Wonder upon glorious wonder, we appear to have stumbled upon several upright buildings and humans to inhabit them. Truly this young race are masters of civilisation. I can’t wait to see what they do when they develop functioning plumbing. Really, I mean that. See if you can send an engineer.
I think perhaps the people of the Empire have been greviously misled into thinking that they can control international trade lanes with their most prominent export. In many cases this might work but unfortunately the Empire’s chief export appears to be batshit insanity. Raving lunatics wander the streets and appear to make sweeping judgements that everyone else seems to think is a really good idea. I’m not sure who is more insane here, the ones that want to torch people for fidgeting at sermons or the unhygenic masses for not barbequing them on their own pyres. They want to burn a whole family on the basis of guilt by association.
Ghosts, cousin. Or, to be precise, more ghosts. Truly the walking dead seem to regard us as the highlight of their social calender and never fail to drop by for a cup of tea and biscuit. This is also how we met our first proper witch hunter, verily I see the path of destiny laid out before Klaus and so do I hope he accelerates to the stage of being a windowlicking simpleton long before he reaches a position of authority.
I can’t watch this happen cousin, I won’t allow it to happen. Something has to be done to save those children before those domineering sycophants have their way. I have a feeling there is a delicate game I can play here. But I fear the consequences.
Oh yes, darling cousin, beloved of my relatives and closest of my kin. Next time you decide to suggest I go to the land of the knuckledragging dungmonkeys, try to point out if there are any members of that family I’ve been attempting to give a wide berth to. You know. The reason I took up such self imposed exile in the first place. They are here. All the second rate worthless burgs in this goblin’s tea party of a country and they have to set up a trading outpost in mine. Them…and their wine. Oh dear sweet poorly represented Elven Gods it’s GLORIOUS. I’ve had two glasses and I’m already starting to have second thoughts. I have little doubt that thirty seconds in a room with the vacuous spastic will change my mind, but damn if it isn’t tempting.
Anierra Ierionessa, scion of her house, Swordmaster and traveller of the world, walked down the main street of Ubersreik, bolt upright, back ramrod straight at a slow, lordly pace. She looked almost regal, but that wasn’t the reason she walked this way, she walked this way because she knew one carefully targeted gust of wind would leave questions of her gender even less up for debate than they currently were, and that wasn’t much, at the moment. Why the blazes had she left the damn dress on? But she knew the answer to that.
It had been six months, six months of threadbare clothing, lively bedding and food that tempted her gag reflex with every bite. The closest thing to stimulating conversation had been, literally, threatening to murder people. Then in a rush, even the slightest contact with some genuine Elven culture had overwhelmed her, left her dazed, stunned, and standing here in…
She dared not look down, last something fly back up. There was just a little too much skin on display. But she wasn’t going to take it off. Certainly not in the street anyway but even still…
Real elven silk… Her skin felt like it had been dug up from having been buried alive. Every move she made let the luxurious material caress her in the most wonderful fashion and made her glad at least, to have found her own kin, breifly and precisely the wrong kin to find, but still.
Freidrich and Brieg hadn’t really stopped staring at her now for about ten minutes, she was beginning to think of making a game of it and make them walk into some of the other gawkers in the street, but then she wasn’t entirely sure people were staring at her, the headless flaming ghost behind them, or just sitting back and taking in the entire stupidity of the situation. She wasn’t entirely sure a mild concussion was enough punishment for their behaviour either, maybe she’d best wait till she had a solid set of armoured gauntlets over her wrists again before she clocked the pair of them.
She was dancing again. In her head. Dancing around the issue she’d been wrestling with since leaving the house of that vacouos little toad. She was going to have to pick a side, sooner rather than later and a lot sooner than she’d like. She had a small window of a grace period before he was penning off and having bounty hunters on her tail.
But when her hand reached up involuntarily and touched Bondbreaker, she knew the answer to the question and that, of course, was what would make the next steps of the dance truly interesting.
Clearly my decision to invest in dance lessons in the vain hope that it would benefit my combat capabilities was sheer folly. Harsh reality seems to indicate that the ravening hordes of the Old World have neither respect for high art nor the dullard senses we regularly attribute them. My brief foray into the finer points of culture have so far netted me naught but a handsome collection of teeth marks lining my entire body, or rather, the largely visible parts as well. Perhaps I have these undead abominations wrong or some such, maybe they do appreciate classical dance patterns, but it seems to just make them want to sink their rancid teeth into me all the more.
