, following the bandits’ instructions, begins rising and stepping away from their packs.

Goffhilf takes the opportunity to manipulate his flesh, leaping into the fray such that the ensuing volley of crossbow bolts proceeds to mostly pass through him. In the confusion, the rest of the group rearms itself and begins fighting against the bandits. However, the bandits quickly recover from their shock at Goffhilf’s sorcery, and begin fighting back. As the tide of battle appears to be turning against the group, Goffhilf leaps forward to heal Maksymilian, returning him to consciousness. He orders Aleksy to begin attacking one of the bandits, but he lunges at the bandit and misses. In return, the bandit impales him on his sword — and at the spray of gears and lubricant that ensues, the bandits panic and flee.

Maksymilian gathers Aleksy’s heart and leaves the rest of the clockwork behind. Feeling exposed and seeking shelter, the group decides to sneak into the town.

As the travelers pick their way through the deserted alleys, they hear a sound from above. It sounds as if someone attempted to gain their attention. The travelers look to see an open window, evidently on the upper story of an inn, and a figure ducking just out of sight. Maksymilian boosts Ross up so that he can investigate. He sees an aged man with a great beard, in robes. After determining that the man is no threat, and appears to wish to speak with the group, they clambor into his room one by one.

Introductions are made, and the man introduces himself as Gasparo di Mercurio. To his shock, nobody in the group recognizes the name. Gasparo seems surprised that there are only four travelers, apparently expecting five. He indicates that he was sent to warn the travelers about the bandits in town — a fact with which they are now well-acquainted. After talking, Ross surmises (and confirms) that Gasparo was sent by Tiedemann Fürst, as they all were. Gasparo further indicates that the bandits are now controlling the town by holding the town’s children hostage, and that this group is apparently meant to survive these events for some greater purpose.

With many of the travelers wounded and hardly in much condition to travel, and with their labors complete, the travelers decide to hide out in the inn for the week until the spell sends them back to 1611.

Despite the cramped room, the days pass quietly and without incident. It seems probable that the innkeepers have some knowledge of the proceedings, but generous tips from Gasparo seem to allay any concerns the proprietors may have.

It is October 12 when a knock comes at Gasparo’s door in the late morning. The man is decently dressed, but his features are marred by an extremely recent scar across his face and mouth, giving him the appearance of a rather lopsided cleft palate. Gasparo notes a second man in the hallway. The scarred man asks Gasparo to search his room, and Gasparo plays the part of the doddering old man before loudly warning that he is going to open the door. He swings the door open and falls to the ground, revealing the other four travelers, armed and waiting.

The scarred man — whom no doubt received his scar from Goffhilf’s dagger a couple of nights ago — draws his sword while the group shoots at him with crossbows. Although he is not hit, he is quickly felled by Goffhilf, Gasparo, and Maksymilian. He does, however, shout warning before he falls, allowing the man in the hallway to dash into the fray, and apparently shout warning to more men downstairs.

As the second man falls, Goffhilf and Ross make their way to the stairs to stand against the bandits rushing up the stairs. Maksymilian rushes after them while Mannfried grabs his lightning rod and Gasparo begins gutting one of the corpses in the hopes that he can distract the bandits by throwing organs at them. His plan backfires when some organ lands underneath Goffhilf’s foot, sending him tumbling down the stairs. He loses consciousness, but takes two bandits down with him. The other four are swiftly killed by the application of Mannfried’s lightning rod.

Of the remaining bandits, one flees, and the other is quickly dispatched by Maksymilian.

The group quickly sets to work searching and barricading the inn. It appears as though the inn was searched somewhat at random, likely by the bandits. The travelers find their money, and reclaim it, with Gasparo leaving some shards of the enormous ruby as compensation. The travelers also arm themselves with crossbows and leather armor.

Deciding that the bandits will likely seek them, and will probably torch the inn to bring them out, the travelers decide to flee the inn and leave Thüngen.

Session 3: Better Than Any Man, Part 2

N.S. Wednesday, October 8, 1631 / O.S. Wednesday, September 28, 1631

As Tiedemann Fürst continues down the road in his cart, Goffhilf, Maksymilian, and Ross discuss what they will do next. They decide to continue to Würzburg, then follow the River Main to Karlstadt, and then finally travel the mile or so south to the Mound.

