Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Shadows Return: Intro Part 1

Stefan the Black, commander of the Murder of Crows mercenary company, stood upon the
deck of the ship and surveyed the coastline of Albion. The mysterious island was still distant, however it was approaching rapidly as the ship’s prow crashed through the rolling waves. The masts and sails creaked overhead as they struggled to cope with the strength of the wind pushing them onward. When they left Marienburg the ship’s captain had estimated the voyage would take a week with favourable conditions. That had been a mere three days ago.  

Stefan the Black

Immediately after leaving the port, the ship and its companions had caught a powerful tailwind that had continued unabated for the entire journey. The captain had been heard to mutter about how unnatural this weather was, but Stefan was not complaining. Anything to hasten their arrival was welcome, wherever it came from.

Albion had been nothing more than a myth up until a few weeks prior. Some madmen claimed to have been there, but never had anything solid to prove their claims, and none had ever managed to make it back again. Then suddenly the fogs that perpetually shrouded vast areas of the Sea of Chaos had lifted, and word spread that the stories were true after all. Albion was there, and the race was on to reach the island and see what riches it might contain.

Stefan’s company had been hastily preparing to depart when the strange visitor had arrived. He was some strange wild druid, dressed in little more than rags, but he carried himself with an assurance that suggested he possessed both purpose and power. He called himself a Truthsayer, although this seemed to Stefan a strange title and one of little value when it was self-proclaimed. He claimed to have travelled from Albion himself, and offered his services as a guide. In truth he had privately offered Stefan payment for the services of his company, however the nature of the enemy they would face remained vague.

The Truthsayer now stood beside Stefan, bare feet firmly planted on the deck. His eyes were fixed upon the horizon, and if he ever blinked then Stefan missed it. To his knowledge the man had stood in this exact position for the entire duration of the voyage, his wild hair streaming in the wind and his ragged garb flapping about him. 

“Where are we to land?” asked Stefan. “Is there a port or harbor?”

The Truthsayer replied without shifting his gaze, “There is a safe natural harbor on this side of the island. We should be there within the hour.”

“So there is no proper port, then.” Stefan had not been able to squeeze much information from the druid in the time he had tried to engage with him. Either he was tight-lipped about his home land, or he was simply unaccustomed to conversing like a normal civilized person.

“There is nothing you might even consider a town,” came the reply as the Truthsayer continued to stare at the horizon. “The ships will be safe enough anchored at our destination.”

“So there will be nobody there to meet us when we arrive,” Stefan continued to prod him, hoping he might be a bit more forthcoming.

Finally the man turned to look at him, and it seemed to Stefan that at that moment the wind that had been blowing so strongly and constantly during their journey suddenly eased a bit. “It seems likely to me that we will indeed be met as we come ashore. However the greeting party is not one of my making and may be decidedly unwelcoming.”

“So it’s a trap then, is it?” This question was not posed by Stefan, but by a new arrival. A hooded figure stepped up on the other side of the Truthsayer, and it seemed to Stefan that the druid edged just a little away from her as she appeared. Though Stefan could not see her face hidden beneath her cowl, her voice was strong and clear and her tone was seemingly bereft of the accusation in her words. In truth Stefan thought she sounded slightly amused or mocking. In all his dealings with her, she had seemed thus.

Lady Violentia was a sorceress of some sort, and was another late addition to their
Yeah, Violentia is not really a wizard of the Amethyst College
company. She introduced herself as a member of the Amethyst College of Magic in Altdorf, though her robes carried none of the identifying markings Stefan had observed in his previous dealings with wizards. There was no doubting her skills however; she had provided ample demonstration of her powers on the evening she had appeared. Most of the men were still skittish around her. When she was not hiding under her ridiculous dark robes, she was a beautiful woman. But she was aloof and she was dangerous, and not a little scary. None of the men had dared make a pass at her during the voyage. 

As always, the Lady Violentia had her assistant shadowing her. Norbert was a quiet and unassuming old man. He followed his mistress everywhere. He really seemed quite devoted to her. Stefan was not entirely sure what services Norbert offered her, as he had never seen her call upon him to make himself useful in any way. But there was no doubting he would be on hand should a need for him ever arise.

