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The black water closed over Camilla head. Diving blindly she felt her way along the rock face, seeking the source of the current that rippled the pool. Twice she came up for air before she found what she was looking for. With one hand holding her sheathed elven blade tight against her leg she kicked powerfully pushng herself into the opening. The current swept her forward and she prayed to Ranald that the tunnel never grew too narrow for her to pass. In theory the opening should only grow wider, otherwise the water would have backed up and submerged the cavern, but the only way she would find out she was wrong was if she were stuck between the rocks to drown, her body never t be recovered. Her vision began to pulse red as the air she had gulped down was exhausted. Desperately her hands scrambled across the submerged stone roof. At the last possible moment she found an opening an her hand reached into empty air. Desperately she propelled herself upwards and gasped at the stale subterranean air.

Camilla emerged into a tight circular shaft, regular enough that she could feel the tool marks. It was a well shaft, twenty or thirty feet deep. Above her dim light filtered down. Shivering and soaking wet, she pushed herself into the shaft pressing against each side and working her way up in a burglar’s assent. Inch by inch she worked her way up the shaft until finally she grasped the rim of worked stones and pulled herself over the lip.

The room around her was as dilapidated as the rest of the inner keep. Ancient jars stood on worm eaten shelves or lay in fragments on the floor when the timbers had rotted away. Rats scampered out of sight as she heaved herself to her feet. Light filtered down from a doorway above at the top of a set of shallow stone steps. She had to assume she was in a basement, perhaps on a level with the crypt Cydric had dropped them into. She needed to find him and soon.

Water pooled on the steps as she climbed them, peering through the doorway. Beyond her a large kitchen stood, long abandoned. A great oven overflowing with ashes sat at one end and shelves and cabinets lined the walls. Several rusted knives lay on a central work table and verdigris copper pots hung from the ceiling beside spiderweb encrusted herbs and mummified garlic ropes. The was movement at a doorway at the far and and a large form moved passed the door. Camilla froze in place, certain that despite the similarity in size the thing that had passed was not Cydric. It stepped back into the doorway and turned to face her, baleful eyes glowing down at her.

It struck like a thunderbolt, half leaping half flying from its elevated position. Camilla shouted and whipped her elven blade free, spinning aside and fetching the thing a slash across the ribs as it tumbled past her in a tumult of rusty iron cutlery. It was a great anthropomorphic bat, or perhaps a combination of a bat and a wolf, with leathery wings stretched between its forearms and its hips. Great bony pinions dug into the table, peeling up the iron hard oak like a craftsman chisel as it worked the check its momentum. Camilla sprang up onto the table avoiding a strike ot the things claws that would have taken her off at the knees. It leapt up behind her, lighting fast for its size. Camilla kicked a pot at it with her booted foot. It swatted the junk unconsciously and she thrust into the sinew of its shoulder, twisting and ripping the weapon free before the creature could twist and disarm her. It howled as the elven steel cut into it, black blood dripping sluggishly from the wound.

It launched itself at her again and Camilla leaped into the air, catching one of the roof timbers as it crashed past beneath her, colliding with the oven at the end of the room. The termite eaten timber gave way beneath her fingernails and she let it go and fell onto the table, landing gracefully and twisting to face back towards her attacker. With a beasital howl it launched itself at her a third time. Camilla sidestepped so that it flew into the doorway down to the well, its pinions struck out to catch the lintel but Camilla, having anticipated the response was already swinging her sword down with all her strength. The elven steel bit deep into its lower arm, although even the finest craftsmanship of the Eldest race couldn’t quite sever the sinewy member. The creature screamed in a rage loud enough to be physically painful and its limb gave out, tumbling into the lower room. Camilla didn’t wait for it to recover, instead she ran along the table, leaped to the far door and bolted, hoping to lose the thing or at least find a more advantageous battleground.
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Nearly tumbling down the stairs, the Ostlander leaped and over the last set of stairs to land at the bottom of the stairs. He slammed the door behind him and locked the door, turning to see himself nearly at the precipice of a cliff overlooking the river that Camilla no doubt had fallen into. The gloom was deadening, and the cavern loomed about like a great maw fanged at every orifice of its mouth. A lair of beasts from man's instinctual nightmares. It brought a cold chill to Cyrdic's spine, but he willed himself to continue. Most men wouldn't have. He felt the tug to simply just leap over the cliff to end the terror that awaited.

But Cyrdic was not afraid of beasts. He'd had one lurking within him since Middenheim. Idly he gripped the hilt of his runic blade, and turned to navigate the cliff face he found himself on, spotting a ruined shack of a building that seemed built into the far wall, across a narrow stretch of the rocky outcropping. Slowly, he thinned his gait until he nearly walked sideways, feeling the free flowing air carried by the river merely a stride in front of him.

A sudden howl and a crash echoed out of the building he was navigating to, and it nearly pitched him over the side. Briefly he thought going that way might not be the best idea anymore. But then he realized only one person would be down here to fight these aberrations, and he picked up the pace, whimpering like a hound at bay until he made it to wider ground. He unsheathed his sword and sprinted until the ruined building practically vomited an undead horror out of its door, flailing and trying to right itself. The cuts on its arm were unmistakable.

"Camilla!" he called, trying to make his way around the strange beast, a parody of a bat and a wolf infused by unholy magic. He didn't make it five feet before its bestial head snapped to look at him, snarling with a guttural voice that sounded as if it could break stone. Like a dog yanking on a leash, it scrabbled forward toward Cyrdic even before it regained its footing. The big Ostlander would no doubt have been devoured if he stayed idle, but his sword was out and slicing across the hideous maw of the beast without a second thought, Cyrdic snarling back at it.

It managed to strike Cyrdic in the chest with its claw, bloodying the man and knocking him to the ground. But he never lost grip of his sword, hacking into its chest and ripping into a rib. It buckled as Cyrdic sliced into another arm, but its next claw swipe wwas steadier, and Cyrdic had to roll out of the way before it hit. The patch of stone where Cyrdic had lay was cut. The Ostlander didn't stop to continue his fight with the thing. He instead turned and ran into the building it had fallen out of, knowing it would recover from his cuts within the minute.

"Love! I'm here!" he yelled into the building, vaulting over broken ornaments and stonework to reach where he knew she would be. He could smell her scent. Within moments he could hear the breaking of the wooden door behind him, and as Cyrdic passed room to room the hacking apart of wood and stone grew louder. His breathing was growing shallow from the running and the wound he received. He didn't even have time to look at it.

Making his way up another set of stone carved stairs, breathing labored, he crashed through the door in front of Camilla, her sword raised as if to strike whatever came through the door. Her face wide with shock.
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“Cydric!” Camilla cried in relief. It hadn’t truly crossed her mind that Cydric might be dead, not on a conscious level but seeing him again lifted a weight of her shoulders she hadn’t realised she had been carrying. There was no time for tearful reunions however.

“Abbiamo bisogno di tornare alla sala principale!” she exclaimed, forgetting in her haste to speak Reikspiel. Cydric, who could speak some Tilean, looked at her in confusion, the pace of her speech too rapid for his limited grasp on the tongue to handle.

“The main hall, with the windows,” she explained and stepped back out into the hallway. To her horror figures were emerging from one end of the dusty passageway. The undead knights clanked forward, rusted weapons raised. At the other end of the hallway the monster shambled awkwardly, the slash in its wing/arm mending visibility as Camilla watched.

“For Ulric!” Cydric roared and charged towards the beast thing, his bastard sword leveled like a spear. Camilla stepped towards the oncoming knights. Behind her she heard the crash of steel upon bony claws as Cydric grappled with the creature. She drew up her own blade in a duelists engarde position and advanced towards the horde intent on buy Cydric enough time to make an exit. The narrow confines of the corridor were both a blessing and a curse, on the one hand the wights could only come at her two at a time, on the other there wasn’t enough space for her to use her sword unencumbered.

The nearest of the creatures lunged at her, surprisingly quick given the languid pace of the things advance. She swept the point of the rusted sword aside, used the momentum to whirl the blade over her had, caught the hilt in both hands and hacked downwards, severing the bony arm halfway between wrist and elbow. The dead thing didn’t slow and she only narrowly managed to leap back before it caught her in a bony hand. Another wight tried to slash with a large two handed sword but the blade clanged off the stone wall. Camilla dipped and cut the feet out from under the lead creature, kicking it back into the ranks of its fellows, fouling their advance for a few seconds before talons reached forward and ripped the partially disarticulated knight to fragments of bone.

It was like trying to fight a landslide. She parried another blow and retreated back up the hallway towards the battle between Cydric and the monster, risking a glance over her shoulder to see how her lover was faring.
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Cyrdic battled ferociously, his sword slicing into the rotted meat of the beast's flesh with every ounce of the Ostlander's strength, ducking and parrying as best he could, though the loping claws of the Varghest made it hard to judge when and where a claw would get close enough to strike him. But he was like a wall, keeping the large, dangerous predator at bay with his runic steel to guard Camilla's back. It was a formation they were used to, by now, though now they were in opposite positions.

Cyrdic was usually the one to hammer through the lines while Camilla parried, riposted, and sliced into whatever was trying to lay into them, dancing around a larger opponent to keep them off of Cyrdic's back if she could not outright slay it immediately. It was a grim sort of humor, though neither of them were laughing at the moment. Old, ruined timber was splintered and shorn as the monster howled, growing frustrated at being unable to simply devour the big man.

Cyrdic was a trained soldier and warrior, and he believed Camilla had learned much from him. But she had taught him a few of the finer ways of dodging an opponent, and with a deft spin under a claw swipe, he gave a backhanded slash that sliced through what was now the stump of the creature's back leg, causing it to buckle under its own weight. Camilla and Cyrdic's wounds together had greatly reduced its combat ability, and before it could recover, Cyrdic's blade flew overhead to chop into the thing's thick neck. The blade's magic aided in the cutting power of his strike, and he cut clean through meat and bone.

The ugly head thudded into the wooden floor as the creature flailed its death spasms. It's extended claws whipped out, elongated by the terrifying anatomy, flying over broken furniture to sweep across Camilla. Cyrdic quickly tackeled her to the ground as the claw swept overhead, knocking aside a ghastly Knight. Camilla squeaked, but her head poked out of Cyrdic's bulk and she kissed him on the nose. "Grazie" she said, and sprang out of his arms to block the following strike from another skeleton. Glancing back, the undead abomination was now dead and still.

Cyrdic suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to break bone on his sword, and standing tall, he waded into the melee with Camilla, fighting beside her as they always did. Camilla's elven blade parried and hacked while entire Skeletal bodies were sundered by Cyrdic's blade, and together no single Knight, or two for that matter, in the bottleneck of the corridor could stand against them for more than a few scant moments.

