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Shadowfaze

IC: The Dark Crusade

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-one month later-

 

Ratigan looked at his hook. The stump still hurt badly, but the hook was quite useful. He had to adjust his fighting style quite a lot, but he had gotten used to it. He had been a running joke jn the chapterhouse for a week or two, but one apprentice saw the painful side of the hook and the laughter stopped fast. He was sitting in his room on his favourite wooden chair, looking out at the daily goings on of the chapterhouse. There was a letter for him on his desk, offering him and Allastad promotion to the rank of master, allowing him to have both a squire and an apprentice of his own to teach the ways of knighthood. So far however no apprentices stood out to him, and he couldn't approach oneuntil he was officially recognised as a master of the Order.

 

Outside, he had buried Gromley in the grounds, after he had informed his family of his death by letter. More troubling was what had been found in Gromley's bag. A demonic text, bound In metal with pages of skin. It had caused so much damage trying to be contained that it was now chained up in the deepest prison of the chapterhouse. Gromley's thrashing and spitting body had eventually stopped functioning, it had taken days. Allastad had been keeping busy celebrating their victory over the demon, spinning tales of the rider and the brass keep that were thrilling a little bit more with each retelling. A knock on his door roused Ratigan from his daydream.

"Ser, it is time for the ceremony. Please put on your formal armor and meet your peers in the grand hall" said the messenger. He had a red robe on and a oddly shaped hat.

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Allastad had been laying upon his bed in his room reading the letter that was given to him, After a late night of celebrating he had just gotten to his letters, "A promotion?" Allastad thought to himself. He set the note down upon his desk and dressed himself in his casual attire. He left his room to go check up on Ratigan when a man approached him, "Time for the ceremony ser, Please wear your formal armor and meet in the grand hall." Allastad smiled and returned to his room to change clothing.

 

Allastad entered the grand hall not long before Ratigan. "How are you holding up brother?" asked Allastad as Ratigan entered the hall before the start of the ceremony. "It would seem we are to be promoted, I know its been harder on you than I but hopefully things will look up from here."

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"I hope so, brother. I have but one hand left to give" chuckled Ratigan as he entered the great hall. It was a massive and lordly hall, but plain and simplistic in furnishing and design. Made to accommodate hundreds, including the Grand-master, the Masters, The Orders Journeymen, the Brothers-at-arms, Apprentices, Squires, Pages, Scribes, Armourers, and Smiths of the chapterhouse. In all it's glory it represented a large portion of King Richard's army, but in secret. The Orders were dotted around the Holy Lands and did the Lord's great work in accordance with the special dispensation from the King himself.

 

They were led by Brothers-at-arms to the head of the great hall, where they kneeled before Lord Roustan, who was the thirty fifth and current Grand-master of the Order of the Ebony Sun. He held great respect from his order, none more so than from Ratigan, who had been trained by him from his teenage years and onward. As Lord Roustan's mental health deteriorated over time, his duties became more administrative and clerical, passing his orders to the circle of Masters. Today though, he was there in person to promote two young men he knew well, one he had practically raised and the other he had become very fond of. The other Masters had to stand in Accordance for the ceremony, and speak for themselves.

"Sers Ratigan and Allastad... You have proven your great strength and faith in our order, and have been elected to recieve the rank of Master each. May the masters please stand? Began Roustan.

 

Masters Blake, Torrence, and Lancarre stood, each in dress armor befitting thier ranks. Blake was a heavy set man with hands the size of warhammers, ironically his weapon of choice, and strong enough to wield in one hand what a normal or even a regularly strong man could barely lift with two. He spoke first.

"The Master of Hammers agrees. May you serve God, and our order with your impeccable service" he said, sitting back down. The next to speak was Torrence, a lithe man, with a mighty beard. He was famed for his study into demonic activity, and was the foremost expert of the age, his works the most defininitive.

"The Master of Words agrees. May you serve God, and our order with your knowledge of things unbeknownst to many" said Torrence. The last of the masters, Lancarre, was a frenchman from a noble lineage, and famed for his accomplishment s against the demonic forces of Saladin.

"Le master of tactics, he say, OUI! May you bring your experience to our table of war" said the frenchman, with considerable aplomb.