As the group walks to Würzburg, they see several horsemen riding towards them. They step off the road to allow them passage, and as the riders approach, the group notes that the four of them are wearing coats with the colors of the Swedes upon them.

As they step into the ditch, Ross nearly stumbles over a body — whom she recognizes as Mannfried Orben, their companion from whom they were separated quite a while ago. Ross tries to awaken him as the men approach and give greeting. Goffhilf, being Swedish himself, gives them greeting and speaks to them briefly. When he mentions that they have been warned to avoid Karlstadt, the Swedes seem interested and thank him, turning in the opposite direction and riding away.

Meanwhile, Ross is successful in awakening Mannfried, who seems very surprised to be here as he was last in a bed in an inn. His memories of the past few weeks are fuzzy, but Ross updates him on what has transpired. He dresses himself and decides to travel with them, particularly since he has nowhere else to go.

After a couple of hours’ walk, the group approaches the walled city of Würzburg. As the travelers approach, they see a group gathering on a nearby hill. They deign to avoid the activity of this place, instead skirting around and hitting the River Main. After a walk of an hour or two, they spy a village along the Main. It appears to be largely abandoned, and not wishing to potentially deal with plague, they decide to avoid the village.

It is roughly noon by the time they hit Karlstadt, and they find themselves staring at the city’s walls. On the other side of the river lies a bridge into the city as well as a large tent city. A small group of people, escorted by soldiers, appears to be crossing the bridge into Karlstadt. Once again, the travelers decide to avoid the city, backtracking until they find a bridge across the River Main. Once found, they follow the River again so that they may find the Mound.

It is another hour or two before the travelers find themselves in the swamp. Despite the fall chill, they find themselves slapping away gnats and mosquitoes. They finally approach a semicircle of standing stones around a hill, with two stone doors recessed into the hill. One appears to be partially opened. Maksymilian lights a lantern and gives it to his man, Aleksy, to carry. Once the group enters, the travelers see a pit filled with an acrid-smelling, oily, brackish substance. Not wishing to cross it, they call across to Willibald Schwartz. Receiving no answer, they prepare to cross, when suddenly, a large cat of living crystal and a strange man emerge from the gloom on the other side of the oily pit. The man is a trifle rotund and balding, and while he wears fine clothes, he also bears a decaying child’s head in his hand and holds a crossbar attached to a small skeleton. Maksymilian explains they were sent by one Tiedemann Fürst with the understanding that Schwartz would have need of them. He indicates that he is familiar with Tiedemann, and that he does indeed have a task to ask of the travelers. He bids them to follow and retreats into the darkness.

Seeing no other way to pass through the oily pit, and determining that this must be the inflammable stuff of Tiedemann’s warning, the travelers prepare to go through it. They prepare to strip, holding their equipment above their heads, and Maksymilian asks Aleksy to douse the lantern before they cross.

Once safely across the oily pit, the travelers clean themselves the best they can, redress, and relight the lantern before continuing. As they walk forward, they notice alcoves with macabre, lifelike statues of children on pedestals. Continuing forward, they eventually reach an open room. Schwartz and his crystal beast reside here with a bloodstained altar at the far end. Needles and thread lie upon the altar, and it appears that he lay the small skeleton upon the altar as well. To the left of the altar sits a lifelike child statue appearing as a cherub, but with the facial muscles visible. To the right of the altar sits another child statue, this one with all the skin stripped to the bones below the waist. The child holds two platters, each platter holding a jar containing a brain preserved in fluid. The walls are covered in insane ramblings, some carved and some written in feces.

Schwartz explains that he does, indeed, have a task for the travelers. Schwartz reveals that worship of an entity known as the Insect God is a factor in this region. This entity seeks the destruction of all mankind, and Schwartz — for obvious reasons — would prefer for humanity to not be destroyed. The cult’s old headquarters are inside Goblin Hill, to the northeast. He indicates that the cult’s ritual requires a solid ruby ant statue that was lost some time ago. If it is destroyed, the ritual can never be performed.

