Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!
Having gone a Sorcerer too far last week the Black Dogs flee The Defenders house, both physically and spiritually battered and bruised. How did it come to this – with three of The Seven dispatched, how could they be so easily beaten by the genteel and unassuming Griselda Uhrlitz and her creature? Will they be able to kill one more of The Seven before leaving Karlstadt?
The streets of Karlstadt are in chaos; a multitude of fires started by the conspirators under direction of the PC’s illuminate the early morning gloom, spreading warmth and terror across the town; refugees run, cry, panic and generally get in the way as it becomes clear the Swedish Army really has arrived outside the overcrowded refugee camp; cries and screams of despair from the refugee camp carry through the still post dawn air as the refugees come to understand their fate is sealed. And amongst all this Balock, Hemming and Miklos head to the conspirators house, hoping to rest and heal before taking their leave.
Before they get too close to the conspirators house they see a distressing scene unfolding outside. Hugo Beck and the remaining conspirators (including Luise Betz who they rescued from the Burgerfriendensmiliz the day before) stand in a line with their hands bound behind their backs. Surrounded by the Milizionare the conspirators are questioned by Ingeborg Stoltz The Watcher who is overshadowed by her two terrible creates, one a floating mound of diseased winged flesh that constantly shifts in and out of focus and the other a huge eyeball in a giant levitating cube. The Black Dogs observe the conversation but cannot hear; remaining in the shadows they move to the rear of a nearby house, hoping they may get an opportunistic strike at The Watcher.
It seems the sorcerer loses her patience and steps back instructing her creatures to attack. As the PC’s watch the diseased creature touches Hugo Beck and he starts to swell with tumorous growths, his body twisting in agony, his ravaged throat screaming in torment. His fellow conspirators do not get a chance to see his doom as they are electrocuted by lances of electricity which stream from the cubed creature; as their leader’s lifeless body crumples to the floor their own flesh is ruptured from within as they writhe and ultimately collapse, their flesh melted, their hearts ash.
Having positioned themselves in a building not far from The Watcher, Hemming aims and releases his remaining Magic Missile – ravenous chomping skulls fly toward her. Attention focussed on the conspirators, Ingeborg Stoltz realises too late that magic has been used against her and in turn screams as the skulls devour her flesh, her bones, her clothes, leaving only a head on the bloody ground. Before any of the militia or the watching crowd can identify them, using previously acquired Burgerfriedensmiliz hoods they head to the Dammen house where they first entered the city (and indeed through foul murder brought an end to Gawinus Dammen).
Taking pity of Magdalyn Dammen and her son Ruben, Balock convinces the cold hearted Hemming and the world weary Miklos to take them through the tunnel and escape the Swedes. As a group the five find the basement tunnel and leave Karlstadt. The codeword prompt “The Owl hoots twice” is asked by a female voice which surprises the PC’s, but is correctly answered with “but never thrice”… and entirely in character Hemming sends Magdalyn and her son up the ladder at the end of the tunnel into the deserted farmhouse first. When they climb the ladder themselves they are confronted by three women who introduce themselves as Ingrid Kalten, Genevieve Kurtz and Esmerelda Drau – and it doesn’t take long for both groups to identify themselves as Black Dogs. The women are accompanied by a rough and ready man who is bound and gagged who they introduce as Gunther Mohl. Ingrid (a new PC) relates their tale; they were tasked by Niklaus Stein to track down the sorcerer know as The Mother who is believed to be leading an Insect God cult in Goblin Hill. Travelling from the north (avoiding the Swedish Army) they came across an abandoned farmhouse which seemed to be haunted, but investigation showed otherwise – it was the hideout of bandits. When attacked Ingrid and her band fought the bandits killing all but their leader Gunther. Gunther is only alive because he knows of a secret entrance into Goblin Hill and has a map which may prove useful. The bandits also had a small girl with them, but when combat broke out she fled into the basement of the house and disappeared.
Hemming, Miklos and Balock relate their tale to the newcomers and it seems they have a common goal; to kill The Mother. Gunther agrees to guide all of the Black Dogs to Goblin Hill, and so forces are joined and after some healing the party leaves Karlstadt.
Two wagons that somehow made it across the River Main are spotted fleeing to the east and while the travellers wouldn’t take the Black Dogs with them, they offered to take good care of Magdalyn and Ruben. With a day or more of walking ahead of them the PC’s head to Thungen, a village they left an impression on during their last visit. Deciding to rest before taking on Goblin Hill they spend two nights recuperating from their battles. On the first night Ingrid, while on watch, hears two horses galloping through the village heading from west to east; then the next day a father and son arrive, weary and bedraggled. The father tells that the Swedes were slaughtering the refugees, luckily as a strong swimmer he was able to cross the River Main with his son – now they are going to keep moving east.
Despite the insects the party rest a second night, but can’t help notice the yellow glow coming from Karlstadt many miles to the west. The next morning, well rested, provisioned and geared up they head towards Goblin Hill.