 

"You knelt as Brothers, now you rise again... as Masters. The priveledge of your new rank gains you access to any and all of the order, its secrets and it's unwavering obedience. You may take an apprentice. You may own property and lands, and are permitted to wear the plate mail of a Master" said Roustan, drawing his sword and placing it on Allastad's shoulder.

"Arise, Allastad, Master of Archers" he said, and placed it on Ratigan.

"Arise, Ratigan, Master of Longblades".

 

The ceremony wasn't only for the masters, however. Roustan also called upon Richard, bequeathing him the rank of Brother-at-arms, enabling him to wear the chainmail, name his weapon, and take a Squire of his own. Ratigan felt a sense of grief that Gromley would never know such pride.

"Arise, Ser Richard" was the defining moment of that pride, he saw.

"Now, about the business in Acre... The... the... none that arrows fletched... none that... eyes. THESE HANDS OF MINE! NOTHING TO THE EYES! THE EYES OF FIRE! Screamed Roustan, insanely.

"At least he finished the ceremony, brother. Come, let us feast to our glories to come" said Master Blake, inviting Ratigan and Allastad to the table while Brothers-at-arms struggled to remove the raving Grand-master...

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Richard joined the other brother-at-arms in removing the Grand-master while Allastad joined Ratigan and the other masters to feast. "It is an honor to finally be among you." Said Allastad as he sat at the table, "I have heard stories of your crusades around town. you all are the best of the best." He turned to Ratigan and put his hand upon his shoulder, "We have made it brother, i know Grand-master Roustan is proud of you."

Edited by white_dragon43

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"I know. I wish there was a cure for his malady, but it is of the mind. Only almighty God can help him now..." said Ratigan, forlornly. They sat together around the table of Masters and ate a meal of roast oxen and fresh crusty bread with a dessert of stewed and sugared peaches, while the other ranked brothers ate more modestly, eating whatever meat was available, in this case horse, and finished with an apple.

"A fine meal indeed. So what shall be our first duties, then? What great deeds shall we accomplish when our dinner is done?" Laughed Ratigan. Master Blake did not join in the laugh though, he looked deadly serious.

"Did you see the dead rise? These are truly the end times" he said, spooning a mouthful of peaches.

"We fought them, as foul dead as they were alive, to be sure. Where else have they been seen?" Said Ratigan, to the table. Through his food, Master Lancarre answered.

"We 'ave seen them everywhere since you came back, from Acre. They are following an unusually intelligent dead man, wearing templars armor".

Ratigan knew they were describing Lord Peter Selby, Of the Order of the Lion... but he chose to keep that between himself and those that were there with him...

 

When the feast had ended the masters went their seperate ways- to the towers and dungeons to carry out the evenings business. Ratigan walked with Allastad through the courtyards.

"I am considering taking Ser Lowell Barton for my apprentice... he shows great skills with a blade, the best and quickest I have seen for many years. But there is also Oliver Wellsly, who is impressing with great aptitude for mouted combat, and of course, there is Ser Paul Osmond, the youth who bested Master Blake in strength and courage. All great men, Sers and Lords, and the sons of sers and lords, but who to choose?" Pondered Ratigan out loud.

They passed Richard, who was showing his newly forged chainmail to the giggling servant girls carrying linen.

"He seems to be enjoying himself... Shall we visit the practice yards, and see the potential apprentices in action, brother?"

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"Just what i was thinking brother." said Allastad, it was noticeable that he had been distant. "The man that the masters spoke of is Peter Selby isn't it Ratigan? I could tell by your face that you knew the man they spoke of, and i had my suspicions." 

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(Short post by White's request)

 

"I am afraid that might be the case. The man we met fits the description of the undead leader. As bad as that news may be, I cannot help but wonder who else has risen as a stench..." said Ratigan. He and Allastad walked leisurely through the coutyard, kicking up dust to join the rest swept up by the gentle evening breeze.

 

He had thought about the risen dead and the heretics they had encountered with great concentration over the previous month. The ones that had exploded still haunted his nightmares. Such a fate for any soul, however evil they were, was terrible indeed.

