When we left our heroes, they had just entered combat with the Cavalcade of Ruin. They were joined almost immediately by a dwarf of dubious intent, Colonel Cornelius Lodestone XIX of the Glass Hills (15th Assistant to the Grand Artificer) (2nd Class Airship Pilot in His Majesty’s Royal Air Corps, Group 5, Wyvern Squadron, Azure Wing) (Field Agent 85A , Hazardous Delvings Department, Section 6)… Colonel Falconfox to his friends … This short and generally not very useful man appeared at the window of the Healer’s Hospice almost as soon as battle was joined, firing his loud but largely useless black powder pistols into the fray. Fortunately the party had another, much more effective dwarf to aid them, the indomitable Azahi the Trollslayer, and though the battle was tough they ultimately prevailed.
The battle was a raucous affair. Azahi took the Plaguebearer – the great, fat, rotting ogrish figure – front and centre, and while he slugged it out with this ham-fisted and abhorrent creature the elven Scout, Laren, and the wizard attempted to deal with the Chaos sorcerer and his marauders. This didn’t work out so well for the party: Laren found herself inflicted with three diseases, and the wizard suffered two diseases before he was knocked unconscious under a bevy of critical injuries. Laren the elf managed to distract the Chaos sorcerer’s Nurglings from battle through judicious application of a well-cooked kidney pie, freeing her up to concentrate on the sorcerer himself. The initiate attempted to aid Azahi to little avail, but finally Azahi crushed the Plaguebearer and they managed to overcome the sorcerer. The surviving Chaos marauder fled, but was cut down by the newcomer Dwarf; and after a few minutes of chaos and slimy, bloody confusion the party managed to destroy the Nurglings. The poxy cavalcade threatening Separation City had been vanquished!
Though they were largely too sick to stay upright for long, the party searched the bodies of their foes. They discovered nothing of value, but they did discover a large object wrapped in cloth. Upon unwrapping it, they found that the cavalcade had brought with them to the healer’s hospice the body of a mutant. Though they couldn’t be sure, their suspicion was that the cavalcade of Ruin intended to install the mutant in the empty hospice, so as to imply that the Healers had been attempting to cure a mutant. Throughout the Steamlands, mutants are killed on sight, being servants of Chaos; but there are rumours – never confirmed – that some healers are so zealous in their pursuit of Shallya’s mercy that they will even try to heal mutants. By placing the corpse in the Healer’s hospice, the cavalcade of Nurgle would have been able to discredit Separation City’s healers and give strength to an old rumour. This would have guaranteed that the town’s healers were burnt at the stake, and freed up the town for the forces of Nurgle to infest. Fortunately, our heroes had defeated this nefarious plot.
They searched the cavalcade’s caravan and captured their remaining servants, but got nothing useful except more diseases. Finally, exhausted and afflicted, the party returned to their tavern and collapsed in a pox-ridden heap, to await the accolades they deserved – and some healing.
The healers returned after two days, and the party received all the healing they needed; but with the healers came Madam von Jungfreud, who after some perfunctory apologies for her mistakes demanded that the PCs should head off into the wilderness to find the leader of the cult of Nurgle, and destroy it. Our heroes, being in possession of certain letters to the doctor, were fairly sure that the leader of the cult was not located anywhere near Separation City. However, they realized that the plague afflicting the lands around Separation City must have some cause, so they set off the following day to find – and destroy – whatever outpost of Nurgle had afflicted the lands west of Separation City.
On the evening of the first day of walking, the party came to Monkey Mountain. This mountain holds a community of creatures somewhat like primitive humans, who cannot speak any language humans know but are peacable enough to be able to communicate and trade with local farmers. When our heroes reached it they soon found themselves accosted by an enraged Monkey Man, who was clearly also very, very sick. The Initiate calmed the Monkey Man by gestured signals indicating he could help, and the Monkey Man led them to his community on Monkey Mountain.