By Ranald's luck, they might actually make it out of the catacombs. At the end of the hall, they could see a door that led upwards into another stairwell, the door hanging open limply, having been ripped off most of its hinges by the advancing Knights minutes before. It looked like their salvation was at hand, with only a half a dozen of the skeletal monster's left, still funneled through the stone walls, unable to properly surround the two mercenaries.

Cyrdic's sudden cry of pain pierced the room, and Camilla would see a deformed, fang filled mouth clutching to Cyrdic's shoulder as a ghoul gripped the man from behind. Another would grab onto his arm, and she would see more trying to scramble over the dead Varghest, pushing its heavy body away from the entrance to the room. "Cyrdic!" she screeched, doing her best to retreat to him while keeping the Knight's back. Cyrdic's cry turned into a roar, and he slammed his back into the wall, nearly crushing the ghouls latched onto him. Over and over and did it, until his sword arm was free and he could stab the bottom one through the chest. It fell in a heap, and while the other was dazed he knocked it off his back and finished it.

Blood poured freely down his muscled back, his lack of armor unable to protect him. Great claw marks and jagged wounds ran down his upper and lower back, but he did not seem to tire or notice. Instead he ripped the rest of the garment off his torso and readied his sword to meet the next ghouls that prowled at the edge of the darkness.
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The ghoul’s scream choked off into a bloody gurgle as the elven sword sliced halfway through its neck. The creature staggered back to be torn apart by its frenzied companions. Cydric, blood streaming from his wounds hacked like a man reaping corn, severing hands, heads and arms with equal impartiality. Camilla’s sword arm ached and her body trembled near exhaustion, she couldn’t keep this up much longer and their enemies seemed undiminished. Looking around for a means of escape she spotted a stairway that ran up towards the center of the cursed keep.

“Go!” she shouted, pushing Cydric in the direction of the slime slicked stairs. Together they desperately chopped their way through the ghouls. Cydric appeared to be slowing too, though his deadly blade kept any further ghouls from touching them. The scent of his blood drove them into a frenzy and it was all Camilla could do to keep the beasts back. Once they gained the stairs and the higher ground the beasts drew back, hissing and clawing but mostly focusing on devouring their own dead.

“Get up the stairs,” Cydric said through gritted teeth. Camilla looked at him skeptically.

“You are the one all covered in blood, you go first,” Camilla retorted. Cydric grimaced but the set of his jaw told her that he wasn’t willing to budge on the matter. There was no time for argument and Cydric’s heavy blade was probably a more formidable object than hers, she turned and scampered up the stairs without further argument. At the top of the stairs was a long passageway that might once have been used to bring supplies into the keep. A dilapidated cart filled with mouldering straw leaned against one of the stone walls. She rushed over to it and grabbed the handles. The wood cracked and crumbled beneath her hands but she managed to turn the cart towards the stairs. Hastily she drew her pistol laid it on the straw and pulled the trigger. The powder, still soaking from her underwater adventures, failled to ignite, but the flint struck sparks on the steel. It took Camilla two more attempts but she finally managed to blow the sparks into a flame that began to spread over the straw.

“Cydric!” she yelled down the stairwell.


To his credit Cydric didn’t hesitate, he turned and lumbered up the stairs, slower than his usual pace. He was pale from loss of blood but he kept ahead of the ghouls which were scrambling over each other trying to get at the Imperial. By the time Cydric reached the top of the stairs the cart was well and truly ablaze, billowing thick choking smoke as the ancient staw burned. The moment he was clear she shoved the cart into the opening it clattered down the stairs, picking up speed, one of the wheels snapped with a crack and dropped the axle to the stone, shattering the ancient timber. The whole cart overturned spreading flames and burning straw over stairwell. Ghouls shrieked and capered back, even though they probably could have rushed through the flames. Camilla grabbed some fallen timbers and hurled them down onto the cart, adding fuel to the blaze.

“Are you alright?” Camilla demanded leaping to Cydric’s side.

“Its nothing,” he said in what was so clearly a lie that he had the good grace to look embarrassed at saying it.

“Anyway its nothing we can do much about in here,” he added. Camilla gave him a worried look but chose not to argue the point.

“I know how to break the enchantment,” she declared and grabbed Cydric’s blood slicked hand. Together they ran back into the central keep entering the large central hall they had first encountered. The clank of steel on stone announced the approach of more of the undead soldiers but Camilla raced to the throne room. The room was much the same as they had first encountered, save that the shattered staircase and fallen statue disfigured it. The noblewoman on her throne looked up at them.

“Have you seen my husband?” she asked.

“Your husband is dead,” Camilla informed her advancing on the apparition as quickly as she dared.

“They all say that,” the ghost wailed, burying her face in her hands.

“For good this time,” she promised and without warning reached out and grasped the hilt of the sword that transfixed the woman's pregnant belly. The ghosts aspect changed instantly, her beautiful face distorting into a shriek of rage and agony. Boney hands, suddenly quite solid shot down and seized the Tilean’s wrists, sharp fingernails digging into her pale flesh.

“No! You can’t! You can’t free my baby!” the ghost howeled, so loud that the sound itself was physical agony. Camilla gritted her teeth, tightened her grip and yanked as hard as she could. The blade slid free like a knife being drawn from a slab of beef. As the tip slipped free the ghost let out a final dispairing shriek and fell back onto her thrown. Blackness, raw and evil coiled from her stomach like smoke.

“My son!” the ghost wailed but her substance was already beginning to fade like sand being blown before a storms. Camilla dropped the blade in her hand as the iron began to corrode, pitting and wearing away before her eyes before blowing to dust as though it had never been. The darkness poured from the fading ghost, swirling into a shadowed figure that seemed to hover in the air. There was a sudden evil hollow laughter and then, like a sudden thunderclap, it streaked up through the ceiling with a hollow boom that shattered all of the stained glass windows. Thousands of pains of glass rained down to shatter upon the stone floor like hale lashing stone.

There was a shout from the far end of the hall where they had entered but Camilla was already sinking her knees before the throne, then her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed into unconciousness.

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The shrieking filled the room. A noise so loud it might nearly overwhelm a normal man, but one of Cyrdic's excellent hearing was sent to his knees. A dark shape wreathed in an even blacker shadow coalesced and then disippated one moment to the next, and the pregnant abomination disappeared into the ether after Camilla's daring maneuver with the sword. She had to have known something he didn't. Then again he was used to that. She was far more clever than he. He crashed onto the floor just as she did, as the glass broke around them.

Cyrdic lifted his head out of the debris, glass and splintered wood on his brown head of hair as he tried to move. Immediately he felt how weak he was from the blood loss. He knew he would have an even greater collection of scars if he lived through this. Of course, when he saw Camilla out cold, he felt a surge of strength flow through him as he gripped his runic sword. An energy borne of the desire to get to her began in his chest and surged through his limbs.

"By the strength of Ulric..." he breathed, invoking the Lord of Battle to give him power. "By Sigmar and the Hammer..." The entire world seemed devoid of moisture. Even when he swallowed, he could only taste dust. He gripped the chair of an elderly table, and such was his strength that even at his weakest, the rotten wood couldn't help but give as he pulled himself forward.

The table crashed into the ground, and Cyrdic pulled himself up, using the ruined tabletop as something to hold himself upon. "If I could give my life for hers, I would do it." he muttered, not knowing what that dark spirit was or what had happened other than seeing her fall. He was almost glad she couldn't hear him say that. She would cut him in two.

As soon as the words escaped his lips, he heard footsteps behind him upon the creaking floor. He did not have time to turn before he saw a white light as an intense pain tore through him, and he was cracked across the back of the head. The Ostlander suddenly felt weightless as he fell into oblivion alongside Camilla, losing all sense of himself. The hilt of his sword was the last sensation he recalled as he faded away.

Soft sheets and cool air kissed her skin, the pillow underneath her long dark hair crunched from her head not having moved since God's knows when. Camilla found herself in one of the rooms of the Castle, at the fore of Chateau D'Epee. She would recognize it as the room she and Cyrdic had been given once her mind caught up to her. Slightly dizzied and sore, not to mention famished, she felt otherwise alright, the last thing she had remembered was the screeching of the fading ghost.

Briefly, weakly, she turned her head to gaze about the room. The servants had been through since she had departed, obviously. The cupboards were dusted and her items, as well as her traveling clothes were neatly folded on a plumed chair in the corner of the room. Next to her items was Cyrdic's runic sword. Drawing a large breath, she turned to her right. Beside her on the large bed was nothing but empty space...

"Contessa De La Trantio, I see you are well." said a voice from the doorway. Even weakened as she was, her head whipped to the side to see Armand standing there, as if he were a paid sentry or entrusted guardian rather than a visitor. Haughty, he still had an air of handsome superiority and command about him, though he still no doubt had an IQ that only a Brettonian indulging on foolish local honor could have.

"What happened?" she asked, her accent decidedly Tilean. "Where is Cyrdic?"

The Knight stood there for a moment, before giving a sigh. With the careful approach of a priest of Shallya, he stepped over to one of the lesser cushioned chairs of the room, pulling it toward the bed silently, save for the light scraping along the floor. She would notice he did not have his sword with him, despite him usually bringing it wherever he would go in this thrice poxed castle. Moving his surcoat out of the way of his seat, he set himself down and grew somber, grim even.

"I am sorry, Contessa..." he said, a sadness on his visage. "Your lover was killed by the beasts of the dark..."

Cyrdic had no concept or time or space. The blackness had engulfed him so thoroughly, all he could do was run. Feet padding through endless expanses of snow. Windswept mountains filled with pines, a sight so beautiful no imperial painting could match it. He had never felt such energy and tirelessness. But it was not simply the cold that brought a briskness to his pace, but the scent of the elk. He could smell the prey near.

Only when he arrived, he could not see any of the prey he sought. The coniferous forest was endless, the pines towering over his powerful form as he loped further into the deep of the woods; ever running toward the smell of blood. Soon, after what seemed an eternity, he came to the edge of a red stained clearing, where a battle of warriors wielding weapons of pattern welded steel ran one another through, clashed shields, or grappled upon the ground in an ugly but brutally appealing display of battle prowess and death. With boundless joy coupled with a predator's ferocity, the wolf named Cyrdic entered the fray, bearing his canines as he howled into the battlefield.

He awoke slowly, and then all at once. A sword lay impaled in his stomach, and a broken table lay above his body. The halls were silent as death, but the Gods had not deemed him fit to die this day. Cyrdic's hand moving brought another creak from the wooden floor...
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“Contessa! Please, I would be dishonored forever if anything happened to you,” Beaumont called from the edge of the roadway. The half decayed corpses lay where they had fallen, shattered by lances, or crushed beneath horses hooves. More than a few had been blasted by pistol fire. The zombies and skeletons would have been almost immune to such weapons under normal circumstances, but the pistol balls that had been used were of struck silver, each impressed with the hammer of Sigmar and blessed by one of his priests.