"I have been thinking about the dead, brother. How do we permenantly kill that which is already dead? What are your thoughts?" He asked, casually, as if they were discussing the weather.

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"perhaps an exorcism like some demons, draw out the thing possessing them and destroy it. Or maybe some form of holy artifact, i dont know." replied Allastad as they neared the practice yards.

"But perhaps we should discuss this later tonight in my chambers, for now let us find our apprentices."

He saw Ratigan nod as they approached the knight in charge of the practice yards.

"What apprentices do we have today ser?" said the courtyard knight, who turned around and bowed "Ah, the newly appointed masters, how are you today?"

"We are fine ser, now please show us the available apprentices." 

"Very well." replied the knight, motioning for them to follow. "I am sure that you have heard of some of them Ser Ratigan, such as Ser Barton and Ser Wellsly or perhaps Ser Osmond, he has quickly made a name for himself around here and i doubt his feats escape your ears Ser. All are great men, and willing to serve. For you Allastad i would suggest one skilled in the way of the sword. Your archery is legendary but you lack the finesse and skill with a blade that Ser Ratigan has, it is what makes you two such a triumphant team. We do have some skilled in both swordplay and archery if you prefer though ser. Ser John Willington is among our top apprentices, skilled in both the ways of the sword as well as the bow. With more training im sure he could be quite the asset to your party." 

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"They sound Promising. I have been considering Barton, Wellsly and Osmand. Are they training today?" Asked Ratigan of the man. The man seemed slightly irritated by the fact Ratigan had stopped him from suggesting apprentices himself, but he quickly regained his composure.

"Barton and Osmand are training with considerable success, but I am sorry to say Wellsly took a liking to the... local ladies... and caught a disease most intimate, shall we say. He is being treated in the tower, but walking presents him great challenge at the moment, let alone swinging a blade, or mounting a horse. A shame, but we have others who are both skilled, and fortunately with more sense." Said the courtyard knight, barely supressing his laughter.

 

"The local ladies? Could our training not give him the ability to tell a clean woman from an unclean one? Madness. I watched him ride magnificently yesterday, he even outrode Master Lancarre. Still let us see the training then" said Ratigan, a little bit subdued that Wellsly had shown himself to be a fool.

He and Allastad entered the training yard to the sweet sound of arrows thudding into targets and the ring of blunted practice swords. It brought back many memories for him, of the blood and sweat of apprenticeship. He knew Allastad felt the same, butbhis experience had been quite different, with simmering rivalries for the post of head archery Apprentice, he saw Lowell Barton swiftly slashing at a clumsy opponent, and the boy knew he was good. The look on his face certainly showed his love of swordplay. Paul Osmand was swinging a massive two handed sword at a heavily padded dummy, slashing deep lines into it with his fury.

"Let's walk around brother, observe the potentials" said Ratigan to Allastad.

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Allastad nodded in agreement as he followed Ratigan into the training yard. He followed Ratigan around the area watching as they fired their arrows into the targets, and remembering the time he and Ratigan had spent alone  in the yard. "How far we have come brother," Said Allastad, just loud enough for Ratigan to hear him among the noise, "We were always the first up and in the training yards, waiting for the chance to prove ourselves. And here we are again, but now as Masters." He looked around at the apprentices, trying to decide who he should take. "One trained in the way of the sword may not be so bad, a strength to combat my weakness, What are your thoughts Ratigan?" 

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"A good idea, Brother. Let us observe them, the decision is ours to make, when we decide" said Ratigan, as they walked together around the training yard. While they walked, one of those training came up to them.

"Hail, Masters. I am Pick, the son of Titon, the Keep Blacksmith. I have a message for you, from my father" said the newcomer, a teenage boy with a heavily muscled body and short curly blonde hair. He passed the message to Ratigan's hand, nodded politely to them both and took his leave. It was at this moment that Ratigan realised he was holding six heavily wrought steel warhammers under his other arm, like they weighed nothing.

"If they boy ever decides to weild a hammer instead of just delivering them, we could finish off Saladin's army by the years end" he surmised. "This note, though. It says we should bring our equipment to the Blacksmith, for reinforcement and he will provide us with lists of properties to purchase. Oh, and our money" said Ratigan, raising his eyebrows at the last part. He had never been paid before in anything but food and bed, but the property they could now own wouldn't be free, so money was necessary, even though it was an indulgence.