Sadly, the Monkey Man’s tribe were dead – all but about 10 of them. They had died of some kind of plague. Familiar by now with the machinations of the cult of Nurgle, the party soon found a bag of pus secreted at the source of the Monkey Mountain’s streams, and identified here the cause of the clan’s disease. Noting also a pile of goods obtained from recent trade with the nearby farmers, they guessed that the Monkey Men had been used as the locus of disease throughout the area. Though subsequently the party found other streams with the same contamination, it was obvious that the Monkey Men had been infected en masse as a source of disease for the farmers in the area. The Initiate identified that the disease disseminated here was ghoulpox, and since the party had cures for the ghoulpox, obtained from the doctor in Separation City, they were soon able to cure the few surviving Monkey Men. This cure, unfortunately, renders its victims suggestible; so when they left the Mountain the party had secured themselves a force of 11 loyal Monkey Man followers …
They passed on through the ravaged farmlands west of Separation City. For two days, they found nothing but occasional sources of infection, but in the evening of the second day they stumbled upon something new …
By now they had passed beyond the farmland around Separation City and were passing though typical highland forest: silent stands of eucalyptus forest, eerily silent but for the occasional lone cry of unnamed birds. Near evening, they heard a new and strange sound over the silence of the forest, like a huge swarm of insects; and over the subtle lemonbalm scent of eucalypts came the strong stench of ordure, as if they were nearing a military encampment. Thinking they might have stumbled on the military mission that left Separation City a few weeks earlier, they headed to the source of the smell …
… and found a horrific site. They entered a small clearing, at the centre of which was an onsen of medium warmth. Floating in the middle of the onsen was a strange construction, consisting of two canoes, one upturned over the other and the pair locked together. Trapped within them was the body of a man, and about him thronged a huge horde of stinging, biting and parasitic insects. They had stumbled on a scaphism – someone was being tortured by means of the boats. Drawing the boats into the edge of the onsen, the PCs were assailed by a terrible smell. The wizard used his spell The Howler Wind to disperse the insects, revealing beneath a sight to horrify even a Dwarven graverobber such as Colonel Falconfox: beneath the cowl of insects was Separation City’s priest of Sigmar, reduced to a moaning and suppurating mess, all his skin punctured and ruined by insects. Worms swam in his eyes, and ran down the streaks of vomit that smeared his cheeks; the stench that came off him was horrific to mortal men, and his arms pulsated with larvae and grubs soon to hatch. He had been tortured most foully, and his last delerious days were upon him.
The priest opened his cracked lips to reveal a swollen, insect-infested tongue. He begged the party not to kill him, and told them that every morning at dawn two cultists came to his pool, and these two cultists had a key to the tower. The PCs saw their chance: they set the priest adrift on the water again, and laid a trap for the cultists.
The following morning two cultists came to the water, and were duly caught. Azahi, showing no patience with them, dragged one down to the water. He drew in the boat, smothered the priest to death against his (feeble, human) will, and tore him from the boats. Then he picked up the cultist and told him, “you go in the boats, or you die quickly.”
These cultists were no fools – they knew that when caught, a cultist of Nurgle can choose only the manner, not the fact of their demise. This one quickly sprang to his own defense, and offered to tell the PCs all they needed to know.
The other one went in the boats.
The PCs then headed up the hill in the direction the cultists had come, soon finding themselves facing a small tower. The graverobber approached under stealth but was seen and attacked by a wizard in the tower. The elf and the wizard approached the tower disguised as cultists, and were hailed as friends with the warning “rush to the door, someone waits to ambush you.” This they did, but the wizard’s ice spell failed and their plans to invade the lower room quickly were ruined. Nonetheless, they soon bested the guards at the lower level of the tower. They then spent several minutes faffing around casting various spells while they tried to discern magically whether there was a trapdoor in through the roof; finally, learning there was, the elf and the initiate began climbing the outside of the tower. Once they were well on their way, the remaining residents of the higher regions of the tower charged down to attack the remnants of the party: Azahi the trollslayer, Captain Falconfox and the wizard found themselves fighting three plague-zombies, a shaman and a powerful wizard. This latter was the Plague Captain: a chap in a suit bearing a pipe, who surrounded himself in evil magics and attempted to cripple his enemies with disease and corruption.
After a brief and brutal battle our heroes won the day, and finally the disease cult were eliminated. Searching the tower, they found a map of a part of the catacombs beneath the town of Store, and a key – evidence, perhaps, that they could use to pursue the ultimate leader of this cult of horrors. It was clear that they had not captured the final leader of this branch of Nurgle’s cult, but they had saved Separation City from a host of terrors, and found clues as to the ultimate leadership of this cult.
Satisfied, they returned to Separation City. Would they pursue a crusade against the cult of Nurgle, or return to their onsen to enjoy a quiet life? Only time will tell …