Shadowrun: Dark Ages

The Fire and the Flood

Deputy Sherrif Struman, Cid Sitron-Blodåre and Murdo (Murdoch) rushed to find the Earl to tell him that they had failed to find a cure – not that there wasn’t hope, but that they had nothing to stop the churches imminent ceremony. The Earl was not happy, but he was resigned to the truth and resolved himself to condemn the young man to die and to side with the church in the cleansing of the slums. He marched tot he ceremony with armed men, dogs and Struman, Cid and Murdo by his side.

Meanwhile, Fen MacBás had rushed back to Dundee and on to his appointment with Kathryn Ferguson. He snuck into the grounds of the Ferguson estate, as usual, but instead of waiting for him, he found Katheryn collapsed in the recess of the rear door. Worried both for her and for his own discovery, Fen quickly checked he and, determining that she still lived, attempted (successfully) to wake her. Awake but shaky, she asked weakly for the apothecaries concoction. Fen was reluctant to give it to her, seeing the apparent effect it was having on her health, but she insisted and eventually he relented. She took it immediately and, standing weakly began to struggle back in to her house. Pausing at the door, she asked Fen a favour, though she wouldn’t meet his eye. Would he would return on the morrow to deliver a package from her to the apothecary? Fen reluctantly agreed. His task finished, he left the Ferguson estate and headed to the city square to witness the churches burning.

Agnes, Elara a’ Tog and Orion Pendragon returned to Dundee and, finding the university largely deserted (with people mostly headed to the city square) they headed out to a tavern for a comfortable night (Ages having extorted some significant funds from Deputy Sherrif Struman in exchange for the promise of her valuable information. They headed to The Cracked Cask where they enjoyed a largely undisturbed, if somewhat drunken beginning to the night. At least until it began to rain.

As the Earl and his retinue enteres the square the crowd was gathering. Deputy Sherrif Struman and Cid Sitron-Blodåre headed into the crowd while Murdo (Murdoch) sought a more distant, higher, vantage point for proceedings on top of the Phoenix Inn. As the Earl stepped onto the wooden platform beset with three large throne-like chairs, the
atmosphere was oppressive. The clouds above were black and pregnant with rain and the promise of a storm, swirling eerily over Dundee. The air was heavy, charged, and wet. The crown murmured uncomfortable and clearly recognising the ephemeral sense of foreboding that washed around the night…

Chanting filled the air along with the scent of jasmine and incense as the bishop and a formal procession came from the cathedral. He was flanked by two of the sacred warriors and the scarlet-wimpled beautiful nun and Sir Arthur Fergusson, but the procession itself was larger, with priests, the choir and lay people in their robes. And to the rear was the last of the two holy warriors the Bishop had bought with him from down south, flanking the creature, shackled and manacled, snarling in wide-eyed madness and hunger at the crowd. The manhandled him up onto the pitch-soaked pyre even as the rain fell and shackled him firmly to the large trunk in its center.

The Bishop, Earl and the scarlet wimpled nun took their positions on the raised stage, each sitting on a throne-like chair (the nuns, slightly lower than the other two). As the chanting finished and the priest benedictions to God waned, the Bishop stood and spoke, welcoming the crowd to come and see Gods justice done, welcoming the Earl for attending to show Dundees commitment to the lord and the justice and the protection of his people. And he began to proselytize. As the sermon came to the end the Bishop called out to one of the waiting priests to light the pyre and burn the sinful Spawn of Satan, even as the light rain began to intensify! Three times the priests tried, but their torches would not light despite the hot braziers and even the pitched-soaked wood of the pyre refused to catch. Indeed, every flame in the vicinity was extinguished by the falling rain – very odd indeed! The Bishops expression darkened in anger and the scarlet wimpled nun swiftly came to his side and they whispered in urgent conversation. The bishop then called out over the crowd that they needed to hear their faith in God. The scarlet wimpled nun fell to her knees in front of the Bishop and he sheld her hands in supplication as he began to prey.