Schwartz indicates the item can be found if the travelers travel back in time to when the original cult held sway. He has a ritual on a scroll for just such a purpose, whereupon he pulls a scroll out of the cherub’s quiver. The ritual should send them back in time for roughly an hour, and should return them to wherever they left at the ritual’s end. Since the ritual requires some esoteric components, he also has a bag containing the appropriate items. That bag also contains another ritual scroll which allows for the channeling of power necessary to power this ritual.

He continues to explain that the travelers are free to do whatever they wish with the statue, but they must break it. He also recommends they give no piece of it to any loved ones, as such things can be corrupting influences.

Content that they have all the information they require, the travelers bid him farewell and quickly leave his sanctum, returning back over the oil pit and redressing before leaving the swamp.

The travelers decide to immediately travel to Goblin Hill, making the long trek and arriving as dusk approaches. Wanting to fully assess the situation, the group decides to wait a safe distance away from the entrance and extinquish the lantern, waiting to see if anyone is coming or going. They assume if they see no lanterns, the place is likely abandoned; if they see lanterns, then they should proceed more cautiously.

After night falls, they approach. They come across a corpse, obviously infected with plague, in a thicket, and wisely decide to travel around it. They also come across a sign labeled “Welcome!” A second message beneath it is scrawled in Arabic, although no one can read it.

As they approach Goblin Hill, the travelers see no lights and so decide to relight their lantern. As per Tiedemann’s instructions, they replace the foliage over the entrance as they enter, and open his mapcase, finding a relatively detailed map of the complex. Following the directions, they travel through caves until they find themselves at the mouth of a cavern filled with blinking, dazzling lights. Goffhilf investigates, and as his eyes clear, he sees a multitude of statues carved into the rock. They depict various human-insect hybrids intertwined in such a way to make it difficult to determine when one begins and one ends. The eyes of each statue appear to be the source of the blinking.

Indicating that the coast is clear, Goffhilf instructs the others to come to the entryway. As their eyes clear, the enter the rest of the complex.

This portion of the cultic complex features walls of rough-hewn stone. The travelers walk down a corridor flanked by insect statues, and then continue along corridors following the instructions on Tiedemann’s map. They come to a room full of cages, but see only skeletons. Oddly, each skeleton is missing a left foot and a right hand, and each has a small gem amidst the bones.

With nothing to do here, the travelers continue carefully along the tops of the cages and go to another room marked on the map. This features several columns around the sides of a great sand pit. This room is marked to indicate that what Schwartz seeks is here, but no gems are in sight. The travelers try an unmarked room on the map, but only find some sort of crypt. Deciding not to disturb the remains, they return to the corridor. Goffhilf decides that he will enact the Song of Ancient Days ritual given to the group by Schwartz, but to empower it, he foregoes the Fires of Pure Will ritual, instead preferring his own magick system. He ties a tourniquet, and roughly amputates his own hand. As he does so, the place seems to thrum with power, and a minor earth tremor wracks the area. Goffhilf then begins to enact the Song of Ancient Days, which requires several minutes of chanting and the breaking of several objects with a stone hammer.

At the end of the ritual, there is a brief feeling of vertigo. The room grows a little more chill, and there seems to be less dust in the area. The travelers decide to look into the sand pit room. Quietly opening the door, they look into the room on some sort of ritual in progress. Several figures clad in robes are standing around the sand pit while a man at the far end stands next to a four-foot tall statue of a ruby ant. They are chanting in a language the travelers cannot recognize. As the cult has not noticed the travelers, they quietly close the door and travel to the cages. As they approach, they see several guards who seem surprised to see interlopers. Two of the guards charge forward, and Maksymilian orders his man, Aleksy, to deal with them. The men pull knives and try to attack Aleksy, but to no avail. He dodge the first and grabs the knife arm of the second, grabbing his shoulder with his free hand and crushing it. The second guard panicks at this brutal display of violence, while Aleksy finishes the job, crushing the man’s throat. He drops the lifeless body and continues forward into the cages. Aleksy grapples with another cultist, but the two topple into the cages atop a prisoner missing his left foot and his right hand. After he finishes the cultist, he looks to Maksymilian as to whether he should continue on the prisoner. Maksymilian declines.

