With the closing of the year 996, came the Vomicarin Plague. This horrendous affliction, spawned from the essence of Frail-root and evil, killed the living and reanimated the dead. The Holy Order of the Knights of St. John, the City of Darkmoore Chapter did all they could to contain this pestilence. Quarantining the city, allowing no soul in or out; noble, commoner, and merchant alike were denied entry and exit. Yet, this did not stop the plague; Frail-root was too strong a plant, too resilient to be destroyed so easily. The Raylconian Barony, noting this city's doom, constructed a wall, first built of wood then of stone, around the city. Upon this wall, hundreds of Baronial and Imperial guardsmen were stationed with one instruction; allow no-one to leave. And for the next 200 years, the wall stood. But it was in 1197 that Bazagor the Necrolord returned to a world changed.
Chapter 1: Iron in the Night
The cool night air had directed everyone to the tavern. As the day had ended, the mysterious rider had arrived in Dinkelsbühl, hoping for room and board. And as he was riding, he was discreetly taking notice of the various buildings in town, such as the local Templar chapter house. He chose a smaller tavern, one that may give him free drink for the story he had to tell. The door to the Old Fyre Inn battered open and closed, letting all of the cold air into the room. Only one man, rugged and unshaven, entered, and he walked up to the bar. Garbed in a torn leather hauberk, all of the other men stood to leave, but he stopped them. He ordered a tankard, sat down, and began his story. It went like this:
"Do any o' you know what 'tis like to kill your friends – to see them die, and then have to kill them? Well, I do. I was at Darkmoore. I lost a lot of friends that day. Now, Artin, a guard of the Holy Roman Empire, stood on the ramparts of the north wall, overlooking the main road leading to this forsaken city, Darkmoore. This wall was built for one purpose – a purpose we knew all too well. And this is what he told me, he, like all the others, had heard the stories. How the dead walked the streets in an eternal shamble, how all manner of monster had made nest in the plains right outside the wall. But he did not believe any of it. He could not believe any of it, his family had lived in Darkmoore, yet he had never placed one foot into it. That too was to change however; for in the distance, Artin could hear the horses – a large war party was on its way towards the wall. The baron of the region, Fenris Autz was no fool. And he had decided that it was the time to reclaim this city. For two hundred years, and four generations, his family had slowly been losing regard. The other counts no longer trusted the Autz family only because of what happened to the city.
With a party two hundred strong at his back, Baron Autz was confident that this battle would be no hassle. He had even brought a contingent of returning crusading knights who had served under the late King Richard I. And these were no mere greenhorns, these were trained men-at-arms. The six years they spent fighting the evils of the Holy Land had created pristine warriors, able to fight for a longer period of time then the larger ratio of militia the Baron had brought along.
"All guards report to the staging grounds outside the barracks," Artin heard the herald, Bredaver, yell. Bredaver, a giant of a man, was the Baron's personal herald. Easily enough to see, he was also a highly renowned fighter, for competing in the Imperial Arena had made him extremely strong. It was no secret that he was also the Baron's champion. And when he wished for one to prepare for inspection, it was his or her duty to get to positions on the double.
"Good, everyone is here. For those of you here who do not know who I am, I am Autz, Baron of my Raylconia, of which Darkmoore is a city. All of you may wonder why I've gathered you, as well as why my own soldiers are present her. My great-grandfather, Lexandre the Bold, made a promise to Meda, Goddess of Peace, that this city's strife would be ended within this century. With my army, and the full might of the Empire, we will cleanse this city of these godless undead. For the Empire! For the Church! We will fight back this plague!" Artin and the other soldiers could hardly believe their ears, tonight: they would retake the city.
The next morning, the sight was unbelievable. An army 15,000 strong was ready to defeat whatever horror was lurking within in the city. Pikes, swords, and bows a plenty, this army was unstoppable in everyone's eyes. But no-one expected the return of the Necrolord's. He had been waiting two hundred years for this very move to have been made. It was chess to him, and his pawns were ready. As morning turned into noon, the soldiers began moving towards the Artisan Quarter gates. If anything was unsettling, it was the lack of corpses. This city was supposed to be dead, but nothing dead was present at all. Soon enough a cry was heard up the street; however, neither Artin nor I could discern why. And then it became painfully obvious, we were surrounded. The main street was cramped and there only two directions to travel. Out of nowhere the first arrows were spotted, soon followed by a barrage of javelins. The first companies, including the Baron were hit, and then the panic and screaming started.