Our opponents in this instance, cousin, were ghouls. Surely humans demonstrate the mad foolishness of the young races by desiring to eat their own dead. Or perhaps I don’t understand their perception of mortality as I should. What is death to a race who knows it waits for them, always?
Bah, I prattle on cousin. Tonight I recline in the guest room of Seraquin, yes, cousin, the same one who all those years ago… well, we need not consider the details overly much. Surprisingly, I extract some mote of joy from watching his…almost human… face squirm at my presence. I appear to have grown by greater degrees than he. I have the swordmasters to thank for that. I feel belittled that I cannot thank them properly. Ah well, such is life…
It’s quite the relief to be sleeping in a decent bed though, even if I do have to jam the door shut. I rather hope that at least some of my traveling companions are having a decent night’s rest. I thought I heard a commotion outside a short while previous, so perhaps that isn’t the case, but they are proving to be stalwart and indeed, reliable. Mostly. I haven’t quite yet formed an opinion of this…new fellow. I’m not entirely sure on how nobility works in the Empire. I was going to ask him… Now I’m not so sure. Ricknar… Ricknar is proving well worth protecting. For someone who has a tendency to hurl fireballs about the place like he’s helping redecorate the house, he keeps a level head as well as a tacit understanding of what it is to be a decent soul. Breig is… human. Fallible, in his own way, but never with the faintest hint of malice. I have a feeling that a decent sandwich and a beer would go great measures towards assuring his friendship in the future. I think we need to reward him for the lengths he has come already with us. I was thinking something to protect him, though he does a fairly good job of that on his own. Klaus… is Klaus. No, sorry, I can’t be nice about him. He made Breig cry, that’s like kicking an illiterate unibrowed puppy.
Well cousin, it’s to bed with me, I have no doubt I am to wake up to lechery, insanity and the stench of rotting flesh tomorrow, so I’d best get all the rest I can.
Darling Ccoo Couss
Anierra stared at her hand.
She had never seen her hand shake before. The quill she kept with her travelling equipment trembled between her long fingers. She stared at it, willing her hand to relax. The long feather kept shaking about, almost accusing her of cowardice. She didn’t know why she felt this way…
But Anierra now felt she had experienced enough of the Old World to know the futility of lying to herself. It had been the vampire. The image was fixed in her mind, the roof of the cave spinning overhead, long strands of her hair spinning in whorls through the half light and that monstrous, wicked sharp claw snapping at her. She wasn’t even sure how she had dodged it. Something had appeared out of the shadows and… her knees had buckled under her. The more she thought about it the more she realised a moment of crippling weakness, terror, maybe, had saved her from breathing out an extra orifice.
Maybe that was why she had helped Klaus. She couldn’t even look at him now, because the more she thought of it, the angrier she became at not leaving him to die. He would be full of his Sigmarite nonsense for some time after this. It was not that glorified lump of pig iron that had burned the undead creature. She looked at Bondbreaker. It had scorched away the Undead ichor that had sprayed across it, leaving a spray of dark lines down it’s length. She had left them there, they would not harm her beloved blade and they added a certain amount of character… The undead creature had been vanquished, the ghouls had been scattered.
“Why am I still shaking?” Anierra asked herself in Eltharian, it was a question that needed answering.
Because she knew there was more undead monstrosities to deal with.
Because she knew she had barely faced this challenge and survived.
Because she had stood by Klaus, again, when she had not brought him to account for his madness.
She looked at the feather quill, and, hand still quivering, picked it up…
I am obliged by necessity to keep this letter short. I will be taking my leave soon, to face a challenge I…
I don’t know if I can handle this challenge cousin.
I am told by many that the manner of creature we are about to face is no ordinary vampire. We face a creature known among their kind as a blood dragon. I am reliably informed that among their kind they are masters of armed combat.
I don’t have a problem telling you cousin, given my previous travails, that I am currently three glasses into my second bottle of second rate reserve and starting to lose some of my composure, the reasons are pretty bloody obvious. Not to you obviously, since I never sent that last blasted letter.
I had plenty enough trouble trying to deal with just a plain ordinary vampire and damn near left breathing out more holes than I started with, so you can imagine that when someone tells me that this one is the one that is good at fighting, I start to wonder where the last one was on the scale of combat decency.