Camilla lowered her twin pistols and allowed her horse, a rangy Arabyian rather than the massive destriers the Brettonians favored, to carry her back towards Sir Beaumont. Squires were already heaping the dead into piles and bringing forth faggots of dried timber for fires. The sky to the west was already darkening and it would be hard riding to reach any safe place by nightfall.

Beaumont was a shadow of his former self. Gone was the neatly pressed tabard and painted lance. His armor was scratched and dented despite his squires constant efforts to buff it and his lance was of plain oak, green and cut from whichever glade had been handy. The other half dozen knights with him were similarly drab, weeks of hard fighting haven worn off the peace time polish, if not the chivalric core of the men. The squires were a mix of hard faced veterans, and bright eyed boys, the later replacements for the fallen.

It had been nearly three moons since Cydric’s death, though part of Camilla’s mind refused to accept that he was gone. Without a body there was no sense of finality no closure, just a gaping wound where her lover had once been. After the lifting of the curse they had scoured the inner keep for days, searching every passage and crevice for signs of Cydric, but not a thing had been found. After ten days, even Camilla had been forced to give up the search as hopeless.

“Ze Frauline ist not concerned with your honor sir,” A voice replied in Riekspiel sharp enough to make every word a whip crack. The words came from tall lean man replied from his seat on a fallen log that lay beside the road. Pipe smoke wreathed his head, curling around the distinctive hat of a Sigmarite Templar, or a Witch Hunter in the common parlance. Matis Von Koneinswald lifted the pipe to his lips and drew back, the smouldering flame in the bowl illuminated his craggy features for a moment before fading. A heavy wave bladed zwieldhier was propped against the moss covered stump. The massive sword seemed to large for someone as skinny as Von Koeinswald to wield, but he fought with a fury that would have impressed Norscan berserkers.

“I thank monsieur for his opinion,” Beaumont sniped, though his heart wasn’t truly in the jibe. They were all tired, and all wary of the coming darkness. Camilla had written to Matis a few days after Cydric’s death, describing the dark form which had fled the apparitions womb when Camilla had withdrawn the blade that transfixed her. It had been on her mind merely to report the problem to the Sigmarites and then depart, but without Cydric she had found herself listless and without direction and thus had still been lingering under the counts guest right when Matis arrived a week and a half later.

Matis was a scholar of sorts and had access to the records of the Temple of Sigmar and he believed that the spirit was the soul of an ancient necromancer from Araby who had been killed during the Crusades of Beaumont’s ancestors. By using his dark arts he had implanted his soul into his slayers wife’s womb, hoping to be reborn into the world. They ploy had been forestalled by the thrust of a faithful retainer who recognised the fell working of magic upon his legie lord’s wife. The husband, driven mad with grief had become the beast Cydric had slain. Removing the sword had lifted the curse, but freed the ancient lich to travel the world once more. Rumor said that strange lights had been seen in The Forest of Chalons and that dead men had been heard chanting an ancient and accursed name. Even before Matis arrived to impart this information, reports of the undead moving had been received from all over Aquitaine. At first isolated travellers had been taken in the night, but the creatures had grown bolder, attacking isolated villages and swelling their numbers with the dead.

The Lords of Aquitaine had at first dismissed the problem, blaming, at first bandits, and then the unscrupulous ambitions of their fellow Lords. Even know, when the problem could no longer be denied, most of them remained in their castles, attempting to defend their own domains without stirring themselves to aid their neighbours, so strong was the hatred and distrust of their fellow magnates. Years of peace had given honor obsessed men too long to sharpen their own grudges, and do the cancer grew.

Despite Beaumont’s objections that it was no place for a lady, Camilla and Matis had begun ranging the countryside, tracking and destroying bands of the undead and trying to learn what they could. The count had been generous in rewarding her for lifting the curse on his castle and had provided her with gold and the offer of noble title. The gold she had accepted, but the title, which she suspected was little more than a trap intended to allow him to marry her off, she had spurned, much to the horror of the assembled knights and ladies. The wealth she had used to buy horse and new pistols as well as to keep the tiny Sigmarite chapel in Bordeleaux blessing bullets night and day.

“Mademoiselle Aqua!” A voice called from the light woods that bordered the road. Behind the trees rose a modest hill that was crowned with ruins of age tumbled stone. It had been a castle once but long abandoned for its lack of water. The undead had made their lair in the place, at least until Camilla had ridden past alone, drawing the creatures out and precipitating her current not-quite-argument with Beaumont.

Mademoiselle Aqua. Mistress Blue. In the early days when it had just been her and Matis she had worn a blue cloak, merely because it had been handy but the name had caught on. Camilla didn’t personally care for the name, but it had been hard, was still hard, to care about much of anything with Cydric gone.

“If you object to my actions Sir Knight, you and your kind escort are more than welcome to depart,” she said with a slightly waspish undertone. Beaumont colored but she wheeled her horse to the source of the call before he could reply. A pair of woodsmen in leathers and green cloth were emerging from the trees. Both had long bows slung across their backs and swords at their hips, weapons of far better quality than a Brettonian villan ought to wear, but horses were not the only thing money could buy. Both wore a band of blue silk tied around their right arm. Three other men, dirty unwashed and wretched were with them, all clutching farm implements as improvised weapons.

“Mademoiselle, we found these hiding in a cave, they are from the village that was destroyed, shepherds they say,” the older of the two woodsmen said. All three men climbed over the fence and promptly fell to their knees on the dusty road.

“Mademoiselle Aqua! We wish to swear our fealty to you,” one of them blurted out, the others were nodding so vigorously Camilla was afraid they might do themselves an injury. The regional accent was thick but after three months she found she could understand it nearly as well as anything that was spoken in the capital. She grimaced, if these men were from the village it was possible that their loved ones might be among the corpses being piled for the pyres, she hoped not.

“Contessa,” Beaumont began stiffly, “You cannot keep enrolling serfs they belong to their lords if…” Camilla held up a gloved hand to silence Beaumont. Matis snorted in amusement and blew out another cloud of smoke. The Knight was happy to provide his ‘escort’, Camilla though he was even pleased to have the chance to fight the undead that his Lords turned their blind eyes to, but he was still a noble at heart. It rankled his soul to see peasants abandoning what he saw as their proper place.

“For now you are welcome to travel with us,” she told the kneeling serfs.

“We have food and ale. In the morning you can decide if you want to join us,” she told the men in what she hoped was a compassionate tone. They would swear then, whatever she said. There were nearly a score of them now. Former peasants and foresters who had lost everything and decided that following her and fighting the undead was preferable to a life of penury. The ate well and she armed them with real steel, which was better than most Brettonians ever got. Beaumonts assertion that she was harboring runaway serfs might be true, but it was hard to care too much about what the future might hold. If the Lords came out of their castles to claim their serfs, maybe they would kill a few undead in the process. Not that Camilla would surrender men who had sworn fealty to her without a fight of course.

The squires had finished piling the bodies and were setting torch to timber. Thunder crackled overhead, though it was doubtful it would bring any rain. It had been a dry spring and the early summer had been beset by nearly continual cloud cover with afternoon storms that bought ferocious lightning without rain. Matis thought it was some spell being worked to allow the undead to move without fear of sunlight. Camilla privately suspected it was the melancholia in her heart writ large.

“We had best camp in the ruins,” she called turning to one of the gruff former pesants who was dressed in leathers and a mail coat.

“There is no where close enough to reach before we lose the light and I dont want to be on the road if the lightning strikes,” she explained.

“M’lady,” the peasant said, knuckling his forehead and turning to bellow orders to his fellow voulnteers. It was laced with profanity and invictive so vile that it made even Camilla wince, but the men were moving, leaving the road and picking their way up the hill, leading their few draft animals and the single cart that held most of their supplies.

“Would you care to join us Beaumont?” Camilla asked as she turned her horse of the road and started up the hill.
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"My Lord, are you well?"

The Baron's walking staff planked along the Long Gallery's floor methodically, rhythmically, and cryptically. His old bones and sunken skin gave him the appearance of the dead of which he protected through his wiles and deceits. Soon he would no longer worry of mortality. Even after the death of the Red Duke's wife, it had only embolded his master in his rise to power. All the Baron need do now was to open the gates and keep his foolish nephew and his men from the Aquitaine's chokepoints. The only outlier was the Contessa De La Tratio. A thorn in this old Baron's side if there ever was one.

A pity he would have to see her killed. She was vivacious enough to be a good wife, though she would need to learn some obedience. Perhaps once he rose to Vampirism or Lichdom, he would turn her himself. The very thought aroused him somewhat, and he realized he would call for his current wife to bed.

"My Lord?" the squire asked him, holding the torch aloft to keep the halls visible for the elderly baron. He had nearly forgotten the lad was there. It was good he did not speak aloud, or he would have needed to kill him. Even in his aged body, he had learned more than a few fell magics to silence any enemies or threats he needed to, when the need arose. This lad would be dead soon enough anyway, along with all of the other foolish knights under his vassalage.

"Silence boy. Only speak when your baron wills it." he croaked, and obedient silence followed. Yes, the hills were filling with wights and wraiths, and the peasants were too frightened to even revolt, as was their usual custom when pushed to the brink. The Baron's mind caught up with him, and he realized his thoughts had wandered yet again. Where was he? Ah yes, his wife.

"On second thought, boy. Once I am in my chambers, fetch my wife Melisendre after I am in my chamber." he said, turning the corner into the main hall. It was somewhat more well lit here, but only the smallest candles were still alight. After a moment, he rolled his eyes, realizing the conundrum he had placed the boy in. "You may speak." he remarked, stepping into a further darkened corridor. For a brief moment, he wondered why the squire had the insolence to not answer him, and the next moment, he wondered why he was now walking by the faint candlelight rather than the light of the torch.

He turned as best he could, needing to place his walking stick upon the floor twice in order to summon the momentum to spin his decrepit body to fully look behind him. Blinking, he realized the boy had not followed him. The light of the torch still at the precipice of the other hall. "Boy!" he called, his rasping voice still full of command. And yet, there was still no answer. Confused, he noticed a shadow against the torchlight. A terrible wolfish figure that he saw with not only his eyes, but his mind. However, what stepped out of the hall was even more terrible than the shadow indicated.

"...Y-you were slain! By Nagash, what are you!?"

The beast did not answer him. Only reached forward, plucking the Baron off the floor by the neck as easily as one might pluck blade of grass. The old Baron tried to summon some magics, but the grip on his neck kept him from uttering any incantations, and feebly he resisted. Though even if he were 30 years younger, he would not have been able to escape the iron grip of the risen wolf, and with a strength as inexorable as the sunset, the beast of Cyrdic squeezed the life out of Baron D'Epee...
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The morning dawned with shafts of sunlight streaking from the eastern sky. Camilla awoke blinking at the unexpected light. It seemed weeks since the sun had shone down from the perpetually overcast sky. Even today storm clouds were beginning to roil up in the east and unless Camila missed her guess the clouds would swallow the sun before too long. Still, it felt unexpectedly good to stand in the sun for a few moments.