At this point, the scene is more readily visible. Each cage holds a single prisoner missing the right hand and the left foot. Most of them are in different states of panic, but one looks up this scene calmly. He is whole, retaining all of his limbs, and looks upon the scene with a certain cool detachment. He acknowledges Maksymilian as he approaches the edge, and speaks in a language the travelers do not understand.

Meanwhile, the events of the day have all gotten to Goffhilf, who charges at one of the cultists. He falls into the cage and then tries to kill the prisoner within before Maksymilian manages to calm him down.

As the cultists flee and Aleksy picks off the stragglers, Maksymilian gives the other scroll case to the calm man. He opens it, reads the message within, smirks at the travelers, and nods in acknowledgement. He then frees himself and vaults up the cage to go elsewhere.

With that portion of their mission completed, the travelers return to the hallway to wait. As they do, the stone door leading into the sand pit is open, and a cultist is frantically telling the others about something. When he sees the travelers, he frantically points at them and tells the assembled cult something. The high priest pushes the ruby ant statue into the pit, and a large creature resembling an antlion rises from the pit before withdrawing. The cultists draw daggers, and Maksymilian orders Aleksy to push them into the sand pit. He grabs the stone door, rips it off its hinges, and proceeds to shove several of the cult bodily into the sand pit along with the door. As cultists approach, Aleksy tears through them until the remaining cultists cower at the far edge of the room in a stalemate. Likewise, a small contingent of cultists comes upon the travelers from another passageway, but decide to wait, as the travelers are heavily armed.

All told, the travelers wait roughly three hours before the passageway changes again and the cultists disappear.

Once they have returned, they decide to get the ruby ant statue. First, they test to see if the giant antlion is alive by throwing a rock into the sand pit. Sure enough, the thing bursts forth and tries to bite at it. Mannfried, having obtained a lightning-producing rod in a previous escapade, decides to use it. Goffhilf throws another rock and Mannfried electrocutes the thing, blackening its carapace before it retreats into the sand. They throw a third rock, but the antlion does not go for it.

The group decides to tie a rope to Aleksy and send him into the pit to attack the antlion. They do so, and lower him into the pit. The antlion emerges from the pit as he disturbs the sand and begins attacking him with its pincer-like jaws. Mannfried and Ross both throw spears at the antlion, but to no avail. Aleksy manages to carve a chunk out of it with his hands, but the antlion shears Aleksy’s left arm off. He does not bleed; instead, the open wound reveals twitching mechanical components and gears, revealing him as a clockwork man.

Finally, Goffhilf slides down the pit to engage the thing. Unable to get a good hit on it, he grabs Aleksy’s leg and smacks the creature, channeling his magicks into it. The thing begins to shudder before collapsing into a greyish, sticky goo.

Maksymilian, Mannfried, and Ross pull Aleksy and Goffhilf back to the upper edge of the sand pit, and Maksymilian orders Aleksy to grab the ant statue along with his missing arm. They make certain the rope is secure, and lower Aleksy into the pit. When he tugs on the rope, they begin hoisting him back up.

With the ant statue retrieved, the group breaks it into thirds and places the pieces within their backpacks. The travelers then quickly make for the exit.

Back into the October night, the group wanders a mile or two away from Goblin Hill before resting for an hour. As they passed a town on the way to Goblin Hill, they decide that they will travel to it after they rest.

Session 2: Better Than Any Man, Part 1

N.S. Wednesday, December 23, 1610 / O.S. Wednesday, December 11, 1610

Goffhilf, Konrad, and Ross slowly awaken. As they prepare for their days, they awaken their comrade, Nicholas Schlender. Nicholas was otherwise engaged the previous night, and so missed their escapades in the Emperor’s Wunderkammer. They inform him of the previous night’s activities and suggest that it may be prudent to leave Prague as soon as possible.

As they are eating breakfast in the common room of the inn, they are approached by a man who seems to know who they are. He indicates that he was sent to meet them by a man named Tiedemann Fürst. This man Tiedemann indicated that he has a job for them, and that they can meet him if they travel to Würzburg. When they ask where to find him, the man indicates that he was told Tiedemann would find them. He also says he knows no more than that; he was merely hired to deliver the message and be on his way.

The group assembles their things and tells the innkeeper that they will be staying another day, going so far as to pay for the room. Then, under the pretense of completing business in the town, they take their things and leave.