I haven’t babbled this much since that blasted family meeting where they introduced me to my darling betrothed. I was scared my life would end then and I’m scared my life will end now. I looked at that halfwit’s face and realised, right there, that sitting in the eves of the house writing poetry and hoping for the dopey laggard’s return was precisely the sort of thing I’d rather…
It’s precisely the sort of thing I’d rather freeze my ass off in the Empire, listen to some idiot noble make innuendos and risk my neck in a hopeless fight than do.
Tomorrow morning I head out to fight the beast. I hope my drunkeness reveals more of my true emotions than some blasted whinings I know I might come out with otherwise. Fair winds, cousin, possibly for the last time. Death or embroidery, I know which I choose, so I hope I face it with dignity.
I understand from your previous letter that a certain amount of consternation has developed since I have not presented myself at home to be sold off to that waxy little gutter rat. I can assure you my studies still detain me from fulfilling such obligations and will likely continue to do so until such point as one or both of us is consumed by a dragon.(Preferably not the same one.)
I am also lead to believe that you are harassed with no end of questions, in particular as to my location, and more specifically why that location is not “moving in the direction of Ulthuan”. I can assure you, I am kept quite busy and my routine allows me little time to consider my betrothal, though when it does I can assure you I make sure to be well influenced by a half decent red and perhaps some local human spirit, which I am slowly getting used to.
My days are not quite so… contrary as they were some months past. Gone are the traipsings into deep dilapidated holes with nary a question of whether I would return. I find myself enjoying the somewhat unexpected luxury of a routine. If it will settle a few issues at home, I will be happy to indulge you in the details.
No, I really don’t care whether you want to hear this or not, here it is anyway.
I wake early. I find it is the only way to get the most out of the day, so I am well out of bed by sunrise and will have been practicing my forms in my gracious host’s solar until such time as I feel the rest of the population of this city is in a more sociable mood. Caoifell occasionally graces these morning practice routines and I am more than happy to indulge him should he endeavor to try a few strokes. Bondbreaker is kind enough in his hands, though occasionally truculent, I put this down to having not tasted blood for some time now. I do little to ease it’s uneasy spirit, as days go by, I feel it’s thirst will be sated beyond it’s needs, and soon.
Once I’ve swallowed a few decent morsels and a glass of white I make my way down to the Veranian temple. Perhaps you know of this peculiar custom among humans. It is their goddess of law that they have. I fail to understand how one of their representatives is not present during all legal proceedings, if there was there certainly wouldn’t have been the sort of farcical attempts at justice that I have already seen. This “Verena” is also a goddess of knowledge and therefore serves my purpose doubly. Her clerics or what-have-you will happily allow anyone to peruse their respectable library with very little restriction. I have learned to respect this human deity, and make obeisances where I can. I will most often spend three or four hours in their library, and come back when I have no pressing business over the day. It serves to temper my rage that somewhere among these texts may be a kernel of fact that I can use to bring down these oppressive Sigmarites.
When my stomach starts growling to the point that I simply can’t ignore it, I set out for my most grueling challenge. There are a number of bars, drinking holes and general dens of inequity about the place, I’ve found one in Ubersreik that tends to a majority of mercenaries, cutthroats and those who live by their weapons. It’s name is something obscene or just generally unpleasant. I enter this den of ill repute, approach the bar and order one human beer and one human sandwich. I then sit at the bar and do my level best to get it off it’s unwashed platter and through as much of my alimentary canal as possible. I won’t lie to you cousin, sometimes I’d rather take on a hoard of zombies than eat one of those sandwiches, but I seem to be getting better at it. I can now eat the entire thing and not have to dash off to, as the humans say, “worship the Gods down the ally”. The trick is to treat the disgusting, greasy texture as if it’s a good thing. The amusing thing is that the humans here have begun to accept me daily visit, to the point that they have even given me one of these casual names they like to throw about at each other, they address me as “worshipful”. In any case, the visit to the tavern is not simply to test my intestinal fortitude. It also serves to be my point of inquiry after my dear old accomplice in mayhem Klaus Von Mayer. After the trial which… After the trial, Von Meyer as good as fell off the face of the planet. I was informed that the other raving psychopath had informed our raving psychopath that he was now to join an order of zealous, self flagellating doom-seekers, which was news to me because I thought that already was his vocation and surely that qualified as some kind of promotion. Regardless, Von Meyer has disappeared and without any indication of his being dead, I am deeply, meaningfully upset that he might be out there somewhere, inflicting his extra special brand of psychopathic justice on some poor innocent soul. So I come here every day, indulge the locals in their bizarre questions about my gender and try and get as much information about the smelly lunatic as I can.