The rest of her small band were also rising. Per Camilla’s instructions no fires had been set during the night, but now the remaining wood was being piled into small cook fires and Oderic, the self appointed quartermaster, was doling out lean portions of grain and meat to each man from the supply wagon. He seemed to take particular pleasure in serving Beaumont and his knights the same portions as the rest of the men. Initially the Knights had hired some of the runaway serfs to do their cooking but Camilla had flatly refused to allow them to draw rations for their would be employers. It had been a minor act of spite but one which had unexpectedly buoyed the morale of her little band. Beaumont and his men still glared, but they had to eat.

“A Good sign nien?” Matis commented as she stepped from the canvas tent she had strung against a crumbling corner of stonework. There was enough of an overhang that she could use the tent as a door for the small space at the intersection of two stone walls. The Witch Hunter was looking off towards the sunrise, looking as though he had stepped from an Altdorf tailor rather than having spent a restless night on the ruins of a castle. Camila settled her blue cape around her shoulders. She was wearing a divided riding skirt in the Brettonian fashion along with her thigh high riding boots of tilean leather and her tooled leather breastplate. The piece had been laboriously decorated with a pattern of ivy vin that wrapped around the left side. In Brettonia it was surprisingly difficult to find high quality equipment that wasn’t also artistically embellished.

“I hope so,” she answered without much enthusiasm. Matis tossed her a loaf of bread underhanded, which she caught out of reflex. She peered at it as though uncertain what she was expected to do with the coarse peasant bread.

“Eat it,” Matis ordered folding his arms across his chest. Camilla looked at the bread without enthusiasm.

“I’m really not hungry,” she objected but Matis shook his head.

“You weren’t hungry last night either and it's not as though you have any extra weight to lose,” he commented.

“If you don’t want me to spend the day singing devotional Hymn’s…” Camilla held up her free hand in surrender and took a bite of the bread and began to chew. It was hard, baked several days ago, but as Matis had said it had been a while since she had eaten.

“Myrmidia’s tits you are annoying,” she muttered around the mouthful of bread. Matis nodded his head in agreement and then produced a wineskin from his small bundle of possessions. He passed the skin to her and she unstoppered it and drank greedily. The wine was a sweet red typical of Brettonian, without the sour tang that Tilean vintners prefered, but even Brettonian peasant wine would have been welcome on any Imperial table.

“Service has its rewards,” Matis said piously, his tone making it clear he was quoting something. Camilla shrugged her shoulders and passed the wine skin back.

“I’m not sure I’m serving anybody,” she replied.

“Mademoiselle?” Leofric, a tanned and lean poacher who had taken the role of sergeant for her little band, more or less by virtue of being willing to do it, picked his way across the rock strewn ruins, followed by the three peasants that had asked to join her the previous night. All three looked nervous and a little uncomfortable. Camilla knew by now that even the small rations of her camp were a feast for men who spent their lives half starved in the Brettonian villages, hungry amid the plenty of Aquitaine so that their lords and masters could live in silks. All three immediately fell to their knees. Camilla felt a stab or irritation at such obsequiousness, The Empire had its problems but at least its citizens would look you in the eye.

“Oh get up,” she snapped and the peasants leaped to the their feet with such fear in their eyes that Camilla immediately felt worse. Leofric held back a snicker with evident effort. He had been a man at arms he claimed, though as far as martial distinctions went that wasn't much of a boast, but he had the right attitude for a soldier.

“We wish to serve you Mademoiselle Aqua,” one of the new comers declared nervously, the others nodded in enthusiastic agreement.

“You are all from Bienvine?” she asked, referring to the village a few miles from here whos destruction had bought her here in the first place. All three men nodded.

“Did you have trades?” she asked, experience had taught her that most peasants were agricultural laborers, and those that survived the raids tended to be shepards or hunters who were away from the village when the dead attacked.

“I was a fletchers apprentice,” the youngest of the men responded unexpectedly. The other two men looked unhappy not to be able to volunteer similar skills.

“You are all welcome to join us,” she said after a moment, holding up hand to forestall immediate agreement.

“I cannot promise much, other than food and fighting, until either the undead are destroyed or we are,” she cautioned.

“That is more than we ever had before,” the oldest of the three responded.

“Then you are welcome among us,” she said simply.

“We swear to serve you faithful,” one of them responded, perhaps nonplussed at the lack of formality.

“We swear,” the other two parroted. Camilla crossed to them and touched each man on the shoulder, trying to give them the dignity they were obviously seeking.

“Join us then,” she said, smiling at each man in turn. It was an actress’ smile, not quite reaching her eyes but convincing enough. Matis would take over training the men to use spears and swords, but the work was slow and there wouldn’t be enough time to make them truly competent. Likely they would all die the first time they met the undead, but with luck one or two of them would live long enough to learn something.

“Riders!” shouted a look out perched atop one of the nearby walls. Camilla’s head snapped around to the sound of the voice, the scout was pointing to the southern road. All around the camp men were babling in fear and confusion.

“Arm yourselves and make a circle!” Leofric’s voice bellowed, cutting through the babble of voices like a sharp knife through canvas. The confusion subsided as men grabbed for pikes and bows. Their progress was disorderly but within a few minutes the had managed to make a passable defensive line around the crest of the hill.

“Looks to be knights, from Acue by their banners,” Beaumont called. The knight was already in the saddle and the rest of his companions were either mounted or in the process of doing so. Camilla sprang into the saddle of her bay and guided the horse forward to where two large piles of stone made an improvised gate in the waist high tumbledown. A score of mounted men, all bedecked in gorgeous tabards trotted along the road. The remains of the pyres smouldered by the road side in grim contrast. The leader of the men, a young knight in quartered white and purple, held up a mailed fist to his companions commanding a halt. The great warhorses obeyed though they stamped and pawed at the ground. He came forward alone.

“Villains!” he shouted, “Come down and explain yourselves!”

Beaumont and Camilla emerged from the ruins, side by side. Beaumont’s battered armor and fresh cut lance made a marked contrast to the glittering finery of the new comer.

“Good morning Sir Knight,” Camilla said, her courteousness a slap in the face to his bellicose shout. The knight stiffened in his saddle and then reached up to remove his helmet. He was dark haired and might have been handsome if there wasn’t a slight pinch of cruelty to his features and his brown eyes were agate hard.

“Ah you must be the Contessa I have heard so much about,” he replied in an oily voice, eyes flicking dismissively to Beaumont.

“Well if I must be then I suppose I am,” Camilla responded, stopping her horse ten feet from the knight.

“I am Guy D’acue, my father is lord of these lands and holds the lordship of Bienvein,” the knight responded haughtily.

“A pleasure to meet you Sir Guy,” Camilla responded without warmth.

“Why are you trespassing on my father’s land?” Guy demanded, making a broad gesture to indicate the surrounding countryside.

“This is the King’s Highway Sir,” Beaumont responded stiffly. Guys eyes cut to the other Knight, glittering with anger.

“If there is nothing else Sir Guy we will return to our…” Camilla began but the Knight rounded on her.

“You are harboring fled serfs from Bienvein! I will have these men returned,” he snapped. Camilla arched an eyebrow.

“As you must already know Bienvein has been destroyed by the undead,” she explained with artificial patience.

“Or destroyed by bandits?” Guy rejoined with a look towards the armed peasants ringing the shallow hilltop.

“These men are my entourage Sir Knight,” Camilla responded with icy formallity, “You have called them villains and bandits already, do the Knights of Acue treat all travellers in their land with such disrespect?” Guy drew his sword from his saddle with a rasp of steel on leather. Beaumont gripped his own hilt but didn’t pull it free, perhaps vacillating on whether there was enough distance between them to properly set his lance.

“You are harboring runaway serfs, these men are our property. The Knights of Acue won't be robbed by foreign chits with fancy titles,” he snarled. Camilla who had been snarled at by Chaos warriors in the past, sat impassively, unimpressed.

“You go too far Sir Knight, I demand satis…” Beaumont began, but Guy was already wheeling his horse around to face his men.

“My friends, It seems the Noble Contessa has been kidnapped by Brigands and false knights! It us our duty to rescue her and string everyone of these men up for their crimes. He finished his rotation and faced them again, grinning impudently. The Knights behind him drew their swords and shouted challenges.

“Your move, Contessa,” he said mockingly. Camilla drew her pistol and fired in a single smooth action. The bullet punched through the skull of Guy’s horse, spraying the fine white fabric of his tabard with gore. The horse spasmed as it died pitching the knight to the dirt with a clatter like a bull in a cutlers shop. Without wasting further words she wheeled her horse and galloped back up the hill with Beaumont at her heels, Guy screaming invective at her as she passed through the narrow gate to the ruined keep.

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Cyrdic awoke in a sweat, fingers gripping what he knew to be dirt. The grass tickled his nose, and before he opened his eyes he could still smell the dew that had all but faded away into nothingness. He couldn't remember how he had gotten here, nor where here even was. Tall trees of yew, willow, and beech surrounded him, blooming out of a sea of bushes and vibrant ferns that had apparently been good at hiding his sleeping form.

He perked his head and listened, the birds and wind rustling the leaves, the beetles on the crackling bark, the soft padding of hares in the brush. All were caught in his keen hearing, though it was still subtle. So many soft sounds, he found it hard to think or focus. All he knew was his head felt like someone had split it with an axe.


Desperately he felt his abdomen, but could only feel hard muscle. He reached for the small of his back and again, he found no scar. Had he dreamed being run through? No, he hadn't. He remembered the sword point that had punched through his stomach. Segmented, his memory began to flood into him, and as a it did, he looked around the area he slept.

Great mounds of dirt were torn as if by some massive hammer, and the tree he lay at had finger marks. Only...these marks had cut into the very wood. Not even iron tools could have done such a thing. They looked like bear marks. He remembered making them, and he remembered being in control of his actions. Somehow, he had felt the need to expend energy after having slaughtered the old Baron. He could still smell the stained blood.

The sun was warm, but he realized that the night cold had not bothered him over much. Cyrdic's only clothing was his ruined trousers. He had taken his boots off in the night for a reason he couldn't recollect. How long had he been out here? He felt a thick goatee had grown on his chin and above his lip, and his hair had grown wild and unruly. He felt naked, though not because of a lack of clothing. He wanted his sword. Where was it?

Camilla! Where was Camilla?

