A Burnt Hand

At the end of the last session of our Zweihänder game, we’d decided to try and break into the White Orchid brothel to see if the Bishop was there, in an attempt to rescue him from probable death. The complication was that none of us are great at sneaking, Eva was still in her ball gown and Djarin was likewise dressed for a party rather than a break-in. Only Calthar had her sword and armour.

It seems that despite our best intentions we are fated to spread fire wherever we go. We entered into the White Orchid through the back door using one of the keys that Calthar had picked up from the temple of the Order of Redemption. It seemed relatively quiet, with not many people around, so we sneaked around looking for some stairs.

The first door we came to there was some talking behind, so we went down to the far end of the corridor and tried the second door. It was locked, but again Calthar had a key for it. She stuck her head through, and quickly pulled it back because the door opened into a large room that joined up with where the first door was. There were two guards in there, one of which had spotted the door opening.

At the far end of that room there was a flight of stairs up, so we decided to try and retreat back to the first door, and hopefully make it up the stairs whilst the two guards were investigating the second door.

Calthar unlocked the door, and I decided to go through first since I was dressed in a way most appropriate for one of the staff here. I was still in my ball gown, whilst Calthar was dressed in armour and had her sword. Djarin was also still dressed for the party and had only a knife with him. We were seriously hoping that it wouldn’t come to a big fight.

I sneaked in to the base of the stairs. One of the guards had gone down to the far end and seemed to be looking for a “pussy”. The second was near to the stairs but looking down towards his companion and making crude jokes about the chances of finding such a thing in a brothel.

I stayed where I was and waved the other two past. When they were half-way up the stairs one of them made enough noise for the nearby guard to hear. As he turned around, I could see Calthar trying to get into position to club him, but since she was halfway up the stairs that was going to be difficult.

So I loudly commented about how much my shoes were hurting, and lifted up my dress to remove them. The guard was unsurprisingly surprised to see me, and questioned who I was.

I scowled at him and told him that I worked here, as I made sure my dress was lifted high enough to distract him, putting my foot up on a chair so I could remove my shoe.

He asked how long I’d been here, since he didn’t remember seeing me.

I lifted up my other leg and removed my other shoe, and told him “Long enough to know that the likes of you don’t get to spend time with the likes of me”. Having taken my shoes off, I then pulled my dress down and headed up the stairs, leaving him a bit speechless.

Player’s Note: This is what I should have tried last session. I used Leadership to try and boss my way past, and only have a skill of 46%. But last week I forgot that I get to flip to succeed. I rolled a 93, but got to switch that to a 39 which was a success. Another feature I almost forgot this time was that any success is an automatic critical. Unfortunately not everything can be solved with Leadership.

By the time I got to the top, he’d recovered his wits and realised that whoever I was I shouldn’t be going up the stairs, so started to chase after me. So I pulled the Baron’s medallion out of my cleavage and waved it at him and he quickly apologised and headed back down.

So we managed to continue up to the 2nd floor where there was a locked door, and from behind it came the sound of what was possibly singing, or chanting. Calthar opened the door, and could see a couple of guys in robes who seemed to be chanting, next to some markings on the floor. Confident after my earlier success, I went in, attempting to get around behind them without being seen – but if they did see me, I would try to bluff that I was meant to be here.

Except when I opened the door fully, there was a guard standing right next to the door. He was surprised to see me, and fortunately didn’t spot the other two. I gave him a sneer and walked past, which delayed him for a bit but he came after me, demanding to know who I was and why I was here.

By that point I had a full view of the room, and the situation became a lot worse. There were four ‘cultists’ surrounding a blood drawn summoning circle, as well as the guard. In the centre of the circle was a trestle table to which was strapped the Bishop we had come to try and rescue, and standing over him, chanting, was a robed individual chanting and waving sharp implements. The Bishop had already been cut, and some of what was probably his blood was in a bowl, along with other ritualistic paraphernalia on a small table just outside the circle.

The two ‘cultists’ on the far side of the circle were dressed in party gear – one was the city councillor Arlene Vanveer, the other was a gentleman in foppish clothes who I didn’t recognise.

By this point the guard had caught up with me, and the two cultists near to me seemed to be aware of me as well. I turned and saw Calthar heading for the high priest at the centre of the circle, and Djarin heading up behind the guard. I faced him and scolded him for questioning me, as Djarin slid his stiletto into his back.