The trek to Würzburg is relatively uneventful. On the second night on the road, they hear some wolves in the distance; in the morning, they attempt to hunt them for their pelts, but have no such luck.

It is roughly ten days, or January 2, when they arrive in Eger. As Konrad and Ross are still injured from their experiences beneath the Wunderkammer, they decide to stay in Eger to recuperate. They send Konrad and Ross to receive medical attention, while Nicholas takes a job as an accountant and Goffhilf tries to find odd jobs around the city. From what the doctors say, it will likely be about a month before Konrad and Ross should really travel again.

On January 16, Goffhilf marks an increased military presence in Eger. They are definitely Imperial soldiers, and they definitely appear to be looking for something. Goffhilf tells the others, and heedless of doctors’ warnings, the group gathers their things and prepares to depart. However, they are found by the military first. A middle-aged man with the detachment of soldiers introduces himself as Jan Mydlář — the Emperor’s master executioner — and indicates he is here to arrest Goffhilf. He lets the others go about their business. The soldiers begin escorting Goffhilf to a nearby guard station.

Nicholas and Ross — or Rosaria, as she is wearing the feminine garb she usually avoids while traveling on the road — take the cart and begin hatching a plan to retrieve Goffhilf. They decide to assault the guards by surprise and take him in the confusion.

They manage to catch up with the soldiers just as they are entering the guard outpost. Nicholas and Rosaria take positions; Rosaria prepares to hand loaded guns to Nicholas as he fires.

A shot rings out. Several of the guards take cover, while some drop to the ground and throw Goffhilf down with them. Mydlář takes the opportunity to attempt to kill Goffhilf; Goffhilf responds by rolling out of the way and focusing his will to wipe Mydlář’s face off. In the confusion, something happens and Goffhilf’s facial features are erased.

Nicholas and Rosaria notice that some commotion is happening among the group of soldiers and take the opportunity to take another shot. It hits Mydlář in the shoulder, forcing him to retreat. The other soldiers take aim and fire, peppering Nicholas with a volley of shots. He collapses to the ground, barely moving, three crimson eyes opening on his torso.

While this is happening, Goffhilf focuses his will to alter his face so that he does not look as he did before. As some of the guards try to manhandle him, they see that it is a different man and toss him back onto the street.

Rosaria jumps into the cart and tries to usher it to ram the guard station. The horses, however, have a different idea, and veer onto the street. Several soldiers give chase. Goffhilf takes the opportunity afforded by the confusion to try to resuscitate Nicholas, but to no avail. He grabs his fallen comrade’s coin purse and fades into the crowd.

Rosaria manages to lose her persuers and quickly leave the city gates before the soldiers close Eger to search for the interlopers. Goffhilf similarly manages to escape, and Konrad fortunately sumbles out of whatever watering hole in which he found himself. Rosaria hides herself and the cart alongside of the road, and manages to find both Konrad and a stranger wearing Goffhilf’s clothing, drawing their attentions to her hiding place. Reunited, they take to the road once again.

It is early morning on January 26, 1611, and the group only has a couple more hours before they should hit Würzburg. As they continue along the road, they see a cart and horses by the side of the road. A man, sitting on a barrel and smoking a pipe, sits by the side of the road. Two other men stand near him.

The man on the barrel introduces himself as Tiedemann Fürst. He indicates that his associate just arrived, and that he was expecting all of them. He also expresses his condolences for the losses of Mannfried Handel and Nicholas Schlender.

Tiedemann proceeds to explain that he needs them to perform a task for him. In twenty years, he will meet them at this spot, and ask them to deliver something on his behalf. He apologizes, as it is a little confusing, but he tells them that it will make more sense as they proceed. He suggests that they are destined to do these things.

When Tiedemann’s companion asks for clarification, saying all they have to do is return here in twenty years, Tiedemann says that it is not quite accurate. He takes a slender wooden dowel and shoves it in his pipe. As the end catches fire, he uncorks the barrel — enough for a fine, black powder to begin spilling out — and shoves the lit dowel into it.

The barrel explodes. The assembled party feels the heat from the explosion, and —

They are back by the side of the road. It appears to be shortly after dawn. Rosaria’s cart is gone. She notices slight differences in the treeline — a tree that was just a sapling a moment ago is taller here, another tree has been cut down there.

