“Father! Mother is wondering when you’ll come for supper!”
“In a moment, my love. I’ll be right up.”
In the candle-lit recesses of his wine cellar, he writes feverishly knowing that time is of the essence. It would be by midday tomorrow that the Rotbloods would be upon the doorsteps of Ussingen and begin the ransacking that would surely take place. The savages would not care of any allegiances between him and the Rot Father, nor would they care about any petty cults under his domain. Sweat dripped from his brow onto the dry parchment of his letter as he finished the message. A quick melting of wax followed by a press from his seal, and the letter was ready to be delivered to an ally in the Cheese Traders’ Guild, Hartwig Bartz. Hartwig was well known within the ranks of The Society of Harmonious Growth and Splendour and would be quick to spread the word of the Rotbloods arrival. He hands the letter to a servant for immediate delivery.
“Here, take this to Bartz’s Cheese and Creamery Shoppe, forthwith.”
“Yes m’lord. Right away m’lord.”
The Society of Harmonious Growth and Splendour had served Burblespue Halescourge, and in doing so, perhaps they, too, could receive the blessings of decay. They worked tirelessly in secret to ensure the successes of Nurgle and his agents. Dreisdunkel Mine needed assistance with excavations in addition to the black powder that was secured from Ussingen’s own Mining Emporium. Cult agents kidnapped outlying villagers and Helmgart citizens, transporting them to tunnels underneath the Shining Sacrament for reasons even unbeknownst to them. The various sabotage the cult had prepared for the Rotblood’s invasion would aid in the cities capture. Everything was about to take place and the hour of The Plague Lord was nigh.
“Busy or not, a man should never be late for his wife’s supper.”
“Apologies, darling. A few matters of business needed tending to.”
His influence in Ussingen hastened the cult’s endeavors here in town and in Helmart, but he knew that his comfortable life would come to an end after today. Tomorrow, he and what other cult members could make it, would take the Eilhart Road and meet up in Schilderheim and await Burblespue’s next commands. As he ate, he found it difficult to swallow or make eye contact with his wife or daughter as his heart raced in his chest. He knew he should try and enjoy these last few hours while he could, but he couldn’t bring himself to relax knowing what was coming.
“Well come Charlette, let’s ask Father if he can help us ready for bed.”
“A moment dear. I need to wrap up some correspondence, then, I’ll be right up.”
Without breaking his composure, he calmly walks to his office, waiting to hear the footsteps patter across the floor above. Knowing that his wife and daughter are readying themselves for bed, he darts for the cellar once more. He checks his bags again to make sure he has everything prepared for his journey. Provisions, some coin, and his cloak have been packed and ready for some time now in anticipation for tonight. He spent many hours here in the cellar, laboring late on behalf of The Society of Harmonious Growth and Splendour. He takes a deep sigh, looking around one last time before leaving.
“Master, allow me to help you with those.”
“NO! – no thank you. That will not be necessary Deacon. You may relax for the remainder of the night. I dismiss you.”
Hurriedly, he readies his horse throwing over its back a fine leather saddle followed by his packed belongings. The cool winds of autumn gently breeze across his face as he nervously tightens and re-tightens the leather straps secured the saddle. Before he rides off, he gazes beyond the iron gates of his home and into the small market square. The few remaining merchants packing up their stalls for the night are oblivious to the death and destruction that will ensue tomorrow. He looks up and in the window, he sees the silhouette of his wife combing the hair of his daughter. His lip quivers at the thought that she’ll never see her 8th birthday. He hesitates, but his resolve is strong and he forces himself to look away, riding off into the night leaving his family and town to their fate.
“Dangerous being alone traveler, I suggest you hurry it up to Schilderheim. I assume that’s where you’re headed?”
“Aye, sir. I’ve been on the road for a few days and look to meet with some kin of mine within the city.”
He was about half a day’s travel to Schilderheim and he would reach the city before nightfall. The journey itself was not as difficult as initially expected and was near eventless. There had been rumors of Beastmen running rampant in the province, but it was not uncommon to hear stories of bandits and Beastmen traversing the Reikwald Forest. Occasionally a traveling merchant or messenger did pass by him though, the pit in his stomach grew deeper, for every soul that journeyed towards Ussingen was another that journeyed towards death. He grew anxious as he got closer to Schilderheim. He wondered how many of the cult could have made it to the rendezvous and how long until Burblespue required their efforts again. Upon reaching the gates of Schilderheim he noticed the casual presence of the guards and how they milled about their watch. This confirmed that word of Ussingen’s fate had not yet reached the ears of this city.
“Aye we have a few rooms available, but how long you plan to stay?”
“Uh . . . here. That’s at least five days’ worth of room and board.”
He secured a room at the Otter’s Den Inn and unpacked his belongings into his room. Finally, he felt a small semblance of relief as sat on his bed. He looked out the window onto the streets of the city, watching as its denizens went about their business. He began to think about his city and its inhabitants and how they, too, use to toil about. He soon began to think of his family and their fate. At what point in the night did they begin to search for him? Was little Charlette aware of what her father had done? How many died because of his dealings? The weight of guilt soon made him became nauseous forcing him to rush to the room’s chamber pot and vomit. He sat there and broke down, but moments had passed and he collected himself. He calmed and reassured himself that passing guilt was a small price to pay for the blessing he would receive for being a servant of Nurgle.
“Sir, please step back! This is Imperial business!”
“What . . . what happened here?! Where are they taking those people?!”
He had walked to one of the less frequented wharves of Schilderheim where an abandoned warehouse was chosen to hold the cult assembly. Yet as he approached, he saw a crowd had gathered there. Worried, he pushed through the front only to be held back by a guardsman using his halberd to keep citizens back. He glimpsed past the guards and saw various individuals being herded to the edge of the river. Piles of old ship wood were being stacked and beyond that the undeniable garb of torch-wielding templars. Dread hit him and his heart sank. Without hesitation, he darted back to the safety of his unlit room, not daring to look back.
“Ah, Baron Justus Francke it’s been some time since our last . . . engagement. It appears you will share the same fate of your first mistress for your heresy and crimes against the Empire”
He couldn’t see his assailant, but he felt the swift hit of hilt strike the back of his head knocking him unconscious. He next awoke to a multitude of harsh screams that resonated agonizing pain. As he came to, he looked around to find himself back at the wharf surrounded by various lit and yet lit pyres. He struggled to move his arms, but the ropes securing him to the stake were taut. He looked about terrified, his eyes darting back and forth between the growing crowd and the various figures standing amongst the pyre with torches. A priest of Sigmar approached him, pulling out a scroll, and began to recite his last rites. A guardsman approached with a torch and lit the hay beneath the feet. As the flames began to flicker and grow, the heat began searing his flesh and he let out a harrowing scream. As the smoke of the pyre began to fill his lungs and snuff out what life was left in him, he looked up once more to see a figure atop a black horse, a witch hunter. He recognized the man, but the man was different. The last thing he saw was the cold resolute face of a one-eyed witch hunter.
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