The guard was surprised, but wasn’t killed, so I tried to grab his sword, which was still in its scabbard, so that he couldn’t use it against Djarin. It was a bad decision, since I barely managed to pull it partially out, and sliced my fingers on its blade. I quickly let go, and turned and kicked the table over, sending its contents flying into the summoning circle.

Player’s Note: Luck was not with me, until it was. I tried to grab the sword and got a 66 on a Coordination check, a critical failure, so I failed to pull the sword out. I then got a 55 on a Toughness check and cut my fingers on the blade, though I didn’t take damage. I kicked over the table and got a 44 on an Athletics check (at +30) – a critical success. It was an exceptional set of roles.

As the blood from the bowl went over the floor, the temperature in the room dropped. At that point Calthar cleaved the high priest’s skull in twain, sending more blood spraying over everything. The temperature dropped significantly.

Then things went to shit.

The centre of the room went black. Not merely dark, but a blackness that sucked the light out of the room. Calthar leapt back, and the darkness spread to engulf everything in the circle – the makeshift altar, the Baron, the Priest. They were sucked down into… somewhere not of this realm.

There is a blast of freezing cold, and a howling screech, and I fell to my knees feeling dizzy and nauseated, barely able to prevent myself from throwing up. The wound on my hand was burning – not from the cut, but from heat – my blood seemed to be sizzling in the wound as it dripped onto the floor.

The two nearby cultists seemed to be convulsing, their bodies being broken by some unseen force, and the guard was laying on the floor, his blood burning and boiling, a rotting decay seeming to spread rapidly from his wound.

Calthar ran across the room to the Councillor, beheading her and splattering the wall with blood. Unpleasant, but not as unnatural as the skeletal arms which reached up out of the floor and pulled her down. The other man had run to the window, and was desperately trying to get it open to escape. We never did find out what happened to him.

By this point, the blackness had receded, and the central section was back, though simultaneously covered in ice and burning furiously, a tornado of flame beginning to whirl around the circle. The wound in my hand was almost beginning to burn – quite intensely in fact.

We all quickly departed, rushing down the stairs in order to escape as fast as we could. Back on the ground floor, the two guards were still there, nervously looking upwards and wondering what was going on.

I yelled at them that “The God Emperor has refused the sacrifice, it has all gone wrong, he is angry. Flee for your lives!”. I hoped to scare them off, and also to plant a rumour that what had been going on here had been unholy. At least the first part worked, and they both fled into the street.

We also quickly fled, and headed back up to the castle where we inserted ourselves back into the party. Looking back, there was a very unnatural looking column of fire coming from the direction of the White Orchid.

At the party, Djarin got himself drunk and lost lots of money at gambling, whilst Calthar had a dance with some people to create some alibis. I ‘accidentally’ broke a wine glass, and drew attention to the cut it had given me on my fingers.

This morning has been spent trying to clear up after the mess of last night. There were rumours in the inn about a fire that hadn’t happened – it seems people are unwilling to contradict the Baron’s statement that the fires that have been plaguing the city have stopped. I’ve spent most of the morning telling people about what happened at the party, and telling people what we did there to give us some more alibis that we spent the entire night at the party.

A letter has arrived from Captain Sarkas of the city guard requesting our presence – I expect that to be looking for us to hunt down whoever caused last night’s fire.

Something I have noticed is that as well as cuts, I have black marks on my hand where the blood from the sword wound had run. I’ll need to start wearing some gloves to hide it.

Not only was there a fire last night, but one of Jarl Skardesson’s servants has gone missing. The Baron is really upset about the fire, and anyone spreading information about it is being hauled in and punished. The Captain wants us to investigate and find out what caused it.

Since I don’t particularly want to go back to the White Orchid, where some of the guards might recognise me, I plan to head up to the castle to talk to the Jarl’s assistant Yrsa Livsdötter whilst the other two investigate the brothel. After a few days, the guards should just remember a woman in makeup who lifted up her dress.

I’ve know spoken to Yrsa about the missing servant, and it seems she was seen after the fire when they all went to bed, a few hours before dawn. By morning she was gone.

Her name was Helen, and she was an attractive 17 year old with brown hair, a small mark on the left side of her face and maybe a little on the plump side. Apparently the relationship between her and the Jarl hadn’t been entirely professional.

I’ll send the information on to the other, then head out into the city to ask around to see if anyone saw her on the streets in the morning.

Samuel Penn