The rest of the day is really dependent on various whims and circumstances. I will usually make my way to the wizards district and ask after my silly human friend Ricknar, who still appears to be learning the arts of magic, though how they do such a thing around here is beyond me and he seems rather focused on the arts that involve setting things on fire. Still, when not in the heights of pyromaniacal frenzy, he is good for a chat. His tutors as well are an all round solid bunch and despite a tendency to indecently expose themselves, are otherwise a fine bunch of people. My occasional meetings serve also to keep me abreast of the weird and wonderful goings on about the town.
My other business that frequently keeps me more than engaged is the delicate matter of trying to make as much hard coin for my host as is possible. I have a number of means of achieving this, but I prefer to do it by those that don’t require me to dress like a harlot. There is often a queue outside the Elven embassy of Imperial citizens with more or less worthy causes to bring to the ambassador’s attention. I will frequently be here, as well dressed as possible, for at least a few hours. I am informed this is called “hob-nobbing”, simply put, I make myself and the services of my employer as plain as possible. Those looking to seek an audience with the ambassador would make great steps towards impressing her further if they were to be wearing traditional elven clothing, or at least those made with elven silk, and yes, I inform them, we can ALWAYS tell the difference. ( a derisive snort here does wonders.) This is also my primary point of contact for filling my social calender. Caoifell allowed himself to stand separate from the social interactions of humans, but I’ve done my utmost to reverse this policy. At the very least, I have been going in his stead to the few invites we have been receiving and making apologies. Of course, going to make my apologies while wearing something backless and plunging has led to my having to make a good deal more apologies to a few more invites. I am not as “endowed” as these human ladies, but my physique(which owes as much to doing two hundred push-ups every morning as it does to being an elf) still serves to draw particular interest. There are also plenty of old soldiers at these events and they appreciate a woman who can tell her upswing from her downswing.
I go very few places these days without Anjya Von Reuteur, my… human correspondent. She is proving quite invaluable with her knowledge of all things silly and human, she can also garner information from common humans better than, say, a six foot six inch tall high elf with a greatsword strapped to her back. I endeavor long and hard to teach Anjya something. She has some greatness within her, so I indulge any petty interest she shows and any question she has. I have tried to show her principals of combat, which she slowly grasps, but seems unhappy about the early start involved. I also attempt to do something about her woeful lack of self confidence, but I fear the church of Sigmar took the last gasp of that when they tortured her for… well, for the sake of torturing her. I will make something of her though. This Empire of men seems to turn everything to shit, maybe I can save one of them from that.
The only other thing worth saying is that I am well, fed, watered and in possession, (not permanently) of a most marvelous wardrobe the envy of the human populated world. For this, at least, I should be thankful. That is all cousin, if anyone should come to you with further demands, tell them I got eaten by a dragon or something, I don’t care for writing such long letters.
Annierra stormed into the cabin room and hurled her cloak on the bed, then her hand reached over her shoulder for Bondbreaker before clenching into a fist and slowly, calmly, lowering.
Anjya paced in after her, carrying a few shifts of cloth hanging over her hands. She walked slowly past the still shaking elf and began folding the cloak, almost as if her employer was not standing there, vibrating with frustration.
“I imagine the clout we earned from having rescued the Baron’s daughter will stand us in better stead than any amount of coin we receive.” Anjya said, plainly.
“He’s sorry? Can you believe that? A whole, innocent family and good a man dead and he’s sorry. Like that fixes everything.” Annierra hissed through her teeth.
Anjya had at this stage folded the cloak and laid it at the end of the cabin’s utilitarian bed. She now approached Annierra from behind and began fussing at her hair.
Annierra turned and regarded her coldly with her alien black eyes. Anjya mostly ignored her.
“sit down, you’ve tussled this up again and I need to re-do it.”