He gave a rippling growl as he abruptly sat up, which caused a yelp from further down the way. It sounded like a man, and Cyrdic blinked the tiredness of his eyes as he heard soft footsteps approaching. "Ulric, Sigmar; Wolf and Hammer" he grumbled, his voice scratchy from having not spoken in God's knew how long. Or had he howled last night? The Ostland man got to his feet, taking in a deep breath as a peasant man strode into view.

Covered in mud and almost as wild haired as Cyrdic, the man fell back in shock upon seeing Cyrdic standing there, something which almost confused him until he realized finding half naked soldiers in the forest wasn't an everyday occurrence. The man fell onto his rump, scrambling backwards. It was all Cyrdic could do to give a statement in broken Brettonian that he meant no harm. It did help a bit. The man stopped and asked Cyrdic what he wanted.

"Clothes and a meal would be good." he replied.

If only Cyrdic could see himself as the man saw him. Eyes of molten gold, and a sculpted physique even more powerful than he had been. All of this under a mane of wolfish hair.

Two parts fearful of his life and one part awe led the man to bring Cyrdic back to his hovel of a village, which looked to be in even more poor condition than the usual Brettonian fief, with houses made of stone and roofs of naught but straw and some support beams to keep it up, and dried mud to stick it all together. But a well was in use in the center of the settlement, and most of the women and children were somewhat washed. It seemed the men and the younger lads were the ones that were mostly filled with grime.

As Cyrdic was led into the small village, one woman screamed and fainted, and nothing simply stared, though out of fright or admiration at Cyrdic's bare chest it was hard to say. He was quickly led inside, his stomach now driving his entire mind and keeping its focus clear on the food he might get. It was a primal hunger.

"You. lucky." the man said, scrambling through half broken out-of-use boxes, finding a cooked chicken and an apple. "Death in land. Suis capable' get food, oui?"
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“If you give up the peasants they will let us depart,” Beaumont began but Camilla held up her hand to forestall him.

“We aren’t giving up people who have sworn fealty to me to be executed or enslaved,” she said with a steely undertone to her voice. Below them the score of knights were forming up in a loose semicircle, though if they expected to charge the hilltop, they would find that riding uphill into fortifications was an expensive proposition. Sir Guy was shaking his fist and yelling as he took an inferior horse from one of the squires who straggled at the back of the knights line. Knowing what she did of Brettonian horses, she had just cost the knight a princely sum by killing his horse.

“Zey cannot hope to take us,” Matis said contemptuously, hefting his own pair of pistols, good for two Knights from what Camilla knew of his shooting. In the Empire it was the infantry who were superior, their were Knightly orders as good or nearly so as the Brettonians but no knight could hope to stand against a formation of halbiders and handgunners. Matis had the faith of an Imperial, which might be misplaced in this half trained band of peasants.

“He wont need to,” Beaumont replied stiffly, gesturing to a pair of squires racing away down the road.

“He is sending for more men, and the local lords will support him to put down your little peasant band,” Beaumont explained patiently.

“By noon he will have enough men to invest us and starve us out.” Camilla saw fear flicker over the faces of the listening peasant but she gave them a confident smile. Spending years in the company of mercenaries and armies had taught her that a confident commander went along way.

“Well I don’t think we need to keep him waiting that long…”
Camilla and her party burst from the ruins in a sudden gallop, the difference between Beaumont’s warhorse and her Arabian as compared to the pack horses and nags the peasants were riding was instantly apparent as the group began to straggle. Most of the peasants could only cling to their horses, doing well to merely hold on. They thundered down the reverse side of the slope and onto the road opposite the semicircle of hostile knights. Guy let out a warcry and the knights thundered after the fugitives, warhorses kicking up great gouts of the muddy roadway as they eagerly sprang forward. The twenty knights lowered their lances as they spurred onwards. Camilla felt her heart leap into ther throat, there was no way her disheveled party would last beyond the first impact of the lances, and there was no way the peasant nags could outdistance trained steeds. The screaming peasants obviously came to the same realisation.

Guy and his men raced past the hill, their visors down but their faces doubtlessly split in grins of triumph. Afterall, no peasant rabble could hope to stand against the fabled Brettonian cavalry. A horn rang out with a sudden shattering blast. Camilla wheeled her horse and pulled both her pistols from the silken sash around her waist. The knights charging wavered slightly at the unexpexted sound but in their armor couldn’t pivot enough to see what was happening. A knot of knights, Beaumonts companions who had not ridden to the early parley, raced down the slope and into the rear of Guy’s men, the downslope and the hesitation at the horn blast allowing them to close the distance. The battered veterans struck with their unadorned lances of new cut wood. Several of the enemy were pitched forward over their saddle bows in the opening seconds of the fight. Horses screamed and lances shattered to pulpy ruin.

“Charge!” Camilla shouted spurring her horse back into the mass of clashing steel and shouting men. Beaumont raced past her towards Guy. The enemy knight had only a moment to react but with the skill long training his shield came up in time. While a normal lance might have shattered the green wood of Beaumont’s weapon bent like a bowstave and then straightened, pitching Guy from saddle in a flash of flying mail. Camilla shot one of the Knight’s horses out from under him and spilled a second from the saddle with her remaining pistol.

“Back!” a big knight carrying a banner draped lance yelled. The knights loyal to sir Guy wheeled and raced back down the road. A straggler was punched off his horse by a pistol shot, a bright flash of arterial blood marking where Matis’ shot had shattered his neck. Once, Camilla might have regretted the needless loss of life, but since Cydric’s death, it was hard to care about much of anything. She slowed her horse with a gentle pressure of the heels, he was trained to be used by a mounted archer, but it was easy enough to adapt him to a pitsoler’s tactics. The horse obeyed instantly and subsided to a trot. Most of the peasants behind her hadn’t pushed their horses back into the skirmish, which was a good thing because they would have been butchered by men in mail. As it was the casualty count was low, one of Beaumont’s knights was nursing a sprained wrist, another had been thrown from his horse and had broken an arm. Among Guy’s men the tool was hire, three men lay dead on the ground, two killed by the knights flanking attack and the one Matis had shot. Another trio of men seemed to be alive but stunned, knocked from their horses in one way or another. To Camilla’s considerble suprise, the man she had shot in the chest was among this number, a great concavity in his breasplate where the ball had struck, but none the less still alive. Of the squires who had accompanied them there was no sign

Guy was pulling himself to his feet and grasping for the sword he had dropped. Camilla bought her horse to a stop and leveled her pistol at the striken man.

“Do you yield Sir knight?” she asked politely. Guy looked up at her and then pulled his visor back, his blue eyes gazing hatefully up at her.

“To a woman?” he sneered.

“You can yield to Sir Beaumont if you like, or I can shoot you,” she offered, though the pistol hadn’t yet been reloaded. Guy hesitated and gave up the attempt to find his sword.

“Will the bodies of my companions be respected?” he asked bitterly. Camilla nodded solemly.

“Yes,” Camilla responded, “though I suggest you have them burned or beheaded if you cannot get them back to your castle before dark.” Guy sighed and removed his helmet.

“Then I yield,” he said sullenly, making certain to look at Beaumont when he said it.

“Will you ransom me?” he asked the other knight. Beaumont opened his mouth but Camilla cut him off with a curt gesture.

“You are free to go, provided you swear not to harass me or my followers,” she told him, “otherwise I will accept your word of honor to return with a thousand gold florins.”

Guy looked at them incredulously.

“We are not your enemy Sir, we are merely trying to destroy the undead that plague this land,” Camilla told him. Guy spat into the ground.

“So long as you harbor run away serfs you are the enemy of every Knight of the Realm. You cannot be allowed to roam about fermenting rebellion,” Guy snapped. Beaumont looked decidedly uncomfortable at his words but opted to say nothing.

“Shall I take it you will be returning with a thousand gold florins then?” Camilla asked. Guy ground his teeth, a sum like that was a significant portion of the rent of even a great estate. It would all but beggar even a rich knight.

“Very well, you have my vow that I will not raise arms against you,” he growled. Camilla lowered her pistol.

“Then I suppose you are free to go Sir Knight,” she said. One of the peasants cleared his throat, a sandy haired man clearly uncomfortable speaking those he percived as his betters.

“Ummm M’lady, should we take the weapons and armor? We could use the steel,” he asked differentially. Guy’s face turned purple with rage and Beaumont stiffened, affronted by the very suggestion.

“No Jaq,” Camilla said, “these men aren’t truly our foes, their weapons and armor will go to their families.” How she would have felt if some of her own people had been killed she couldn't say, but it was bad enough that a group of knights had been humiliated by her little band. Luckily most of the glory for the exploit would land on Beaumont, if peasants along had beaten the knights she could probably look forward to every noble from here to Courrne hunting for her. Guy still bristled but at least it didn’t appear that he was about to suffer a bout of apoplexy. She turned her back on him.

“M’lady, what about the horses,” Jaq asked. Camilla was about to ask what he meant when it dawned on her. Beaumount groaned in disgust. Camilla who had eaten horse at the siege of Prag and at numerous shady taverns throughout the Empire bridged the gap between the peasants desire for meat and the nobles disgust for it.

“Leave it Jaq,” she said wearily, as she nudged her horse into a walk, “we don’t have time to butcher them and I strongly suspect that Sir Guy’s friends will be back here with whatever forces they can gather before noon.”

“Form up!” Leofric bellowed and the unmounted peasants lopped down from the hilltop carrying bagage to drape over the pack horses which had been pressed into service as improvised cavalry mounts. There were no spare mounts for Guy and wouldn’t have been given one if Camilla had one to hand. Within a surprisingly short amount of time the small force was on the road, picking its way north towards the Forest of Chalons.
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Hermann Vulfgang slowed his steed to a trot, the darkened blue cloak he had clad upon him still damp from the rain he had ridden through on his travels. The forest path he now rode upon was all too familiar, and even the grime on his boots and the constant wet did not sour his mood, as he knew he was reaching his destination. Clermount was a quaint little hamlet in Aquitaine, one he had taken up residence in from time to time.

The Dukes and Barons of Brettonia did not trust the mages of the empire, so he preferred his travels were not widely known. He brought healing salves and some food to the serfs of Clermount, and in exchange they allowed him shelter so he could perform various experiments in the woods, without the pesky Witch Hunters sticking their long, pointed noses where they didn't belong. The serfs would be too frightened of his 'wtichcraft' or too grateful for his aid to go and tell their overlords of his presence.

Trotting into the muddy village, he heeled his brown mare, dismounting carefully to not stain his robes. One of the village maidens rushed up to him, grabbing the horses reins. She spoke quickly in Brettonian.

"Yes, good to be back. How have things bee-"

"Errone!" she exclaimed, catching her breath for a moment. "Un grand homme loup est ici, chez Remy!"