Some distance away in The Cracked Cask, Elara a’ Tog and Agnes looked out on the ominous looking crowd and the intensifying rain and, suspecting magic, switched their vision tot he flickering astral plane, only to be amazed, delighted and not a little awed byt what they say. For every single raindrop – tens, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions – each one was a tiny water spirit, dancing and sparking joyously as they fell to earth, consuming each and every flame that they touched. It was simply a beautiful display of immense magical power. But whom?

Back att he city square, the crowd didn’t know it but a fell magic overtook them as they joined the bishop in prayer – dragging at their spirits, their auras, siphoning their energy. Only Cid was immune for he crushed the dragons gift under his boot even as the magic took hold and it shielded him and protected him. At the culmination of the prayer the nun called out in religious ecstasy and a tendril of pure flame, a thick, burning, twisted whip sprung from her right hand. She stood, a look of exaltation in her eyes and she turned to the crowd – the rain falling on the whip sizzled and popped and evaporate in tiny puffs of steam. She called out to the crowd to witness Gods will and drew back the whip to ignite the fire, but then paused as Cids nervous voice called out over the pregnant silence of the crowd interrupting her. She fixed him with a cool gaze and asked him if he had welcomed god into her life. He verbally dodged and weaved, tried to evade giving the straight answer of ‘no’ but she saw through his simple deception and when he had finished she asked him if he would like the light of god in his life – gesturing emphatically with her whip. The question was rhetorical and she drew back that terrible lash of flame and smote it down – not on Cid, but on the pyre which exploded into an inferno of fire and the poor creatures screaming. As the crackle and pop of the flames mingles with the piteous cries of the creature and the stench of burning putrid flesh the nun gestures with the lash towards Cid and instructed the paladins to arrest the heretic and confine him in gods chains.

Meanwhile, up on the roof of the Phoenix inn, Murdo had had enough of this and, deciding that he didn’t need to watch more sermons and a child burn, he moved to get down from the roof. As he did so however, his enhanced senses gave him pause. Something wasn’t right. The edge of the thermal glow of a sizable gathering of people could be seen cominf from an alleyway nearby, and faint sounds of fighting. This didn’t look good – perhas troublemakes, or revelers drunk before the night had even begun? Either way he decided to investigate. As he climbed down Fen MacBás emerged from the shadows to join him. Softly theymoved to the alleyway only to come across a startling sight. A mass of the dead awaited them, through at first they were squabbling, fighting over something… over someones.. over some corpse. Quiet as the pair were, the creatures senses seemed attuned to something else and as they looked on ten pairs of sightless blood-red eyes turned to fix on them. A moment hung in the air and even the rain seemed to slow its inevitable descent. Then things erupted. Fearing they were outmatched and would both perish Murdo shouted to Fen to flee and raise the alarm, and he charged at the mass or pockmarked at rotting flesh. Fen, however, did not listen. His blood sung at the challenge of battle, the spirit of the wolf that was his totem urged him on and he followed Murdo into the fray – much to Murdo’s astonishment! Things did not go well for the duo. Murdo got in a few good hits on several of the creatures but was rapidly overwhelmed by the weight of numbers of the creatures, who struck him down and then began to eat… They swiftly recoiled however spitting his blood and gobbets of flesh to the ground, clearly unhappy connoisseurs!

Fen survived attacks from the few who hadn’t focussed on Murdo, but after Murdo fell and the creatures distaste as his flesh became clear, their blind-red eyes turned hungrily to him. Faced with this horror and horrible odds, discresion became the better part of valour and he fled, leaving his dead friend behind. The creatures, fast and hungry, pursued. Fen headed initially towards the city centre but then, seeing the crowd and fearing the death and terror the creatures would cause for those gathered there, he turned south trying to lead them away and then hoping to loose them and loop back round to check on his friend. And some did indeed follow him but he was so fast that six of the creatures were trailing and suddenly became distracted by the large crown of yumminess in the city square.

