Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Monster Blood Tattoo: The Peltryman’s Behest 11

Monster(s) also called üntermen, nickers, bogles, beasties, bugaboos, baskets, sprigs, kraulschwimmen, nadderers, nasties and many other names; any creature not considered human or a dumb animal…Theories abound as to where they come from. Probably the most unusual is found in the Vadè Chemica, which suggests that they are knit together in mud and slime made fertile by threwd and the sun’s warmth. Habilists name this hot threwdish mud “gravidia lutumi” (“pregnant slime”) and theorize that the stronger the threwd is in a place and the muddier it is, the more likely that place is to spawn monsters. This whole process is known as spontaneous self-generation, and monsters who are born in such a way are called sprosslings (“born ones”)….D.M. Cornish, Foundling

The Ichormeer
17 Calor 1602 HIR

The party had finally reached their destination: the lair of the mysterious Dr. Corvinus, a black habilist whose unnatural experiments with vast quantities of the dead had caused the grief of the Widow Portent, whose late daughter had been stolen for this horrible enterprise.  The party adopted the plan of attack originated by the mad Warden General, to launch a diversionary attack on the camp of Corvinus' hired Heilgolundian mercenaries that guarded the main approach to the camp.  This would allow a small party to use a boat obtained from an abandoned fishing camp to steal into Corvinus's lare by water.  Prince Avignon, Tanga, and Sister Perfidia together with Sergeant Tuffnutte and the remainder of the lamplighters would be the diversionary force while the rest of the party went in by water.

Lord Danny assisted the initial attack by using his witting skills to create an illusion of a great forest monster in the minds of the mercenaries.  He then rushed to join the rest of the party on the way to the fisherman's hut.

The illusion caused many of the mercenaries to recoil in horror.  However, a fulgar in their midst was unpersuaded and launched a arcing attack that proved the illusory nature of the vision.  He then led a strong party forward, falling into the trap that the lamplighters had laid for them.  After taking heavy losses, the mercenaries began a fierce struggle in the woods against the outnumbered lazhars and lamplighters.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party began their aquatic infiltration.  Frensalir, skilled in practical habilism, created an automaton from wood and surplus gastrines to tread behind the mercenaries dropping grenadoes in their rear.  In the end this stratagem proved ineffective against the experienced Heilgolundians.

As the party set off into the swamp, they were accosted by several large, leech-like monsters.  The blades of the sword-masters, Alhambra and Ottimo, surprisingly joined in this by the saber of the cerebral Accural, quickly destroyed the creatures.

They soon reached the main water course on which lay Corvinus' encampment.  An old hunting lodge was linked by a ramshackle foot bridge with an even more ancient stone cottage.  Two guard boats maintained a watch on either side of the bridge, their work made difficult by the heavy morning fog.  As they approached, the party could see lightening strike repeatedly behind this cottage.  Sister Angella recognized these as inducements from a fulgar rather than natural occurrences.

Hidden in the fog, they quietly approached the first guard boat.  Alhambra recklessly leapt into the water to swim to the enemy vessel.  Despite his noisy splashing, the men on the guard boat, perhaps lulled by boredom into lassitude, took no notice of the noise.

Lord Danny and Badger scathed one of the guard with a wit attack. While two of the other guards attended him, Danny hurled a dagger into the throat of the boat captain, whose body silently slipped into the water.  This allowed Alhambra to leap into the boat.  The two remaining guards were caught by complete surprise by the sinuous dancer and were easily dispatched without an alarm being raised.

Alhambra, Ottimo, and Lord Danny, being the stealthiest members of the party, took the guard boat ashore to investigate the old lodge.  The rest of the party let their boat drift silently through the fog toward the bridge.

The two swordsmen took up station at the main door to the lodge while Lord Danny crept up on the only guard apparent on the pier.  Danny struck the man down quickly and dragged the body back onto the porch, he then took up position with his long rifle, watching the opposite shore.

As the rest of the party neared the bridge, they observed a man dressed in rich court clothes crossing the bridge and followed by a Heilgolundian bearing the two fulgaris staves of a fulgar.  They waived at the oncoming boat, mistaking it for the guard boat, and then headed into the small stone cottage.

Hearing nothing from the lodge, Alhambra entered, finding the books and instruments of a black habilist strewn about the room, several large candles providing light in the morning gloom.

He entered a smaller adjecent room, the personal file of Dr. Corvinus.  He quickly gathered up a stack of cyphered correspondence on the desk before heading up a flight of stairs leading to the attic.

He found the space filled with undead rever-men being given some noxious food by a woman richly dressed in black finery. She saw Alhambra as soon as he entered. She directed a hiss at him and with motion commanded the undead to attack.  As one they charged toward the saagar.

Meanwhile, the fog had begun to lift.  The party leapt onto the pier and moved as quietly as possible toward the stone cottage, Sister Angella leading the way.  Unfortunately, she slipped on the slimy rocks lining the shore, falling and dropping one of her stave upon a rock with loud clang.

As the rest of the party scrambled ashore, she charged up the hill and plunged into the cottage.

She found more inhabitants than she had expected.  The rich-dressed man was leaning over a corse laid out on an examining table.  He was guarded by the fulgar and two large, heavily armed and armored troubardiers.  An enormous figure stood in the dimness of one of the corners.  Thinking quickly, she cried, using the only Heigolundian word she knew, "Tovarich, we are under attack, come quickly!"  She then fled from the room.

The fighting along the causeway seesawed back and forth, the lamplighters more than holding their own against the superior numbers of the mercenaries.

The other guard boat had heard the noise and rushed towards them, the men inside firing at the party.