"What!?" The Gold wizard swiftly, ushered her off and made his way through the mudcaked road, heeding the ground very little. He tried to think of his best offensive spells, his mind whirring with different incantations on how best to deal with a wolfman. Sigmar, what was such a foul beast of Norsca doing here in Brettonia? Did the dark powers find him? Did his journey to rid the world of foul chaos bring their attention, and this village suffered for it!?

The lock on Remy's door melted by the hinges as if it was so much snow in high summer, and the less than physical mage booted the door in as best he could, cloaked in power to find...a very muscular man eating a whole cooked chicken. The man didn't look too surprised to see him, though he did flinch when the door had been caved in. Needless to say, Hermann felt a bit awkward at that particular moment, not to mention Remy nearly falling out of his chair seeing Hermann breaking his door. "Ma porte! Pourquoi voudriez-vous le détruire!" he cried in dismay.

Hermann gave a quick apology in Brettonian, but his magesight caught his attention. "Who are you?" he asked in Reikspiel, though he felt speaking in his native tongue was a mistake until the... 'man' spoke back in the same language. He looked far too strong and powerful for a normal man, but he couldn't exactly call him anything else. The term 'wolf' had been apt, but it was not the mark of chaos on him that seemed to have him in such a state.

"Cyrdic Becker." he replied, glaring at the Wizard as if the mage would contest the claim. When he didn't, Cyrdic continued. "Of the 9th Ostland."

Hermann did not know where to begin with his questioning. He supposed he'd start at the beginning. "How did you get here, herr Becker?"

"I woke up in the forest, after being a guest in Chateu D'Epee."

"D'Epee..." Hermann echoed, considering. "Interesting. And, would it be rude to ask 'what' you are?"

"How do you mean?" Cyrdic asked, his striking golden eyes glinting with confusion and defensiveness. He stood up, the small chair pushing back against the wall. Hermann realized if the man was wearing armor and no one could see his eyes, perhaps give him a haircut, he could pass as an exceptionally powerful and handsome, even kingly man. But as he was now, he seemed more wild beast than civilized man of the empire, even a province as rough as Ostland.

Cyrdic looked at Remy, and the peasant looked just as confused as he, probably because he spoke very little reikspeil. Hermann sighed, and produced a small mirror from his robe pocket, handing it to Cyrdic who took it slowly. He gazed at his reflection, a hint of shock in his face at the transformation. He had been a strong man before, but now...

"Would you be surprised to learn that you're not the strangest story I heard of today?" Herman told him.

Camilla and her retinue galloped at a leisurely pace, at least compared to the hard riding they done these past few weeks. The day was aging, and the forest of Chalons, while in the middle of the country, was still not the safest place to be. Bandits and the occassional beastmen lurked deeper within the woods, as well as hedge witches the serfs whispered of. Though compared to the Drakwald of the Empire, it was fairly tame.

Beaumont held himself at the ready, lance in the air and his eyes like a hawks. Despite feeling far less honorable this past month before granting his service to Camilla, he still saw it was his duty to protect her, no matter how troublesome she was. The peasants and what Knights were in her service felt a similar way of her, some duty bound to protect her, others smitten, and many were glad to be protected by her, and wished to return the favor.

Within minutes, they made it to their camp. A small patch of ruins atop a forest hill, cleared as a glade save for the stonework. Small cairns were erected at the treeline, small wards given by the more superstitious of the band to keep out the forest spirits that they say dwelled within the deep woods. However, they did not ward against men, and to their surprise, a small band of Knights stood dismounted from their horses at the entrance. Some of them drew themselves up, having just finished eating at Camilla and Beaumont's cookfire.

Camilla had two pistols cocked and aimed at the two men who seemed to be the most kenowned, if their coat of arms and manner were anything to go by. The serfs, emboldened by their recent victory, still did not seem keen on facing the armed Knights. Even Beaumont seemed perturbed by them, and on closer inspection, the left man had an air about him that made him stand head and shoulders above the men that flanked him. In fact, he radiated power. Camilla suddenly knew that even were this man standing stark naked before her, her bullets would not harm him or his steed, a more powerful and noble horse she had never seen in all of her days serving the elector count of Ostland.

"A grail Knight," Beaumont breathed, inclining his head to give the senior Cavalier his due respect. Rather than return it, the Grail Knight did the last thing anyone would have thought possible.

He knelt, placing his glowing sword, alight in his mailed hands, before him. "I have traveled far of late. My dreams have haunted me, and my brothers do not believe the visions the Lady has given me. But now that I stand before you, I have no doubts in my mind. I pledge my life and my sword to you, Contessa De La Trantio. The new Fey Enchantress."

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“Is he touched?” Camilla asked bluntly. Beaumont looked shocked but Matis rewarded the laconic response with a snort of amusement. Several of the nearby peasants gasped and some went so far as to fall to their knees muttering prayers.

“Contessa, he has...he has tasted of the Grail, yet to say such a thing…” Beamont trailed off. Both he and his companions looked deeply troubled, torn between what they saw as a living embodiment of Knighthood and what was at best madness and at worst a lie.

“Sir Knight I am no enchantress, fey or otherwise,” Camilla protested quickly. Talk of sorcery made her nervous, it would make anyone who had spent time in the Empire nervous. She was glad that Matis knew her well enough to know that she had as little to do with the arcane as she did with the Imperial Family.

“Talking like that is a good way to get someone burned at the stake,” Camilla added a touch tartily.

“I believe our less educated cousins in Brettonia prefer drowning,” Matis chimed in unnecessarily. Camilla could feel the smirk behind the words without turning her head. She bent down to push the knights sword down but instead he waited till she touched the hilt of the weapon, then reversed it and kissed the jeweled hit.

“Then I am yours to command m’lady,” he exalted. Camilla cringed back as though she had just touched hot iron. The grail knight stood, he was an impressive man, tall even by imperial standards and his armor more intricate than anything she had seen humans wear. It seemed to combine the sophistication of the elves with the sturdiness of dwarven work. There was an astonished gasp from the peasants behind her and she spun to find several of them falling to their knees.

“I’m not an enchantress! Im a….!” she trailed off, she had been about to say she was a whore from Tilea but that wouldn’t do. Suddenly something hot touched her hand and she yanked it away, looking down to see the hilt of her elven sword radiating some kind of heat. She pulled her hand away puzzled and not a little alarmed.

“In our dreams we saw that you would conceal it, even from yourself,” the Knight told her serenely.

“In time you will reveal yourself,” he went on rhapsodically. Camilla shook her head in weary defeat, she turned to face Beaumont and his knights they had guarded looks on their face, though the beginnings of awe glimmered behind a few eyes.

“I am not an enchantress,” she shouted though from the looks of thing she might as well have been shouting into a hurricane. Wearily she deflated, suddenly feeling the futility of it all.

“Make camp, get a proper watch set, I doubt any Knights will trouble us here, the Baron of Angolem is old and poor and fighting another nobleman besides, but this close to the forest I worry about the undead.”

Exasperated she stalked away to where her tent was being erected and slipped inside. She sat down on her bed roll and put her head in her hands. These people and this country were insane. If she had any sense at all she would ride off tonight and take ship for… anywhere she supposed. But what was the point of going anywhere without Cydric. The dark forces that had killed him were here, so here she would stay, until she died, or they were utterly destoyed.

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Early the next morning, Cyrdic and Hermman rode out of Clermount, the Ostlander reluctantly riding the only other horse in the hamlet, given to him by a farmer that owed Hermman a debt of unknown importance. Cyrdic would have gladly let the man keep his steed, but Hermman had insisted. The man said he might have a way to find out just what was happening with Cyrdic's body, but they needed to make it to Bordeleaux where the mage had a few friends he could call favors on. Cyrdic had wanted to thank him, but the mercenary had a feeling the man's curiosity and desire to 'dissect' Cyrdic's state was enough reward. He wished he had his sword with him. Even if the man had not been threatening to him, he'd rather have a familiar blade near him just in case.

As they rode through the mud laden path, the small wood opened up into the wide, beautiful countryside of Aquitaine. Many who lived here felt the rolling hills of arable land boring, but Cyrdic could still appreciate it. He wished he could say the same for himself. He had cut his hair in the Imperial, soldierly fashion. Close cropped and professional, keeping a small goatee on his chin and upper lip, but somehow he still felt too hairy, and his blazing golden eyes unnerved him. What's more, his memories continued to creep back into his head.

He had murdered the Baron D'Epee and had assaulted his squire. He couldn't remember why. The thought still egged him, and the harder he tried to remember, the more elusive the memory. He felt it took all of his power to recall who he was as a person, much less his recent reasoning for violence. He needed to concentrate.

He enjoyed hard liquor and the occasional wry joke. He would rather earn his money by plying his trade than have it be handed to him, and not just because he still enjoyed fighting and war a bit more than he should. He disliked riding horses and speaking to Lordly company, and to soldiers he knew how to lead charismatically, and by example. He remembered helping his father in the fields when he was a boy, and enjoyed listening to the soft tunes of his mother as he drifted off to sleep.

He remembered all too well the bloodlust he felt in combat, and his days training in the Ostland army. He remembered rescuing Camilla and his exile, and he remembered the dangers they faced. One after another. The faces of the companions they had gained and lost. He also remembered falling in love with her, and she with him. The nights of passion mixed with the heated yet obviously heart-felt arguments they would have, and the cute way her lips snarled when she hacked apart the brain of a beastman or told off an arrogant Lord, and her skill as an actress that boggled his mind.

He missed her. But it was for the best she was Ulric-knows-where, probably thousands of miles from here. He couldn't trust himself anymore. Even now he could feel the wolf that had taken over his body lurking at the edges of his consciousness, as if waiting for his mind to be caught off guard to then pounce and do violence once again. Even when he had inhaled the entire chicken Remy had given him, he could barely contain his hunger. She was better off without him.

"How far is Bordeleaux?" Cyrdic asked the wizard.

"Fret not my bestial friend. We'll make for the River Morceaux and then the forest of Chalons. After that we'll make for the western road." he replied. "Have you ever had the wine of the Morceaux valley? Said to be the most delectable in the world."

"Tremendous." Cyrdic remarked, using the nuance of the word Camilla had taught him. It had baffled him that even though he had learned to read and write, there were still extra layers in Reikspeil to speak properly. He would never understand the pomp.

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The sky lightened as the sun rose on another damp and dreary day. Camilla opened her eyes to the patter of rain on her canvas tent. For a moment she was prepared to dismiss the strange events of last night as a dream but as she peeled back the flap she saw the grail knight standing guard over her tent. Though he stood in the rain his armor was somehow bone dry, as though the rain drops refused to fall upon him. Camilla jerked her head back into her tent and swore in Tilean, a very un-enchantress like action. Perhaps the man really was insane, the Gods knew that times were hard enough to drive even the bravest to madness, but the reaction of Beaumont and his knights proved that most people wouldn’t see it that way. Pushing the possible problem from her mind, she dressed in one of her tailored blue riding dresses and her tooled leather armor before adding a waxed canvas cloak with hood to the ensemble.