It is also a little warmer.

While the group tries to determine what just happened, they make introductions to the two newcomers. A scrawny man in a large ushanka introduces himself as Maksymilian Rusnak. He further introduces his man as Aleksy.

As they determine what they will do next, they spot a cart coming up the road. As it approaches, they realize that the cart is being driven by none other than Tiedemann Fürst. Unlike the landscape, he appears not to have aged at all. He greets them as he approaches, and begins explaining things. It is currently dawn on October 8, 1631. War has been raging across the Holy Roman Empire for roughly thirteen years, and there is no end in sight. Word has it that the Swedish army is on its way south, and is headed to march on Würzburg. They will likely hit Würzburg in roughly a week.

In the midst of this chaos, Tiedemann has something he requests of them. If they follow the River Main north to Karlstadt, and then travel a couple of miles south, they should reach a mound with a circle of standing stones. A man by the name of Willibald Schwartz resides in this mound, and he will ask the group to perform a task. Despite his eccentricities, the group should take his offer. When they do what he asks, that will lead them to an area roughly ten miles northeast of Karlstadt, where they will find a hidden lair in the swamp, an open cave covered by vegetation. Tiedemann tells them that they should replace the vegetation they disturb, so that no one knows of their passing.

Tiedemann continues, telling them that they should follow Schwartz’s directions. While doing so, they should use the map that Tiedemann gives them to navigate the place. In addition to Schwartz’s request, Tiedemann requests that they find the cages where prisoners are kept. In one of the cages will be a man who is not missing any limbs. They are to give that man a second note, which Tiedemann gives them. Once they give the man the note, they are discharged of their duties.

Fürst indicates that he has nothing to pay them, although given the current chaos, they are more than welcome to keep whatever they find in the course of their investigations. When they ask, he indicates that he expects they will take whatever they find back to their own time with them. He also indicates that the ritual will likely return them to their own time once the Swedish army rolls through — at that point, it will be too difficult for them to complete their goals.

He further indicates that if they do not do as he asked, then he will be forced to fix the situation himself, something he assures them they will not want. He also warns that they may want to avoid hanging around Karlstadt too much, for reasons he suspects will become obvious.

As he is about to leave, they ask him what to do about food. He asks if they have money, to which they reply that they do, but he throws them a pack filled with food. He says that should last them a couple of days, certainly long enough for them to resupply.

Fürst continues down the road on his cart, leaving the group to contemplate its next move.

Session 1: The Ascension of the Magdalene

N.S. Wednesday, December 22, 1610 / O.S. Wednesday, December 10, 1610

Having been contacted by Father Giacommo and the Knights of Malta, the group appears to have a simple objective: break into Emperor Rudolf’s Wunderkammer and retrieve the lost Caravaggio painting known as The Ascension of the Magdalene. A disgruntled merchant known as Thomas Morrow has revealed the secret entrance into Rudolf’s Wunderkammer, and so the Knights have access to that information. Unfortunately, most of the other factions who might have an interest in the painting likely also have interest to that information. Additionally, it is likely only a matter of time before the Emperor hears of this betrayal and enhances security.

Time, therefore, is of the essence.

Goffhilf Adlermann, Konrad Osterwald, Mannfried Handel, and Ross Gorman accept the job, understanding that they can keep whatever they retrieve, and recovering the Magdalene will result in a grand reward for all of them.

The group agrees to meet by the secret sewer entrance sometime after dusk but before the secret sluice gate in the sewer opens at midnight.

Goffhilf does not make it in time, leaving Konrad, Mannfried, and Ross to infiltrate the Wunderkammer. Wandering along the riverbank in the woods, Konrad and Mannfried quickly lose sight of the stealthy Ross, but notice the presence of a soldier crouched in the treeline with a musket pointed at the sewer grate entrance. Konrad and Mannfried decide to sneak around and surprise the guard. They are unsuccessful in surprising him and he fires his musket before resorting to his rapier and shouting in alarm. They manage to grievously, although not fatally, wound him as the reinforcements arrive, forcing them to retreat against the assault of six armored men armed with rapiers and pistols.