The Truthsayer stepped around and away from the sorceress as he responded to her question. Stefan noticed that the wind died off even more as he did so. “It is not a trap. We are simply not the first party to arrive on the island since the mists lifted. If I am not mistaken we shall be met shortly after landing by a band of Northmen. I can feel the taint of the Dark Gods from here. Unfortunately this is the best harbor on this side of the island. To go around would take too much time. You had best prepare for battle.”


Stefan silently cursed their enigmatic druid companion as he shouted orders to his men rushing around the ship. Already many of them had gone ashore, however it was no small matter to disembark hundreds of men, horses and all their supplies, and the news that they would need to be ready to fight so soon after their arrival had caused chaos.

Stefan’s second in command, Dahvit, was already ashore. He had been travelling on one of the smaller vessels, and they were faring better in their efforts to unload on the beaches. A solid contingent of men were already preparing themselves on the more solid grassy areas above the dunes. Engineers were frantically preparing their war machines whilst knights looked to the final preparations of their horses.

Stefan knew they needed a lot more time before they could properly prepare, but it was at that moment that the sound of war horns filled the air. The enemy was indeed close. They would have no more time to prepare. Stefan could see Dahvit cast a glance his way before turning to the men around him and bellowing orders at them to form up. 

Stefan cursed and turned ran back to his cabin, looking for his armour. He nearly crashed into the Lady Violentia in his haste as she emerged from below decks and earned a hiss of warning from her as he turned and slammed into the wall instead. It hurt, but he suspected knocking over an irate death wizard would be far more painful. He leaned against the wall for a moment, regathering his breath as the sorceress swept past him with Norbert in tow.

He rushed into his cabin and began frantically gathering up his armour. Taking it in his arms and hurried back out onto the deck. His mind was churning as he called, “Lady Violentia, if there is anything you could do to slow down the enemy it would be appreciated…”

But when he emerged onto the deck, the Lady and her assistant had vanished.


Stefan could never have comprehended it, but the Lady Violentia was already miles away. She stepped out from a swirling vortex of shadow in the middle of a swamp. She hissed in distaste as her foot disappeared into the sludge of the mud surrounding her. She should have worn her longer boots. Behind her, the shadows seemed to draw in upon themselves and spin away into nothing, revealing Norbert and a large trunk that she always brought with her. 

Violentia glanced briefly out from under her hood at the sky, and then wished she hadn’t. Even gloomy and overcast as it was, the sun burned at her pale flesh and brought searing pain. If she was going to work properly during the day, she would need to do something more about the weather.

“Let her out, Norbert”, she said without looking backwards. Her “assistant” said nothing, but she heard the clasps on the trunk opening, and shortly after she heard a ghastly howl of misery and disapproval.

“What is thisss, Violentia?” demanded a hissing voice with an eerie, other-worldly echo. “Why are we in thisss fetid, wretched place?”

Violentia suppressed a sigh that she no longer really needed (her lungs having ceased to work centuries ago) and turned to face the Banshee.
I'm sure she's fine once you get used to her...

“We are on Albion, Mother.”

“Of courssse we are, my perpetual disssappointment of a daughter. But why? And why thisss missserable ssswamp?”

“I have already told you why, Mother.  There is power here unlike any to be found anymore in the Old World. Power even to unbind you from this curse you placed upon us both.”

The Banshee hissed and its hollow eyes narrowed, “Do not think you can be rid of me ssso easssily, Violentia. All you will find in thessse ssswampsss isss mud and deeeaath,” this last word was gasped in a drawn out, almost delicious kind of way. This time Violentia did sigh, despite herself. Her mother had issues.

“Yes, mother. But right now our escort is in trouble. Death is precisely what we need.” And with that, Violentia went back to her normal practice of ignoring her dearly departed mother whilst she set about pulling an army from the muddy depths of the swamp. 

1 comment:

  1. Lord Scroltch the Deliriously Pustulant welcomes all attempts to dislodge him from the island of Albion. Even those made by combined Empire and Vampire armies.