 

The sound of the training yard was sweet to his ears as they passed through it on the way to the Blacksmith, which was on the far side of the yard. Lowell Barton saw them coming as he disarmed his opponent, and bowed, sword in hand.

"Masters. Congratulations on your promotion. I hope to make the same advancement, one day" he said, leaning on the pommel of his shiny longsword.

"You will, Lowell, only a matter of time" said Paul Osmond, walking over to join them and wiping his sweaty head with a rag.

"Good day, Masters. I saw you talking to Pick just now. Did that simpleton bother you?" Said Osmand. Ratigan couldn't help but think Osmand was being rather unkind.

"Not at all. A fine lad, I expect he will be forging great weapons for us, in the years to come. Excuse us, we have pressing matters with the Blacksmith" said Ratigan, hoping to end the conversation there. Barton was pleasant enough, but it seemed Osmand thought rather too much of his station, and looked down on Pick for being of lower birth-not a good quality in an apprentice...

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Allastad arrived at the blacksmiths followed by Ratigan. Allastad handed the smith his equipment and took the lists of properties from the blacksmith before turning to Ratigan. "It would seem Osmand thinks highly of his station Ratigan, a disappointing sight for one training to be a master." Allastad looked through the properties as Ratigan handed over his equipment, "It seems we will start receiving money now, perhaps we will have to take up hunting bounties? When the demons cause enough trouble and become a threat prices for their removal do get quite large."  The blacksmith stood up and grabbed some coin pouches off a small table that looked to be a workbench. "Here is your payment to get you started, there will be a brother in arms arriving to show you the properties in about an hour. You both are welcome to wait here if you would like."

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"Bounties would be a good way to deal with the scourge, and earn coin as well. Good idea, that one" said Ratigan to Allastad as he recieved his money pouch. It was quite heavy, definitely the most money he'd ever held in his hand. While they waited, Ratigan leafed through the book of available properties, a bound tome with tiny neat writing and the frayed edges where pages were, plainly torn out when the property was sold. The selection of properties to buy was extensive. Each one described in great detail by the seller. One of the listings caught Ratigan's eye, an old armoury. It was close to the Chapterhouse and was quite spacious, heavily built and came with furnishings- but these were not the reason why it had piqued his interest; it had three secret passages, a hidden room, and since it was an armoury, it came with solid oak doors.

"Who should I talk to about buy the old Armoury?" He asked the Blacksmith.

"The Brother-in-arms will sort out all of that for you. I have bad news for you though, Master Ratigan" started fhe Blacksmith.

"Your weaponry from your last mission is beyond all repair. The demon blood it is soaked in has rendered it brittle, it will not take any impact. I can offer you a replacement though, freshly forged" said the Blacksmith, smiling and showing his three gold teeth.

Ratigan picked up a thin blade and swished it about, but the he had an idea.

"I have a proposal for you. Could you, with some of my coinage behind it, build me a steelhand with a built in sword, moulded to fit to my stump?" He asked.

"I do like a challenge. But it will cost, and it will take me two weeks" said the Blacksmith, smelling a deal.

"Then we have an accord, good sir" said Ratigan, shaking the mans massive hand,

"Here comes the Brother-in-arms. Afternoon, Brother Bryas."

 

Brother Arthur Bryas was a thin man, who moved so silkily across the ground one could be forgiven for thinking he had no feet at all; not a single footstep was heard.

"Good day to thee, Masters. I am Bryas. Do you wish to view any properties today?" He said, his voice as thin and reedy as his person,

"I'd like to enquire about the old Armoury" said Ratigan, holding up the paper.

"Yes... it is so cheap because those that owned it used it for nothing but storage... like an overlarge shed. What about Master Allastad, have you come to any decisions?" He asked.

 

(OOC: That could be anything provided it existed in the 12th century, White)

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Allastad thumbed through the available properties before answering. He came across a listing for a stone house located near the fields, away from all the noise of the town.

