From the Journal of Jerath Adler, Jr.
There is now no doubt in my mind that the battle between good and evil, light and dark, is a never-ending quest that we all face on a daily basis. I had pushed this revelation away for months, striving to believe that simply being a good man or woman would be enough to hold off the forces of darkness. But no – I have been a fool. It is a bloody battle. A war. With winners and losers. And if only I had known, I might have been able to save my friend, Von Oppenheimer, who has now paid the ultimate price, as darkness seems to have finally taken his soul…
We had all retired to our rooms for the night after hearing the words that a Witch Hunter was in town looking for someone of Oppenheimer’s description. We decided that leaving Stromdorf sooner rather than later would probably be a good idea, and went to bed knowing that we’d be leaving this place behind for good in the morning.
But the morning did not come. Instead, I dreamt — err, awoke? — to a very strange sight in my room. Furgil was still soundly sleeping in his bed, but Oppenheimer was not. Rather, he was standing next to the far wall, scrawling strange symbols all over it from top to bottom. As my eyes adjusted, I noticed the writing was not from a quill or ink, but from what looked like blood. I noticed Oppenheimer’s hands were also covered in what looked like blood. I attempted to raise from the bed, but simply could not. I could not even speak to attempt to communicate with him. As sleep began to take hold yet again, I studied the symbols best I could, hoping to glean some of their importance, only to feel a deep chill pass through my spine, as if these symbols should not be seen by any mortal man.
The next morning finally came, and I was truly awoken by Oppenheimer this time. I was about to tell him about my strange dream, when I realized that what I had dreamt had actually happened. Our room was filled with the terrible symbols, made all the more frightening by the ascending green hue of the terrible moon, Moorslieb. I agreed to help Oppenheimer clean the symbols from the wall while Furgil continued to slumber (probably too much ale the night before), and before too long, we were finished.
One of the signs that I should have taken more notice of at the time was the way Oppenheimer continued to stare at me, as if I were wearing a pink frilly dress. And anytime I would try to make eye contact with him, he would turn away quickly, never allowing me to see what he was seeing. I passed it off, shrugging it aside, but I should have confronted him about it then and there, before things could get worse.
Downstairs at breakfast, Elenore and Loreli asked about Oppenheimer’s hands (which he had cleaned and bandaged), and Oppenheimer did not tell them about what happened in the room. I followed his lead, figuring he would tell them at the appropriate time, whenever he fully understood what had transpired.
Furgil soon joined us as well, and we talked about our plans for the day. Elenore would go to the docks to talk to Rodrigo about possible travel to Ubersreik (now that he had acquired a job as a boatman), Furgil and I would go to the Doctor’s to situate Tarth for proper care while we were away, and Oppenheimer wanted to see the Priest one last time. It turned out that he had gone to see Gottschalk last night after he heard news of the Witch Hunter, and hoped that the Priest would be willing to vouch for his character. However, it seemed that that discussion did not go well, and the Priest told Oppenheimer never to return to the Church and to leave the town at once. Why he wanted to go back again today was beyond me, but again, I figured it might have something to do with the strange symbols, so it made sense…
And sadly, that would be the last time I ever saw Von Oppenheimer.
Furgil and I traveled to the Doctor’s office to made sure Tarth was comfortable. It was there that we decided it might be best to leave Furgil there to arrange the travel of her body, and go with her on the road for safety. After saying goodbye, I then met up with Elenore, who informed me that Rodrigo could not leave the city today, so she arranged a carriage to take us across the West Bridge up to Ubersreik. It was already at the Inn packing our belongings, and would then meet us by the West Gate in the afternoon once it had completed that task.
That sounded like a good plan, so with some free time, I decided to do some quick shopping for supplies, including getting my armor repaired. It felt good to be finally leaving this city, and I looked forward to the fresh air that would await us on our travels. I wanted to shake the evil feeling from this morning – simply pretend it didn’t happen. Move on and race away from whatever it was that had haunted us last night.
But as I tried to run from the darkness, it was slowly devouring Oppenheimer, and from what Elenore and Loreli would tell me afterwards, he had already been consumed. After situating the carriage at the Inn, Elenore teamed up with Loreli and Oppenheimer who were on their way to the Church. As they walked, they saw the form of Matthias Krueger – a Witch Hunter known for his “drastic” methods – coming towards them. Luckily, he had not seen them yet, so Elenore led them through a number of back alleys to the Church to finish their business and be on their way.