As they charged into the rear of the crowd panic erupted as they tore and bit at the flesh of the living. That was not the only panic however for, fearing the loving ministrations of the mother church Cid swiftly summoned aid to his side in the form of a giant bear spirit, all curled dark smoke and crimson glowing eyes. With hindsight this may not have been the best choice, for the crowd around him erupted with screams and cried of “Demon!”, “Satans Servant!” and “Run!” and panic set in. It did, however, impede the paladins, buying him time for him to tell his servant to get him out of there. It seized him and with him in its mouth the spirit fled, running at first then swiftly leaping into the sky heading west.

Meanwhile, Fen had successfully escaped from the creatures and had headed round to see if Murdo still lived. Astonishingly, when he got to the place Murdo had fallen the body had vanished. A quick investigation showed blood smears, and a dragged footprint heading back toward the square, telling the story of his recovery. Quickly Fen followed, hoping to catch up with the injured warrior. Murdos amazing recovery had come thanks to to blessed rain of water spirits who danced over the wounds of those they fell on, knitting flesh and binding wounds. Although the effect was small, it had been enough to bring Murdo round and getting him to his feet. Brave (some might say foolhardy!) to the last, and knowing the creatures had left and were probably headed to the poor crowd of Dundonians in the city square, Murdo rushed as swiftly as his remaining wounds would allow in an effort to rescue them from their inevitable fate. He was not as fast as usual however and Fen caught up with him even as Murdo charged into the rear of the of creatures who were now ravaging the panicking crowd. Fen joined the fray and spurred on by heroism they began to overpower the vicious hellspawn but were too busy to look up as Cid sailed above their head in the grip of his giant crimson-eyed spirit bear.

The bear and Cid were headed east and moving fast, but things were not going to be so easy. Some way behind, the scarlet-wimpled nun had fixed them with a stare. Her lips moved in silent prayer and suddenly, without warning, the bear vanished – banished by the power of God back to Shaitans realm. Of course, this left Cid with a difficulty, moving hast, 40-odd ft above the ground with no means of support or propulsion. He smashed into the wall of the Phoenix Inn with a bone-crunching thud and slid down, unconscious and dying to the floor. Once again, the healing properties of the rain spirits worked their magic and, miraculously, a few moments later he came too. Even more miraculously, he was not in chains; a combination of panic, ghoulish cannibal creatures and armed men faced off near the front of the crowd causing plenty of distraction for the authorities. Swiftly he slunk away.

At the front of the crowd, as the scarlet-wimpled nun finished her prayer and scanned the crowd, her eyes fixed on Deputy Sherrif Struman and her lips curled in a slight smile. Her voice echoed in his mind “Hello, my love. Its been too long…”. Suddenly, and to those around him inexplicably, he drew and levelled his mighty crossbow at her, calling out to arrest her in the name of the Earl. The paladins were not pleased and rushed to intercept and manhandle the deputy – whose cadre of city guards were equally unhappy with that idea. The Bishop whispered sharply to the earl and then he, Sir Arthur Fergusson, the nun and several priests left the stage and hurried swiftly though the rain back to the cathedral. The earl, meanwhile, intervened in what was becoming a tense armed standoff and a few minutes later had talked the situation down with his usual gruff charisma. Deputy Sherrif Struman yielded to arrest for threatening a servant of God and the church going about her business, and yielded his bow up tot he paladins, however the Earl had refused them permission to detain him themselves, pointing out forcefully that the Earl and his men were the Law in Dundee, appointed by the King himself, and that the church had no right to detain the citizens of this city. If they had a complaint or need of redress they must come to the Earl who would deal with it. And so Struman was lead away in manacles by his own men, even as the crowd dispersed and the pyre burned low – the ashes of the pitiful creature indistinguishable from the remains of the wood from which it was made.

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NickSchurch

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