"What about the stone house near the fields?" asked Allastad

"It is a good choice sir. Its quiet and quite spacious. It used to be the home of a merchant before he moved out of town, so its not furnished unfortunatly. Though it does have some tapestries, and a nice washroom." replied Bryas

"Very well, i would like to see it once we are finished at the armory then." said Allastad, closing the book of properties. "Shall we set off then Ratigan?"

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(Short post because writers block)

 

The road to the armoury was uneventful, but far from dull- with the sounds and smells of the area Ratigan felt at home amongst he madness. Master Bryas was greeted by many on the way, both knight and merchant greeted him in the same respectful manner. Once they reached the armoury, which was quite far from the chaos so all was quiet.

"It looks well cared for, Master Bryas" said Ratigan. He looked up at the battlements, which were crenelated stone, probably limestone, and some granite.

 

Bryas opened the gates, which opened slowly but they gave a definite sense of strength to those watching. Inside was very old fashioned and distinctly middle eastern, but it showed promise. He could already see himself planning where to put his sword racks and cabinets, and several places that would serve nicely as hidden rooms and lockaways. 

"I'll take it. Shall we head out to the farmhouse?" he asked.

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Allastad could see Ratigans excitement upon seeing the armory, " I am sure you will have this place looking a proper armory before long Ratigan." said Allastad, chuckling to himself. Master Bryas nodded "To the farmhouse then, are you ready to go Allastad?"

"I am, lead the way." replied Allastad.

  The sounds of the people filled the air as they walked back through the town on their way out to the farms, the walk was pleasant enough. As they walked through the market Allastad turned to Ratigan "I suppose we will be visiting here often enough to fill up on supplies now that we are no longer living in the castle."

   After a few moments had passed they arrived at the farmhouse. The stone exterior was quite welcoming, There was a gravel walkway leading to the front of the house and the house itself was made of granite and had an oak wood door. They entered the house and looked around, the inside was empty except for a few skin rugs that had been left, the floors were made of limestone and There were a few tapestries hung from the wall each with vibrant colors, there was a small stone fireplace, just big enough for cooking stew or using as warmth, in the living area. The washroom was quite nice as well, the toilet was made of oak and granite and there was an oak tub for bathing. It was apparent that the merchant that lived here was quite well off.

"I will gladly take it." said Allastad, amazed at how elaborate it was.

Edited by white_dragon43

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It surprised Ratigan how simple property buying was when it came with rank; he had been afforded more respect and commanded more attention than he ever had before. Once the proper papers were signed and money changed hands, things went swiftly. Soon, both he and Allastad had setup stately homes in thier respective new premises. Ratigan's Armoury had come with a compliment of five staff- a cook, two maids, a farrier and the farrier's apprentice. (OOC: A farrier is the person that tends to the horses btw).

 

Life was going well in the old Armoury. It had been a month since his initial purchase, and Ratigan was settling in very nicely. He was sitting on an ornate chair enjoying a dinner of roast ox and a cup of wine. At this time though, he was approached by a messenger.

"Master, I bring news from the chapterhouse. It is for your eyes only" said the messenger, before bowing and leaving.

 

For the eyes of Master Ratigan

 

It is with a heavy heart that I write with grave news. A large compliment of fine Order journeymen and apprentices have been officially listed as missing in action- some fifty eight men were assigned to enter the holy city of Jaffe, and have not returned and the city is in panic. An army of the dead seemingly thousands strong have been besieging the city for some days.

 

As you and your fellow masters of the Ebony Sun chapterhouse have the experience in unusual and heretical manners, it is to you I look to for assitance. Please return your reply with my messenger, whose name is Alban.

 

Master Hartwell, Order of the White Plumes

 

**

 

The news had ruined dinner, but it also meant leaving his new home, and that stung deeper. But duty called, and holy oaths meant more to God than well furnished home. He left his reply, agreeing to discuss this further with his fellow heads of the Chapterhouse, and left to find Allastad. He had made a point of remembering the route to his brothers new home, as they had communed repeatedly on the subject of Apprentices still to be chosen...

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Allastad sat beside the fireplace in the living area of his home, he had just gotten back from the market with some venison, and was about to cook some stew, when he saw Ratigan walking up to his house. He walked outside, "What brings you by today Ratigan?"