The elf inhaled sharply, pulling herself a little taller and looming over Anjya by a full head’s height, glowering down at her. Anjya simply flicked her eyes up at Annierra, holding her gaze for a second, and the elf slumped down, tramped over to the bed and crashed down on it. Anjya sat behind her and began fixing her hair, unwinding the lengths of ribbon she played into her hair and taking out the black roses she had taken such a fancy to.
“Remember how we used to go to parties and I could leave you from one end of the day to the other without so much as brushing it once? Once you stopped going to that awful bar it was as if you turned into a porcelain doll, almost flawless, especially after the scars healed up…”
Anjya sighed as she brushed Annierra’s hair, will Annierra herself simply starred into space, listening to her servant.
“Aside from the occasional meeting with a wizard, your days were wholly unremarkable. Why it was like you had turned over a new leaf, leading a new, glamourous life where you were looked up to and people considered you a very normal, regular member of society.”
Annierra’s mouth began to move silently, as if putting the pieces of a long mental puzzle together. As she motioned to sit up straight, Anjya had already stood up and was heading for the door.
“Yes, Annierra, that is precisely the reason why you ran away from home in the first place. Now you’re simply following the steps of the same dance, albeit a little different. As much as you might hate Klaus and everything he’s done, he and this new fellow and all your human friends, and we are your friends, Annierra, as much as you might not admit it, we are the connection between you and the freedom you so desperately chase. So maybe don’t fight it so hard.”
She opened the door and made to leave, but paused momentarily.
“I can stand to keep you looking well, but only if your doing what you feel is the right thing.”
And then she left, leaving Annierra sitting on her bed, hair immaculate, face like a stunned haddock.
Annierra sat on the bed looking out into the night.
It really was turning into a nice night. Meteorologically, at least. twenty minutes previous, it had been turning into a genuinely good night, even without taking cloud cover into consideration. Now of course, she knew what Ricknar’s foot tasted like and some dwarves had touched Bondbreaker. Oh yes, and she looked she’d been dragged through a ditch backwards. She was going to need some time in front of that mirror again before that got fixed, but right now she couldn’t really face the sight of herself. Ricknar was huffing and puffing after dragging himself in the window. Mind over matter indeed.
This new fellow they had seemed interesting. It might suit them to keep an eye on him, certainly at the very least he seemed painfully interested in helping out. He also apparently needed a few lessons in wardrobe management, as well as possibly a bath. Annierra considered the idea of knowing someone else who enjoyed meddling in others’ affairs and was eminently satisfied. They needed more meddlers.
The party seemed to be going well, at least, for the most part. The fact that she was now traipsing through the back streets of Ubersreik wasn’t really on her itinerary, but there was a possible murder to be considered, as well something altogether more sinister. When she got back she would have to thank Holzenhaur for all his assistance. Having uncovered Saponethiem and with Aschafenberg storming out, she had somewhat put all her eggs in the one basket. She now really hoped it was the right basket.
She looked at the new guy, Luther wasn’t it?
Had they actually asked what he had seen that had drawn the gaurd captain off?
Annierra stepped gingerly in the door, placing each foot deftly before the other, spreading her weight as carefully as she could. The whole exercise was made the little bit more ludicrous as she attempted to muffle the soft clinking of her scale mail.
She was almost beginning to think she would get away with it when voice cut through the darkness with dry, cutting monotone.
“What kind of time do you call this?”
Annierra jerked upright with a ringing clatter. Attempting to look casual in her full battle attire, Bondbreaker leaning over her shoulder to watch.
“Caofel, what are you doing up at this hour? I thought I’d nip out for a quick swingabout and maybe…”
“I smell blood Annierra…”
Silence took hold as the statement sank in for a few moments.
Caoifell walked slowly down from the top of the staircase where he had been waiting. His great dark eyes catching the faintest strand of moonlight and glowing a faded blue.
“I’m really rather grateful for all the work you’ve done. Your recent little coup with Lord Holzenhaur has the potential to pay great dividends for us here…”
“Thank you master, you are…”
“Provided of course you don’t get arrested beforehand.”
Annierra clamped her mouth shut and tried to weather herself through Caoifell’s sad glower.
Caoifell seemed content to just watch her suffer for a few seconds before continuing.
“I am not quite sure what to make of you right now, I am, genuinely, pleased to see you have regained a measure of your old vigor. I am doubly pleased it has improved our standing and our capitol here in Ubersreik.