Unbeknownst to them, Ross has used the distraction to begin picking the lock on the sewer grate leading to the Wunderkammer. Once successful, he closes and re-locks the door, jams the lock, and wanders into the pitch-black depths.

Konrad and Mannfried manage to pick through the woods to avoid their persuers. They also note a small contingent of men — mercenaries, by their look — headed toward the sewer grate. Once they determine that they have lost their persuers, and that Ross is still not around, they decide to return and see what transpired.

They come across an apparent skirmish along the riverbank, revealing that the guardsmen were slain and two of the mercenaries were killed. Konrad and Mannfried grab pistols, shot, and crossbows before proceeding. Once they arrive at the sewer grate, they see three men. Two stand guard while one appears to be picking the lock.

Safely hidden among the trees, Konrad and Mannfried begin loading pistols and the lone musket and readying themselves for combat. As they wait, the man picking the lock appears to jam his shoulder and drop to the ground howling in pain. Konrad and Mannfried use this as their opportunity.

They fire a volley of bullets, and though it leaves only minor wounds, it does force the mercenaries to take notice. As the guns are depleted, Konrad and Mannfried draw weapons and enter into combat. Mannfried is killed by crossbow bolt, but Konrad decapitates the man responsible. The other two men surrender and flee.

Meanwhile, Ross picks through the darkness, finally unlocking another grate and jamming the lock. Heading to the right, he unlocks and jams another lock before realizing that he has trapped himself in a dead end in the dark. He begins working on unjamming the lock so that he may free himself, particularly when he hears shouting and gunshots.

With only minor injuries, Konrad prepares to force open the sewer grate and press forward to find Ross when Goffhilf manages to catch up to him. Working quickly, and shouting to Ross down the corridor (and learning that he is trapped), Konrad manages to force the grate and he and Goffhilf make their way down the corridor.

The junction in which they find themselves is filled with about a foot of water, and water is pouring from several drainage pipes in the ceiling. The light from the lantern reveals Ross behind a grate; in the light, it is much easier for them to break the lock with an iron crow.

Apart from the dead end to the east there are passages to the north and west. The group opens the west door first, goes down the corridor to find another locked grate, and then backtracks and tries the north exit instead. As they enter, they hear footsteps — idle chatter and echoes suggest another contingent of guards come to examine for interlopers. As Ross goes ahead to pick the lock on the next grate, Goffhilf and Konrad wait for the guards. They start heading for the north passage, so Konrad takes a potshot with his musket, forcing them to take cover.

They fire into the corridor, only grazing the pair. As they reload, Goffhilf runs into the thick of them, grabs one soldier, and rubs his hand against his face. His features are erased by this maneuver. As the guard drops his weapon and clutches his face, two of the others flee while two more stand in shock. They are quickly slain, but both Goffhilf and Konrad crack under the pressure and begin savagely hacking at them with their weapons. Ross, returning to investigate the scene, is similarly dismayed and runs and hides at the far end of the corridor.

Once those present recover their wits, they move forward, picking the lock to reveal a large cistern. They understand that this drains at midnight to allow access to the Wunderkammer. With roughly four hours until midnight, they wait. They eat some rations and Goffhilf cuts runes into his flesh as part of his eldritch ritualism.

Finally, the water begins to bubble and drain through a sluice gate. A ladder is revealed in the side of well leading down to a door. Finding it locked, Ross begins picking it. Within a few minutes, it is opened and the group proceeds. A switch is just inside the door, and they activate it to find that it will hold the sluice gate open. They close it to make certain that no one can follow them into the Wunderkammer.

The hallway leads into a circular chamber over a hundred feet high. The spiral staircase, collection of handtrucks, and pulley system suggests some manner of loading dock. The trio ascends the stairs; as they reach the top, the air gets noticeably cooler, almost unnaturally so. Cautiously, they open the door before them.

They find that it is on the other side of a tapestry. Pushing it aside, they find themselves in a stonework room piled with carpets and decorated with tapestries depicting mythical beasts. Central to the room are three such creatures — a griffon, a centaur, and a unicorn. However, even the meager torchlight reveals that these are all taxidermied natural animals that have been stitched together to resemble the mythological creatures in question.