Edited by white_dragon43

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"Good day, Brother. I come with bad news, and a mission of the utmost importance" said Ratigan, showing the letter to Allastad. While he put away the venison and read it, Ratigan took a look around his Brother's new home, it was nicely set out, with the welcoming smells of spices and herbs, probably from the well stocked kitchen. As Allastad came back, he looked stern but understanding.

"We will need to leave for Jaffe in the morning. Although the apprentice problem still remains, the other masters have granted us leave to take Barton and Osmund anyway, and see who performs best under our service. We are alos taking the Blacksmith's son, who has requested to come with us too, and our old friend "Blacksting" will making the journey with us until we reach the village of Tryil, where he has business. Get a good nights sleep brother, our party leaves at first light."

 

**

 

Sleep did not come easy that night. Thoughts of terrible things and of the sense of dread that awaited him in the unknown... He went to sleep in the early hours of the morning.

 

When he awoke, it took him very little time to prepare himself for the journey, although washing himself and dressing himself with only one hand took far longer and was more difficult than he remembered. He also opened the chest containing his steel sword-hand, which he had kept in its box for a fortnight waiting for an opportunity to use it. Now was the time, and it fitted onto his stump nicely and strapped to his elbow with a leather strap and buckle. The party had been told to gather int he great hall, and Ratigan made his way there in his Masters armor and weapons, feeling quite confident that he looked very fearsome...

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Allastad laid in his bed deep in thought, several men missing in action headed to a city overrun by the undead, He did not rest till early in the morning hours. When he awoke he began to prepare for the journey, grabbing his armor and weapons before heading to the great hall to meet up with Ratigan. He arrived at the hall just moments before Ratigan and walked up to his brother in arms "Shall we proceed?"

Edited by white_dragon43

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Ratigan's journey through the neighbouring settlements was uneventful, except for a bird of prey carrying a message high overhead. Once he arrived, he noticed he was the last to arrive. Allastad, Richard, Barton, Osmund and Blacksting were already preparing for the ride. Only a few paces in, he was run into by a clumsy young man carrying his bags.

"Good day, Master. My name is Astan, your new Squire. I am to take the late Squire Gromley's duties and assist you in any way possible" rushed out the young man, before he zoomed off again to the fill the horses saddlebags. Ratigan greeted his fellow master and surveyed the latest additions to the quest.

"Once the horses are prepared we should make haste to Jaffe. I fear terrible things await us, but we must endure. I am also worried about Roustan... I pray that our leaving does not give him cause him to do anything... damaging. His sickness is getting worse by the day. I heard he bit housekeeper quite badly. Oh, and my new Squire seems to be nothing if not... eager."

 

The party left the chapterhouse soon after, and they proceeded through the drawbridge gates two by two. Astan did nothing but talk very quickly about very little, and soon his voice became part of the background noise to Ratigan's ears. He remembered the boldnes of the bandits the first time he had left the chapterhouse, but this time they had no such ambush. The quiet was very unusual and more than a little worrisome once they hit the road proper.

"Were is everyone? Thisnroad should be filled with donkeys, camels, trader carts and the like" he said, but when his horse suddenly stopped (as did the others) he got his answer. The sandy road was cold. In this part of the world, anything other than roasting heat was utterly improbable, and it did not bode well. Ratigan dismounted as bis horse woukd go no further regardless of how much he insisted. He then crunched a skull under his boot.

"Prepare yourselves. Something is here... watching us... to arms, everyone!" He called, as several dusty and ancient reanimated corpses clawed thier way out of thier sandy graves...

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Allastad dismounted his horse "I dont think a bow will do much good here, ill have to use my sword.." He thought to himself. He unsheathed his sword and plunged it into the head of the nearest rising corpse which continued to claw its way to the surface. He pulled the sword out and was about to decapitate the corpse when his leg was grabbed by another corpse behind him, which pulled him to the ground causing him to drop his sword, the corpse that he had been fighting made its way to its feet, lifted Allastads sword off the ground, and was preparing to swing it down at him when he quickly grabbed the corpses legs and pulled it to the ground. Allastad kicked the other corpse in the head, causing it to loosen its grip enough for Allastad to get free. He got to his feet, picked up his sword and swung it down at the corpse he had just pulled to the ground, decapitating it. He then decapitated the other corpse before calling to Ratigan, "Its pointless brother, we will never kill them all. I say we find another path and retreat, we will find another way to Jaffe."