The camp was quiet, cook fires smouldered under improvised covers and peasants huddled together in an effort to stay warm and dry. As Camilla stepped from her tent the Grail knight turned and went down on one knee with a whisper of ensorcelled steel.

“I am at your command, m’lady,” he declared fervently.

“Stand up and come with me,” Camilla said, more out of lack of a better option than real desire. Peasants fell to their knees as she passed and she cast irritated glances their way. As she passed through the camp she listened to the muted buzz of conversation. The members of her little band had long called herself Mademoiselle Aqua, or Lady Blue but the emphasis had shifted to make the Aqua into its root word for water, now the name the mutered was something closer to The Maiden of the Waters. The obvious allusion to the Lady of the Lake wasn’t lost on anyone. Under normal circumstances Camilla would have been on the first ship out of Bourdeaux, but the grey fatalism that had clung to her since Cydric’s death made the idea impossible.

Over the past few months the senior members of the little band, Camilla, Beaumont, Matis and Leofric, when he was sober enough, had developed a routine. Each morning they met by the central fire and discussed the plan for the day. All three men were already there when Camilla arrived. A sheet of canvas had been strong from spears butted into the wagon to create a lean-to to keep the rain off. All three men looked bedraggled and wet and Beaumont looked grim as death itself. Matis lounged on an empty wine crate, puffing at a pipe, while Leofric’s face shone with the same devotion as the other peasants. He must have been a handsome man once, even if time and a repeatedly broken nose had left him looking prematurely aged.

“Contessa,” Beaumont began with uncharacteristic directness.

“Sir Guillorme rode of during the night. I fear he has gone to spread word of this ...unorthodoxy,” The knight concluded with a glance at the grail knight.

“It is no lie Sir Knight, I Renard de Lucinion, swear it before the Lady,” the grail knight declared in a voice that throbbed with power. Renard, well she hadn’t gotten his name last night. Guillorme had been a taciturn man, more than usually vocal about her liberation of the serfs, it wasn’t hard to figure that the perceived heresy had put him over the edge. It was a shame Matis hadn’t shot him for desertion.

“Well there is nothing to be done about it now,” Camilla said wearily, accepting a cup of venison stew from Leofric. She sipped at it in the Brettonian fashion not bothering with knives and forks.

“Other knights will come when they hear what has been said about you Contessa, many have been willing to ignore you provided you only have a small band of vagrant serfs, but if they here you are impersonating Morgana L’Fey…”

“She is the Enchantress,” Renard declared in a voice that somehow wasn’t loud and yet had the clarity and carry of a trumpet blast.

“I have seen it, others have seen it,” he said with a scowl at Beaumont.

“Many will not believe Sir Knight,” Beaumont responded stiffly, “They will…” Camilla made a guesture with her free hand cutting off further discussion.

“If a host of knights rides out to crush me then I will have to hope they crush a few of the undead while they are about it,” Camilla responded harshly. It would be typical that they lords of Aquitane had ignored her warnings and the obvious signs of the undead only to ride out when their precious Knightly honor was tweaked.

“Contessa I..”

“Enough Beaumont,” Camilla said wearily. It was the first time she had used his name without a Sir before it and it obviously shocked him. His cheeks colored in she knew not what and he fell silent. Reaching into a leather satchel she withdrew a map of rolled parchment and spread it out on one of the empty crates. Each battle they had fought with the undead was marked with a charcoal X. At first they appeared to be randomly scattered over northern Aquitaine, but as she thought about it over night Camilla had changed her mind about that.

“I think we are finally getting somewhere,” she told the men, who looked puzzled at the confidence in her voice.

“We have, or at least I have, long believed that the undead are searching for something,” she began.

“Afterall, why spread out like this in small groups, why not use a large force and crush those who oppose them?” she continued.

“Because they are not strong enough,” Beaumont interjected stubbornly and predictabley. Camilla fixed him with an exasperated look.

“If you tally up the dead we have destroyed over the past three months, its easily over a thousand,” Camilla pointed out with a touch of acid to her voice.

“More than enough to overrun most small towns and hamlets, even some of the smaller castles.” Beaumont seemed about to raise another object but Matis forestalled him.

“And you said we are finally getting somewhere? Have you puzzled out what they are after?” he asked, puffing at his pipe. Camilla nodded and drew out a stick of charcoal.

“Not what they are looking for no but if you look at when we encountered these forces…” she started at the most recent encounter and drew a line back through earlier ones, then repeated the process with each of the recent engagements. The lines converged close to the edge of the forest of Chalons, on the border of Aquitaine.

“Thats where the bastard is,” Leforic grunted.

“I think it must be at least close to wherever sorcerer or fiend is lairing,” Camilla agreed, it was a testament to her acting skill that her voice didn’t quaver with raise. Whatever monster had been responsible for Cydric’s death. She rolled up the map and tucked it back into its leather case.

“I want everyone fed and on the road in an hour, we will have to back track post Quori Tre, then take the Rue de Magiste north until we lose it at Carasae,” she ordered. It was a long ride, but after three months she felt like she was finally riding towards something, rather than away from it.
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"Your life sounds very much like a Detlef Sierck Melodrama if I am being completely honest, only...far more violent than he would usually write. Even your noble beauty seems to kill droves of beastmen and chaos worshippers." Hermman the Wizard said, smoking his pipe under a gnarled tree as the fire crackled before him, lengthening the shadows of his studied face.

Cyrdic grunted, not blaming the man for finding his past adventures hard to believe. He sounded ridiculous to himself when he spoke it aloud. But he also could not help but grin at Hermman's comment on Camilla. "Just because she is a beautiful woman does not mean she isn't dangerous." he said to him, biting into the venison sausage.

The deer they'd hunted had by Brettonian law belonged to Baron D'Elbiq. But he was apparently too busy fueding with Baron Du Maisne and fighting the occasional Derelich that inhabited the rare ruin around the abandoned holdfasts of ancient Aquitaine. Cyrdic had always liked Venison more than most meats. He knew how to follow as much as lead, but he couldn't understand a land where even the animals belonged to the gentry.

"In my experience my boy, most beautiful women are." Hermman replied, giving a ghost of a smile as if remembering a painful but fond memory.

Cyrdic was too focused on his meal, even taking the bits of it that had bone in it. The cracking of the bone with his teeth was satisfying, even pleasurable. He suddenly found bone marrow almost as appetizing as the meat itself, and his ravenous hunger was untenable. Hermman was lost in thought for a few moments too long, and he would curse himself a moment later when a sword glinted in the firelight, the point of it reaching the Wizard's slim neck.

"You are under arrest for trespassing on the Baron's road," a man said in broken Reikspiel. It seemed whoeever spoke it could already tell they were foreigners. "and poaching upon his land."

A powerful man with an even more impressive mustache stepped out of the woods, hood over his head. More Yeomen stepped out of the woods, and Cyrdic was more appalled at himself being too hungry to even smell their obvious scent than surprised they were there, or in fear of his life. Hermman lowered his pipe, smiling guiltily. "Well, Captain, what is to be our punishment. I know the Constable of Bordeleaux, you know. If you hang me or my ward, he will see to it y-"

"Silence, knave. Or are you a warlock? The Baron D'Elbiq will decide your fate at the Castle."

Hermman sighed, and looked at Cyrdic apologetically. "Well my boy, at least we'll be sleeping indoors tonight."

Aldaerion's gaze pierced leaf and bark, traveling over the low hills of Aquitaine with sight beyond what any human could experience. The armored apes of the land, in their primitive and brutish ways did safeguard it better than most denizens of Athel Loren would admit. Beastman and Orc would ravage the land, but would be thrown back time and again over the course of many human lifetimes, and even the span of a few Elven ones. But this was different.

The power rising in the forest of Chalons was an old one. One that the Asrai had not seen for a long time. They would weather out the storm within Athel Loren, but as for the humans of Brettonia? Perhaps they would prevail again. But the Waywatcher doubted it. Aldaerion had seen the power of lone necromancers before, when they soiled the ancient cairns of the Wood Elves.

What could one of such ancient power wield, in a land rife with feuds and ancient dead?

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“Keep your shield up!” Matis shouted as he battered at the peasant with a length of fencing post. The wood clattered against the shield like slamming door as the wiry with hunter hammered his opponent with surprising force. The instruction might have been more helpful if he had remembered to speak Brettonian but the blow he delivered across the man's head when he dropped the shield was eloquent enough. Around him two double lines of peasants stood wailing away with their own wooden weapons while Leofric shouted at them to keep their shields tight.

Camilla sat upon a fallen statue watching the proceedings with a slightly pained expression. In the week since the Grail Knight had appeared word had spread of her alleged elevation as a religious figure, her small band of peasants had grown from a score to well over a hundred. There were enough of them now that she had felt some sort of training was necessary if they were to be effective. The decision hadn’t been popular with Beaumont and his men, who viewed the situation with growing alarm. What at first had been few homeless peasants was fast becoming an army and teaching them to use Imperial tactics was almost as bad as leading a rebellion in their eyes. Two more of the knights had deserted over the past week, uncomfortable with the perceived heresy or her arming and training of peasants. Even those who had stayed seemed uncomfortable and unhappy, though as yet their loyalty to Beaumont outweighed their disquiet towards her.

To make matters worse they had not encountered any of the undead in the few days since the battle by the ruins. A battle would have been good to pull everyone together, and it would have eased Camilla’s mind that she was on the right path. A gnawing sense of doubt had begun to grow that maybe she was on the wrong track, a discomfort that Renard’s blind faith that she knew what she was doing, made worse.

“They have a long way to go,” Matis griped as he climbed the hill to where Camilla watched, Leofric making up in invictive for the absence of the Imperial’s skill. Camilla did not answer immediately, if only Cydric were here, she was certain he would be able to whip these men into order far faster than Matis could. Try as he might the Witch Hunter just wasn't a man to lead others, except maybe by fear.

“Well we may not have to much more time,” Camilla said finally, the silence compelling her to say something.

“Are you sure we shouldn’t send to Bourdeaux for handguns?” Matis asked.

“Absolutely not! Bad enough you are training this rabble rather than trusting the Knights too…” Beaumont exploded. Camilla gave a weary sigh which cut of the night more effectively than a slap to the face might have done. She didn’t bother to point out that the gallant Knights of Brettonia were yet to do much more than squabble amongst themselves.

“This isn’t the Empire Matis,” Camilla pointed out, as she had the previous times he had raised the notion.