Moving onward, the group enters a hallway with four hallways branching off and another exit to the front. The side hallways — two to the left and two to the right — all lead to closed doors, while the far end leads to another open chamber. The group bypasses the doors, heading straight for the open chamber. A square chamber with two double doors at the far end, this room contains tapestries depicting various warriors throughout history in fanciful armor. Four suits of armor stand in each corner. As the group crosses the room to the large double doors, the suits of armor begin rattling and moving toward them menacingly. The things are incredibly tough, and deal savage blows with their swords, but Ross is the first to realize that he can zip around the back of the things and pull out the key that winds them. As it rips free of the springs and gears holding it in place, the suit of armor deactivates. One by one, they neutralize the mechanism on each of the armored suits.

With Konrad and Ross badly wounded, Goffhilf attempts to heal Ross — a scratch closes, and the touch of magic unnerves Ross to the point that Goffhilf decides to avoid doing that again. With nowhere else to go, the group backtracks to the side hallways. They note movement out of the corners of their eyes, but when they look, they find nothing. As such, they decide to proceed.

Going into the first door on the right, the trio finds itself in a room with a replica of a castle ballroom in a glass case. Various tracks, coupled with figurines waiting in the wings and a key in the front of the device, suggest that it is a clockwork display. The shelves are similarly lined with clockwork toys. Having just had an unfortunate encounter with clockwork mechanisms, the group decides to close the door.

Picking the room across the hall, the group finds shelves filled with jars of pickled fetuses, usually in some state of mutation — two-headed calves, deformed children, and suchlike. The trio similarly decides to leave this room.

Picking the next door on the right, the group comes to a room filled with weapons of all sorts. One rack contains daggers, while another contains objects such as a donkey’s jawbone and a blackthorn cane. The daggers “feel” wrong or evil, while the other weapons “feel” good. The room also contains racks with fine rapiers, pistols, and muskets, each exquisitely crafted and bearing the markings of the Holy Roman Emperor. At the far end of the room, in a place of honor, is an old, rusty gladius. It bears the inscription “MEA CVLPA” on one side and “BRVTVS” on the other. The group takes the rapiers and firearms, rolling them up in carpets and tapestries, while Konrad takes the “holy” weapons and the rusty gladius. The daggers are left behind. The group leaves their loot in the hallway and decides to investigate the last door, although they feel the temperature of the place increase unnaturally as they move to investigate.

This last room contains cases containing several divination tools from around the world — Tarot cards, runes, bones, dice — as well as various volumes on the subject. At the far end of the room is a low pedestal containing an iron box. A Latin inscription is on the box, although no one present can read it. Unable to open the box, they decide to let it go until safely out of the Wunderkammer.

With nowhere else to go and no Magdalene in hand, the group returns to the grand foyer containing the clockwork knights. They contemplate the front door until they recall that they arrived through a secret passage, prompting them to check for secret passages. Sure enough, they find a secret door behind a tapestry on the east wall. It leads into a cavern. A lake apparently bisects the cavern from the far end, and the water glows with a purple light. Two boats shaped like swans and made from bones sit in the water, awaiting travelers.

The trio decides that this seems too ominous for them. They return to the hallways and gather their loot; this is roughly when Goffhilf notices that the three taxidermied creatures are looking at the assembled party despite the fact that he is reasonably certain that they were facing into the center of the trophy room when the group entered. The group, wordlessly, decides to leave on this cue. As they pass through the secret door, Konrad begins weeping tears of blood. As they reach the spiral staircase, Konrad’s bloody weeping stops.

The group quickly backtracks through the sewers, leaving the lever for the sluice gate activated so they can move all of their stolen goods through the secret doorway. As they exit the sewer onto the riverbank, they notice several people hidden in the woods, apparently in several small groups. Goffhilf steps forward and addresses them, indicating that they were just here to steal some valuable pieces, but so far as they know, the Magdalene is still inside for any who wish to take it. As the other factions appear to try to determine their next move, the trio simply walks away.

Strangely, when they return to their inn rooms, they find that the parcel of rapiers is missing, although they still have the other weapons, various tapestries and carpets, and the iron strongbox. They open it to reveal a set of cards within, apparently painted by Caravaggio, based upon the art style.


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.