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"We need only carve a swathe through them! Enough to get ourselves through, they do not seem interested in the horses, just man-flesh!" Shouted back Ratigan, smashing his steel fist into a dead face and obliterating it. The shambling horde seemed to grow in strength the harder the party fought against them. Astan was holding his own to a vicious pair when he was grabbed from his saddle, but someone else beheaded the pair before he hit the ground, and help him up.

"This is folly! Two more rise for every one that falls! Something must be controlling them!" Shouted Blacksting, loudly, over the moans and cries.

 

Ratigan looked about, past the immediate threat, and it took a few moments to spot the odd creature out- one of them was not fighting, but praying on his knees, bobbing back and forth. It was grumbling in a low and sinister language- muttering incantations to keep the dead fighting."There, kill that one!" He shouted.

Barton and Osmund bothe heard the command, and both wanted the glory. They raced each other through the forest of hacked off limbs and red rain toward the target, and both acted in synchronicity as both of their blades collided with the bobbing corpse. It stood up, impaled, and pulled out the swords with each hand, and attacked both Barton and Osmund with their own blades. Barton got an ear cut off cleanly, and Osmund, trying to wrestle back his sword, grabbed the sharp end with his hands and came close to losing a finger before headbutting the thing and knocking it's head off.

 

Dealing with his own problems, Ratigan only saw the headbutt but it was impressive enough, even though Osmund was very dazed and vulnerable in the seconds afterwards. With the chanter dead, the corpses turned back into dusty bodies and went limp, dropping back into the he ground and melting back into the sand.

"Well done. We should learn more about the enemy, if possible. The more we know, the better chance we have of stopping the evil at it's heart" said Ratigan, as everyone wrapped bandages around the latest wounds.

The rest of the road to the village of Tryil was less excitable, but the presence of the living dead was everywhere. They passed througb several small villages and farms, but there were no peasants or farmers, just flies and the sweet, cloying smell of decaying bodies in the sun, being picked apart by vultures. They eventually reached Tryil just before dark the next day, and even though it was quite a large village, it seemed to be empty...

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Allastad followed Ratigan and the others through the main gate. The village seemed empty as they walked down the deserted streets, moans could be heard from the dead outside the city walls and yet there was no sign of the living dead within the town. Doors of houses were left open and the smell of burned bread from the bakery filled the streets. " Whatever happened here it appears that the townsfolk were in a hurry to leave.." Said Allastad as he looked through the window of the bakery. "Pies left undone and bread left in a still hot oven. Seems we got here not long after the event." Allastad was about to turn around when he heard movement coming from behind the bakery. He placed a hand on Ratigans shoulder and nodded his head in the direction of the noise. They both walked slowly around the bakery,  as they came around the corner to the back they saw a figure run off down an alley towards the town church. Allastad turned to Ratigan, "Should we follow?"

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"It seems like a likely trap" replied Ratigan. The fleeing figure was obviously suspicious enough to arouse interest though, as Ser Blacksting gave a nod to the party and set off after him, and he was gone before anyone could react, melting into the shadows.

"We follow our friend's lead and split up. Allastad, you take Richard and Osmund and check the village square. Barton, Astan and I will head for the Town hall, and be sure to look for any survivors" said Ratigan, as he heard a yelp from close by, probably from the mystery figure getting caught by his pursuer.

 

In the Church, a man was kneeling over a horrid work of art on the floor. It was an elaborately painted demonic sigil, and empty corpses drained of blood were littered around it, at each point of it's seven pointed star pattern. He was cutting himself and bleeding into the middle, and muttering in a deep and inhuman voice. At this point, the man, a undead Lord Peter Selby looked up and laughed. His skin had turned green and his lower jaw just bare bone, but his death rattle of a laugh echoed through the empty halls of the church, mocking and blaspheming at the holy images on the stain glass windows.

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