Upon entering and sitting at the Church, Gottschalk, in mid sermon, broke off his words, grabbed his enormous Hammer, and pointed directly at Oppenheimer, saying, “How dare you come here!” It was then that Oppenheimer stood, approached the Priest calmly, and raised his hand towards him. Elenore and Loreli had no idea what he was doing, and for good reason, for that’s the moment an eyeball suddenly appeared in the palm of his hand.
The congregation screamed in fright, and Gottschalk pushed his way towards him, but it would be too late. A blue beam of light shot forth from the eyeball, hitting the Priest in the head, disorienting him. He tried to steady himself, but began screaming, and within moments, the flesh that was covering his entire body began to tear away from the muscles, and his form burst into flames.
I stare at these words, and cannot believe this story, but Elenore and Loreli swear on their lives. Oppenheimer had been completely taken by the darkness, and he had killed the head Priest of the Church of Sygmar. His remains were simply a pile of goo at the base of the alter.
Loreli agreed that it wasn’t Oppenheimer in control of himself at that moment, but knew she had a responsibility to take him down if he posed a threat to the rest of the people in the Church. She tried to make her way to him, but both her and Elenore were trampled by the stampeding crowds. By the time Loreli could reach him, Oppenheimer had disappeared (using his magics to whisk him away more than likely.)
There was now no time to lose. It would only be a mere matter of moments before the Witch Hunter would descend upon the Church, and anybody who had ever related to Oppenheimer would be “questioned,” so they raced to the Carriage, where I calmly awaiting, making small talk with the driver. We could hear screaming in the distance, and he seemed somewhat distraught by it, but I assured him everything was probably fine and to stay clam.
Which is about the time that Elenore and Loreli showed up. When they informed me that Oppenheimer would not be joining us, we all got in the carriage and headed out of town on the Western Road.
We didn’t say much as we double-timed it to Ubersreik. Although they told an incredible tale, deep in my heart I knew it to be true. Oppenheimer had been corrupted and taken by the darkness that haunts each of us. He would never be the same again…
But other matters suddenly took precedent, when we came upon another broken carriage in the road. It bared a noble crest on the side of it, belonging to the Saponatheins. Since Elenore boasted the most nobility amongst us, we sent her out to speak to the Gentlemen in the cart, who happened to be Graf Von Saponathein. He was on his way to Ubersreik for a Masquerade, but had met some resistance when his coach had broken on the way.
While Elenore continued to speak with him, Loreli and I helped the driver repair the broken part. She learned that he and his family are trying to expand their land in Ubersreik, and that the Masquerade is somehow tied into all of that. After we finished with the work, he seemed very impressed with the “help,” and offered us 150 silver to accompany him the rest of the way to Ubersreik. Elenore agreed on our behalf, and we were off.
Once back in the Carriage, I revealed my suspicions about this Masquerade. Gottschalk had told us that our penance for digging in the Church would be to stop the evil behind the “masks.” It made a lot of sense that this might very well be the “masks” he was referring to.
So onward we went, until we again, reached another hindrance. This time, in the form of two men blocking the road. They claimed to be Road Warrens, wanting a “toll” for use of the road. Elenore attempted to bargain with them, but they would not budge on their ludicrous amount of 5 Gold Pieces. From inside the Carriage, Loreli and I readied our weapons, even though we saw that we were clearly outnumbered by other goons in the forest, waiting for their moment to strike.
It seemed as though bloodshed would be inevitable when out of the forest rode a High Elf on horseback. Wearing full breastplate armor and carrying a sword almost as tall as me, he rode up to the men, and confronted them directly. They seemed put off by the sight of the Elf and his sword, and simply wished us a “Good Day!” before running off deep into the forest.
We chose not to give chase, and instead, welcomed this new friend into our group. His name was Taethis Silverleaf, and he was also headed to Ubersreik to see his cousin, Loreth, who runs the salon in town. He agreed to join our party for the time being, and we safely made it to the city by nightfall.
Upon reaching the gates, Graf thanked us for our services, and headed off to rest for the night. Elenore did the same, heading to a slightly nicer area of town, while Loreli and I headed to the Red Moon Inn. Taethis went off to see his cousin, but before long, we all congregated together for dinner. It also happened that Henri was performing tonight at the Inn. The distraction was welcome, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something evil was coming for me and my friends…
~ Adler, Jr.