"Pikes, pikes to the front, archers line behind...," that order was Captain Von Leyte's last as he was utterly annihilated, his fellow Captain had already fallen, and with no order, routing began, men began to run, knocking down their friends and comrades alike. Artin was in the back, but he was pinned between an unknown enemy and a panicked squabble. There was nowhere for him to go. The last thought Artin remembered was of his love, and the last time he ever saw her. My last thought… well, never mind that.
When Artin awakened he felt something was wrong. He looked down towards his legs only to find a ghoul feasting and festering on them. He tried to kick it off, but the muscles had long rotted. He tried to scream, but his throat was gone completely. His very life essence was being held by a mere thread. Artin did not notice or even feel Bazagor the Necrolord approaching his corpse. I was lying next to Artin, you see. And then I saw him or it, I suppose. Upon first view, this beast of the night appeared much the same as any dead body, however, it was no mere necromancer; this was a lich. Once the lich began the process of reanimation there was no fighting back. All control left the body as his entered. But it was strange, it felt normal. Artin believed that this was a curse, but now he thought it to be a blessing. For not only was he being merely reanimated – he was being transformed into something far more powerful, and I -,"
"Bravo, sehr Gut. I am so sorry to interrupt your story… only a story, correct?" The man entering the building stated, clapping, closely followed by at least three other men, all of them possessing the insignia of the Knights Templar on their robes. "But I am afraid that you made heinous remarks against the Church, accusing them, accusing us of allying with those Islamic dogs." The old man at the bar stood up, making his way towards the centre of the building.
"It pains me to see such young men act so foolish, but that was no story, I -," The old man started, but the Templar had cut him off again, this time brandishing his hand-and-a-half sword. His friends had did the same, and they too were slowly encircling the storyteller.
"Speak your next words very carefully, alter Mann, or they could put you in prison! How could du possibly be at Darkmoore? And how could you have been so close zu der Necrolord?" The Templar's mental resolve was obviously weakening, and the story master was no fool.
"I was there. I am Sir Henry of Bredevar. And I killed the Necrolord. And, I have learned that he was only the first threat. But, thank you, for ruining the tale, Templar." Sir Bredevar stated calmly to the panicking Templars. They had been dispatched to silence any who had bared witness to the events at Darkmoore, however, this was no mere farmer or guardsman – nay, this was a champion. "Now, I do say – shall you even try to kill me, boy?"
"We… we will give you one…," the Templar visibly gulped. "One chance to surrender yourself." But he was too late; Sir Bredevar had already made his attack, revealing a cleverly concealed iron short sword. But this Templar was not prepared for such a small blade, and unable to deflect or block the shot, he was the first to fall. Surprisingly, the inn's patrons helped Sir Bredevar, barring the door and trapping the Templars inside. It was easy kill for the Knight-Champion. He quickly thanked the barkeep, and was on his way when a young man stopped him and asked one question: Was it true? This threw Sir Bredevar, because it was not. At least, the end was not true.
It was true that he had slain Bazagor; however, Artin had survived the reanimation, and was in fact even more powerful, and more human. And he had escaped. But how could he tell these citizens the truth. They put up with the most grueling tasks, telling them that a dark threat still resided only two counties away would bring nothing more than pain. He chose to lie, and quickly went on his way. For, with any hope, he would be near München come morning. And from there, leave quickly for Marseilles, then onto England by ship. He had to report back to King Richard; he had to inform the king that his mission had failed. He also wanted to report that the Holy Order of St. John was working to silence all who knew of what had happened. With that plan in mind he made way for München.
"So how much for a room – one night only; and no unexpected visitors to give me any trouble?" Sir Bredevar asked a very unsavory looking man, the publican at Ole Stoke Inn. He put extra emphasis on the last request, considering not only the look of the building, but also the simple fact: he did not trust any Frenchman. And the last thing he needed was a Templar or Hospitallier party paying him a visit in the middle of the night. Thanks to the wanted posters. It was around München that the posters started showing up. There was a rather pretty price on his head, and it came from the Vatican, making him a prime target in this heavily Catholicised region of Europe. Every knight order in existence was out searching for him, and there were many operating out of Marseilles, making the actual process of getting into the city only so much more dangerous.
"For you, twenty denier, qui. It is a bargain, considering the amount of traffic from the port this time of year." The man replied. And of course, it was grossly over-priced. However, that much gold was being paid for by his majesty's royal treasury, since Sir Bredevar was on a mission from the king.
"That will be most excellent, my good sir." He replied as courteously as possible. The stench coming from the man was pungent. But, as Sir Bredevar came to the room, he could scarcely believe the sight at hand. It was filled with rubbish. The food on the table looked to be about twenty days old. And the cot was a mess of stains. Yet, he could not possibly complain. Sir Bredevar was within easy walking distance of the port. And it was one night, what could possibly happen?