“The don’t sell powder at every trading post, we wouldn’t be able to keep them firing.” That was nothing but the truth. It was becoming hard enough to feed the men now that their numbers had grown to the point they couldn’t easily forage. The local lords had refused to allow trade with them but the outlying villages, perhaps encouraged by the nobles dislike for ‘Mademoiselle Aqua’ had showered them with gifts of grain and wine as well as offering her fresh recruits. Camilla needed more horses, more wagons, more things than she had ever imagined worrying about. Part of her felt she owed a great many quartermasters an apology for the complaints she had leveled against them.

“Riders!” a shout came from one of the lookouts. Everyone reached for their weapons but a moment later a second shout followed.

“Scouts returning!”

Everyone relaxed as their fears of a column of Knights bent on teaching peasants a lesson faded. The scouts, lean pinch faced men on wiry mounts cantered down the road, their horses heads drooped with exhaustion from the unusual exertion. The leader of the small group a hatchet faced man named Gaston whom Camilla suspected had been a bandit rather than a peasant, leaped from his horse and jogged up the hill to her, falling to his knees in the elaborate deference that all the peasants had adopted.

“Mademoiselle, it is as you say,” he gasped. Camilla passed a waterskin to the man who unstoppered it and drank deeply.

“At ze old Chantry on ze island in the river, we saw movement and strange lights,” Gaston confided in his heavily accented Brettonian. Camilla felt herself relax even though she knew that this meant they were in serious danger, at least she had not lead them off on a wild goose chase.

“Zere is more Mademoiselle, as we were creeping up, we met… an elf,” he breathed looking around as though speaking the words allowed would bring ill fortune.

“An elf?” almost everyone asked at once. Gaston nodded energetically.

“He came out of no where, said he had something to tell you and that you should meet him on the path to the chantry after dark,” Gaston explained.

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To any of her troops, and even the brigands that excelled at stealth tactics, Camilla's footfalls would have been undetectable. Her riding boots stepped softly along the moist ground, missing every leaf that might cackle, and barely brushing the passing shrubbery or twigs that swayed in the cool night breeze. Her destination lay at the top of the forested rise, and even as she moved, she drew her sword without a whisper of a sound.

Her next few steps led her to the top of the climb, though she still hid in the leaves of a lowered tree canopy. Camilla's eyes pierced the gloom, but even still she couldn't see anyone. A part of her told herself to step forward again, and she was just about to move before she froze as if struck.

Something tickled her senses. Something was there in the wood, but she had no idea where it could be. A presence permeated the clearing, and what's more, she had the distinct feeling it was because whatever it was allowed it. If she had been the Elf's enemy, she would have been dead before her next heartbeat, and the cold sensation of steel at the base of her spine caused her to squawk, as she used to do with Cyrdic. The very noise constricted her heart at the thought of him.

"You have good instincts." the Elf said, interrupting her grief, and it took her a moment to realize he was not speaking any human tongue. When she turned, he would be gone. Instead, somehow he was now behind her once more. It irked her that he could move so effortlessly, and with a simple leap that spun her thrice through the air, she landed nimbly before him, standing face to face, her blade point near his chest. If he was worried, he gave no sign. "You hold the blade made by my kin across the water. Perhaps you are suitable enough to help save this land."

"What do you want?" she demanded of him, choosing now not to be the time to question how she understood Elven.

"Your pride is wounded." He stated, rather than asked. "Do not fret, even others of my kind cannot track me, save other WayWatchers. I am Aldaerion, and what I want is what you want. To see this land survive the coming threat. You would be the only human that would likely listen to me." He spoke without the haughtiness of the High Elves she had met in Kislev. Either the Elves of Athel Loren were less proud of a race (doubtful), or this one had spent far too long in solitude to retain the habits of his other kin.

"Stop speaking in riddles. Tell me what you came to tell me."

He nodded, accepting the simple logic. "The Red Duke rises."

Camilla shook her head, the image of the Ghastly form dispersed within the Fortress of D'Epee fresh in her mind. It was the last thing she remembered before Cyrdic had been lost. "No, we killed him."

"We?" The Elf asked, and at Camilla's grimace, he decided it was best not to broach the subject. "When exactly did you do this?"

"Four full moon's ago." she replied, having the counted the days since her self imposed exile and her campaign to aid the peasants of the land. The Undead attacks had grown ever since she and Beaumont had left the Fortress, harrying villages and killing passing merchants. "We killed his bride, and he was banished by the sorcery that bound them together. I saw his spirit flee."

After a moment of consideration by Aldaerion, the Elf looked at her directly. "You did not kill him." he told her, in no uncertain terms. "You released him."

It was a really strange turn of events to Cyrdic's point of view. That the mage would be treated better than the soldier, in Bretonnia of all Sigmar-forsaken places. They had been taken to the castle of the Baron D'Elbiq, which was simply a glorified keep with a small walled community, that overlooked the closest wood and marshland to the northeast, just between it and the Forest of Chalons that covered the horizon.

They had been chained and nearly dragged by the horses, or at least Cyrdic had. Hermman was small enough to be tossed over the back of one like a towel, but Cyrdic's bulk kept him from sharing a steed with another rider so he had to keep up with their trot. To the surprise of the Yeomen, Cyrdic did without complaint, further causing them to fear him for some pagan cursed beast from Athel Lore or the Grey Mountains.

Once they made it to the Baron's Castle, they were both shoved before the Baron, a stately man with a pointed nose and an overbearing mouth, who gaped at Cyrdic. The Knights present had drawn swords, and exclaimed to themselves in their tongue. "Throw this...this thing in the dungeons!" he cried, and Cyrdic was pulled away. Briefly he thought of struggling, particularly after he was kneed in the stomach for simply looking back at Hermman who now stood what looked like a 'trial' before the Baron, but he felt it wouldn't be right.

These were fighting men, doing what they had to with some Herculean son of Ulric they had found poaching in the woods. He had been in the wrong, so he would tough it out and take what they threw at him. What did it matter? The Knight pulling his chains stopped at the furthest jailed door in the lowest dungeon, probably a dozen paces below ground level. Cyrdic spoke up for the first time. "What's to happen to me?" he said in Reikspeil.

"Silencieux, la bête!" he ordered.

"Je suis un... soldat? Comme toi" he said to him, giving the Knight pause. He couldn't read the Cavalier's reaction, as he still bore his helmet. But after a moment, he called for the gailor to open the cell and looked at Cyrdic through his visor. "Par...your honeur?" he asked, indicating Cyrdic's chains. Cyrdic realized what the man was asking, and Cyrdic nodded. Truth be told, he could probably break out of them as soon as he entered the jail, but he wished to gain a measure of trust with the Knight, and once he unlocked his chains, Cyrdic obediently entered the jail cell.

It was somewhat roomy, considering. But there was no cot. Simply a small space to sit, and a bail of hay at the corner. The door closed noisily. "Quand la madam fille arrivera, vous serez jugé." he told the Ostlander, and left him there alone, with no word on Hermman or what his punishment was to be...
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Camilla felt a surge of despair that she couldn’t quite keep from her face. The elf seemed to sense this and bowed his head in acknowledgement. After everything they had been through not only had Cydric died for nothing, they had actually made things worse. Grimly she determined that she would stop playing soldiers and just leave this place, head south to Tilea or some other far port and live out whatever life she could. There was no point in pretending like she could make anything better. Let someone else hunt down necromancers, someone better suited to it than a courtesan from Tilea.

“What are they looking for?” she asked numbly, although truthfully she didn’t really care any longer. The elf made a gesture that meant nothing to her, his slender fingers spreading into a complicated pattern.

“When the Duke was last suppressed, his body was sundered and scattered. Part of him lived in the child whose spirit you released, part of him was sent over the waters. Part of him was hidden in some secret place here in this land. While part of his is free, it will search for the other parts to regain his full strength.”

Camilla shrugged, not able to muster up much interest, having already made up her mind to leave Brettonia to whatever fate decreed.

“That sounds like a problem for a knight on some quest,” she responded, mentally plotting how long it would take her to reach Bordeaux and a ship that would take her back to Tilea.

“It is a problem for a Fey Enchantress,” the elf responded enigmatically. Camilla stiffened at those words, casting a suspicious glance at the way watcher. A slight smile tugged at the corner of the elfs inhuman eyes as he watched her.

“I’m not an Enchantress, a Fey one or any other kind,” she snapped. Aldaerion lifted a slender eyebrow at this, as though questioning the statement.

“And yet you are bound to a blade sacred to the old gods of the Asur? Those that call themselves the grail knights see you in their dreams? You can see in the dark as well as any of my folk… it makes one wonder.” Camilla shivered, since her abduction by the chaos warriors and their claims that she was destined to serve Slaanesh, she had secretly feared that her new found abilities might be the first manifestations of mutation, the feared mark of chaos. Was it possible it was something else? The sword perhaps? Her hand closed over the weapons hilt and she shivered slightly. The elf merely smiled.

“If you seek answers, I suggest that you take your men to the monastery as you had planned, if you prevail, perhaps you will find answers to your questions.”

Camilla opened her mouth to ask what questions the elf was referring to but the Waywatcher was gone, having vanished before her very eyes so quick and silent were his movements. Camilla sat for long moments, and then, grinding her teeth, turned and headed back for her camp.

They attacked at dawn. The ruined shell of the monastery clung to a rocky outcropping in the middle of the river. The morning mist swirled over the slow moving water concealing the approaching men from mortal eyes, though Camilla wouldn’t have bet it would have worked against the undead. The log rafts they had fashioned from fresh cut timber ground onto the muddy beach and the nervous peasants disembarked as quickly as they were able. Camilla, Matis and Sir Renard came ashore on the first boat. The other knights having been left for later rafts because of the noise they made in their armor. Renard, perhaps by virtue of his quest, moved as quietly as Camilla, despite being encased in steel.

The climbed the steep rise and into a scrubby abandoned field. Ancient and dilapidated beehives mouldered in a state of general decay and the long grass was tall enough to brush their calves as they snuck forward towards the crumbling wall topped with ancient rusted fleur de lys in wrought iron. A sudden movement stilled the creeping attackers as a pair of skeletal figures marched along the far side of the wall. The creaking articulated skeletons looked neither right of left, merely marching along their patrol route.

Camilla opened her mouth to order her men onwards but Renard’s gauntleted hand fell on her shoulder stilling her for a moment. The grail knight’s helmeted head tracked the direction the skeletons for a few moments longer, evidently blessed with some ability to pierce the mist. He lifted his hand silently.

“Come on,” Camilla hissed and the dozen peasants crept forward. From the river came the sound of clanking metal as the knights neared the shore. She ran forward and vaulted over the fence, landing on a floor of weed cracked flagstones. Before her stretched a long cloister that ended at an ancient shattered door. A greenish light flickers from the broken timbers. A scream tore from the throat of someone off in the fog and there was a ring of steel as weapons clashed.

“Charge!” someone roared and the mist was suddenly filled with the sounds of battle and a strange terrible laughter.

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