The men inside the cottage following the fleeing calendar.  They fell upon the party who were approaching the cottage. One of the troubardiers slashed Lorent with his great sword, while the other engaged Sister Angella but seeing Badger approaching, turned on the blind wit and wounded him severely.  Ottimo believing that Alhambra was in no danger, rushed over the bridge to aid the rest of the party.  The Heigolundian fulgar took up position and aimed his fuse in preparation of receiving the sabrine adept.

Fransalir managed to hurl a grenado into the guard boat, setting afire.  The surviving crew leapt to shore.

A well-place shot from Lord Danny's long rifle immediately killed the Heilgolundian fulgar.  This allowed the others to deal with the two troubardiers and the pair were quickly brought down.  The remaining guards fired ineffectually from cover near the river bank.

Suddenly, they heard booming footsteps as a huge figure advanced out of the cottage.  It was a reverman still wearing his shrouds and burial chains.  But this was different than the others they had encountered.  He had a deliberation in his step and the spark of intelligence, albeit malign, in his eyes.

Ottimo weaved around the monster, slashing at him and delivering blows that would have killed half a dozen lesser men.

Although wounded, the creature seemed unperturbed and gouged a gaping wound in Ottimo's chest with its clawed hand, then flung his body into the river.  The swordsman, near death, clung desperately to a post in the bridge.  The creature turned toward Fransalir.

Across the river, Alhambra beat a hasty retreat.  Above him, the thanatocrith, for such was the lady in black, directed her jackstraws through another trap door, this one leading to the main room of the lodge.

The saager found himself being assailed from two sides, a solid wall at his back.  He called for Lord Danny to aid him.

Danny hurled a device given him by Fransalir before the action.  Fransalir's uneven habilistics made its effect highly uncertain.  In this case, it proved to be a viscous black liquid that blinded and ensnared the jackstraws at the door.  It also proved to be highly flammable when Alhambra overturned the nearby table bearing a large candle into their midst. He then leapt through a window to his right that gave access onto the porch.

Within moments the entire lodge and the jackstraws within went  up in flame.

Angella rushed back into the cottage, finding only a single person remaining, presumably a black habilist.  As he tried to run, the angry calendar smashed one of her metal stage into his legs, shattering both legs.

Outside Fransalir jammed a sputtering fulminant into one of the giant reverman's gaping wounds.  It ignited and engulfed the monstrosity in its flaring heat.

As the fight ended, Lorent and Fransalir tended to the wounded.  The others dragged their broken prisoner from the cottage into the light and began to question him.  He proved to be Virgilius Skrivnow, assistant to Corvinus.  Only a little could be learned from the man.  Corvinus had found a huge field of threwdish mud hoping to hasten the process of transforming human corpses into living beings again.  Some in the party had heard this story of monster procreation, that the body of one monster placed in the gravid slime would in time produce another.  There was a theory that if an everyman body was placed, the creature produced might be in human form but a monster nonetheless.  Surely there were easy ways to create gudgeons?

Meanwhile, the fight in the woods continued.  Tanga and the lamplighters with her had enjoyed success beyond expectation.  They had driven the mercenaries back into the their camp and were keeping them pinned there.  No help to Corvinus would be coming from that quarter.

It was then that the party noticed the enclosure beyond the hill on which the cottage stood.  A vast wicker hurdle surrounded a huge field of mud in which innumerable tumuli thrust upward.  As they watched, a large force of people came forth from the threwdish mud field.  Numerous mercenaries as well as several sharp-eyed leers, at least two wits and one mighty fulgar took up position at the hurdle, all directing their attention at the party.

There was a call for a truce and a sturdy, bookish man wearing a bloody apron approached from the armed multitude.  He was flanked by two great reverman, each the equal to the one that had nearly killed Ottimo.  They had met Doctor Corvinus at last.

He asked what the cause of this attack was.  He was surprised that they had come so far and endured so much for the corpse of a single girl when he had utilized truly thousands in his researches.  When they pressed him further on why had had brought so many of the dead to this remote place, he proudly reported that he was near to finding the means of immortality. He had discovered a new methodology not only speed the process spontaneous self-generation but if done speedily enough, relatively soon after death with a body well-preserved, the body could be returned to life with senses intact, brain intact, memory intact. In other words, not just generate a new life but restore the same life that had been.  Once his method was perfected, it could extend life indefinitely.  "But only for those who can afford to pay, no doubt?" asked Badger.  "That is the way of the world," came Corvinus response. "The costs of the discovery have been astronomical.  For this place to survive in the threwdish wilderness, I had to hire a literal army, to supply the necessary 'raw materials' I had to create an entire network of the dark trade.  To some, any price for eternal life would be worthy, and some are willing and able to pay."

Frensalir pressed him on how he came to this knowledge.  Was it through communion with one of the basbathonids, the false gods that dwelt in the depths of the sea?  Although the doctor prevaricated, it was clear that he likely had obtained his knowledge by the foulest of means.  Corvinus quickly changed the subject and seemed inclined to grant the party's request in exchange for them leaving.  "Providing the subject is still inert and therefore of no benefit to my studies, what is one more child in the vast ocean of the dead."

The discussion was cut short by a crackling sound coming from one of the nearby tumuli. Everyone turned to look.  Fissures appeared in its muddy surface.  A small hand appear and then a second, forcing their way out of the encircling mud.  The head of a child appeared, long red tresses streaming behind the small head. The child's curious eyes darted about, attempting to fathom where she was. From the miniature portrait the Widow Portent had provided, the party recognized her immediately.  It was Albany Reeves.

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