Thursday, 31 January 2013

Blood Hunter: Linden Town Arc

Kieara rode north out of Cleften, down out of the mountains into a wooded vale. Conifers gradually gave way to broad-leaved deciduous trees as she descended, and she glimpsed wildlife darting beneath the canopy. By her map, she reckoned to reach Linden Town by evening. In the late afternoon, she rounded a bend and was waylaid by a rough-looking woman with a bandana and a longsword in the middle of the road. She paused, and the woman demanded her money, backed up by the threat of archers in the woods along the road. Kieara refused and spurred her horse, evading or shrugging off the arrow-fire. The bandit readied her longsword, but Kieara kicked her in the head on the way past, knocking her out cold.

Kieara arrived at Linden Town just as the day turned to evening. The village was small and squalid, a collection of wooden hovels on the unpaved mud beside a wide and slow-flowing river. Several small boats and long barges were docked at the rickety wharfs. The inn appeared to be little more than a large long-house with wooden trestle tables, and a makeshift bar at the far end. The patrons were mostly transitory river-traders and fishermen, so there was a warm and welcoming atmosphere and Kieara joined in the conversation and high spirits - until a fearsome bellow from outside sent the room silent. Kieara lerned that it was one of Baron Vork's "beasts," and everyone bade her be quiet and not draw its attention. She peeked out the front door to see a hulking, sewn-together manlike creature smash down the door to the smithy and reach inside, pulling out the brawny blacksmith and carrying him off like a doll. As it did him no immediate harm, she followed at a distance to see where it was taking him.

She tracked the beast for hours through the woods, until it came to a branch of the river and a burnt-out bridge. It leapt from the bank and waded across, disappearing into the forest on the far side. In the distance, she could make out the top of a tower jutting above the treetops. After safely stashing any items from her pack that might become water-damaged, she swam across the stream and continued her pursuit. Standing in the middle of a small clearing, the tower was about four storeys tall. Another huge beast patrolled the perimeter; this one appeared to be part man and part wolf, but with a short muzzle like a bat. Kieara leapt from the forest and fought it, managing to subdue it before its massive fists and claws could connect. Leaving it unconscious on the ground, she entered the tower's unlocked double doors.

The ground floor was mostly empty, so Kieara headed down into the basement. There she found the blacksmith in a small cell set into the hallway wall. Without any tools to open the lock, she pressed on into Baron Vork's workshop to see if she could find something to free the captive. The Baron was a small, bald man with circular tinted glasses. He noticed her sneaking around, and engaged her in conversation, telling her about his quest to construct the perfect creature. He did not seem overly perturbed when she told him she'd defeated one of his creations - instead, he became interested in using her to upgrade his next project, which was partly assembled on the table! He summoned his patchwork man to seize her. Kieara attempted to use her garlic-filled waterskin to disable the Baron, but he was apparently immune to its effects. Instead, while avoiding the beast, she struck the Baron a grievous blow with her silvered longsword. He immediately turned to a green mist, preventing her from finishing him off. She managed to escape the room, grabbing a piece of wire on the way out, and barred the door from the outside. While the beast tried to beat the door down, the green mist seeped out from under the door and disappeared upstairs. Kieara freed the blacksmith and they made good their escape.

They arrived back in town early in the morning, to the incredulous reception of most. However, while Kieara was hailed as a hero, there were those who were not so happy with her actions. The innkeeper warned her against fighting the Baron, as it would only cause trouble for everyone else. She argued with him and left; outside, an undertaker in a mud-stained coat and top hat cautioned her that several townsfolk - the innkeeper included - acted as Vork's eyes and ears in the town. He suggested she seek out the Linden Raiders, a resistance group fighting against the Baron, who hid in the woods around the town.

For various reasons, we took a hiatus of a couple of months at this point...

Kieara headed West into the forest, and began searching for signs of the Linden Raiders. Eventually she found some tracks, and followed them to a campsite deep in the woods. She managed to sneak past their sentries, and introduced herself peacefully from behind cover. Their leader, Mabel, turned out to be the woman she'd kicked in the head on her way into town. Since she had been well dressed and riding the horse of a Knight of the Eagle, they'd assumed she was a lackey of the vampires. Once they established that they were actually on the same side, though, they welcomed her into their group. The Raiders had been struggling against Vork for years, but his beasts were too great a threat for them to face without suffering heavy casualties. They knew of Vork's weaknesses - sunlight, holy symbols, and running water. The bridge had been burned out to prevent him leaving his tower, but he was still sending his beasts on sorties for "spare parts." They also told Kieara about collaborators in the town, including the innkeeper and the undertaker. Since this claim contradicted the undertaker's earlier behaviour, she decided to return to Linden Town to confront him.

The undertaker, Mortimer, explained that his father, the previous undertaker, had once supplied Vork with fresh corpses for his experiments. Once the Baron's experiments yielded success, he had a new means to acquire fresh body parts, and ceased raiding the cemetery. Mortimer found the whole situation distasteful, and had been trying to make amends for his father's failings. As another gesture of good faith, he told Kieara about a tunnel that led from the riverbank to the tower's basement level. Kieara hatched a plan to flood the tunnel and thus have the Baron pass over running water, temporarily robbing him of his power during an attack. She borrowed some excavation tools from the graveyard and rode back to the Raiders' camp.

As dawn rose, Kieara and the dozen or so Raiders arrived at Vork's tower, guarded by both the patchwork man and the bat-faced beast. While Kieara dashed out to engage one of the beasts, the bandits provided covering fire to slow it down. She managed to drop and decapitate the monster just as the second beast turned up. In a fierce battle, she managed to latch onto the creature with her teeth, and discovered that Were-blood flowed through its veins. It was eventually shot, slashed, and drained into submission, and Kieara severed its head. At this point, one of the Raiders who had been digging away the river bank ran up to report that the tunnel under the tower was flooding. Kieara ran inside and headed up, locating the Baron from his distraught cries as the water rushed beneath him. She caught him half in and half out of his coffin, and paralysed him with a stake through the heart. A dishevelled woman, obviously the Baron's blood-slave, tried ineffectually to stop her from killing the Baron. She collapsed in abject misery as Vork turned to ash, and Kieara left the tower to the victorious cheers of the Linden Raiders!

Having destroyed the source of evil, Kieara returned to Linden Town with the Raiders, and left the restructuring of town society up to the inhabitants. She returned once more to her journey, drawing inexorably closer to her vengeance against the Count.

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