(This will be a series of “cut scenes” which have taken place or will take place. There is a lot of exposition which is DM only, which I find odd. This format will let you guys in on some of the events that take place behind the scenes. Obviously, without some divination on your side, these posts are for player knowledge alone.)
The twisting dark trees of this forest block out what little moonlight there is this cool evening. A tall oak has crowded out the smaller trees around it, creating a small clearing. The wood is silent, save for the sounds of sobbing and crying that carry over the still forest. Four figures clad in black approach the tree- two men are manhandling a small teenage girl, who is the source of the sobbing. She is below average in height, but the clear distinguishing feature is her head, which is abnormally small. To those who have met the Crooked Kin, she is clearly on of the pin-head sisters.
Aleece: (sobbing) Stop, you’re hurting me! Please…why are you doing this?
One of the black clad figures steps closer to the tree. His green eyes, flecked with grey, reflect the few beams of moonlight that fight their way into the clearing. He pulls back his cloak, revealing a bald head and a sunken face. His skin is a dark grey, and his teeth end in gruesome points. Signs of aged burn wounds, never fully healed, mar the left side of the eerily inhuman face.
Necromancer Leader: Ahh, a sturdy oak. This tree should suffice. Tie the freak to the trunk, Luramin.
Another figure steps forward, also drawing back his cowl as he does so. His blond hair is disheveled, with bits darkened by what looks to be ash. His slightly pointed ears reveal his mixed-race heritage, and a twisted smile manifests on his face as he uncoils a length of rope.
Luramin: As you command, Master.
A third figure drags the girl forward and pins her to the tree, his muscles barely bulging from what little effort he exerts. A slim moustache is visible from beneath the cowl, and wisps of long brown hair free themselves from underneath as a sudden breeze rushes through the clearing.
Aleece: No! Let me go! What do you want?
Aleece struggles against the two men, but her efforts are in vain. The grey skinned man nods to the man with the moustache.
Necromancer Leader: Amadeus, take care of this.
The mustached man backhands Aleece, drawing blood from her cheek with a cruel looking skull ring.
Amadeus: Silence, bitch!
The two male necromancers finish tying the young girl to the tree in a few moments. Initially, she struggles, kicking out and screaming, shrill cries of desperation. At this, the fourth figure, a woman with dark black hair twisted in tight braids and tattoos that adorn her exposed skin steps near to the carnival girl. The woman necromancer whispers something into Aleece’s ear, after which she stops fighting and just whimpers.
A raven sits in the branches of the oak tree, watching as the scene unfolds. The tall, grey-skinned Master also watches, nearly as still and as silent as the raven. Once they are finished, the three necromancers step back, beads of sweat glistening on each of their faces.
Luramin: It is finished, Master Vrood. (He turns to the woman.) Thank you, Brunhylde.
Necromancer Leader, Vrood: (Nodding) Very good. And now we will observe. See how she shakes against her bonds. (Vrood points to the girl.) Watch carefully the fear in her eyes. Yes, little freak, I know you can hear me. See now, the hatred in her twisted tiny head? You see, my acolytes, you can see all of her feelings like a fish sees through clear water. This, THIS, is what we have come here tonight to harvest. Not the pathetic twisted body that houses her spirit.
Aleece: (whimpering) Please…don’t hurt me…I haven’t done anything to you. I don’t even know who you are!
Brunhylde: Hush, child. Let the master speak. You should listen to his words.
Luramin: Hail to the Master!
Vrood: Who are we? We are the inheritors. We are the bridge between life and death; we are the lords of the soul and the keepers of the power. We are those without dogma, without shackles. Those that know what must be done, and those with the will to do it.
With that, Vrood reaches into his robe with long, thin fingers and draws a large glass vial etched with skulls and runes. Inside the vial, a swirling green gas seems to move of its own accord. The way it twists and bellows make it seem almost alive, and for a brief moment, what appears to be a facsimile of a face appears, pressing up against the glass as if yearning for release.
Aleece: What…what is that?
Amadeus: Silence freak. That is none of your concern. Master, you promised me knowledge of the ingredient. My brother and I have served you well.
Vrood: Yes, and you shall have your reward.
Vrood unscrews the runed cap a tiny notch, then brings the vial to his nose. He inhales just a small wisp of the vapors within, quickly sealing the cap afterward. The effect is striking- his green eyes flash red for a moment, then turn the ghastly green of the vapor as even as a similar colored glow surrounds them. He drops to one knee in an intense fit of coughing, then recovers and rises again.
Luramin: Are you okay, Master?
Vrood: (excited, for the first time in the scene) Yes…YES! And this is just the beginning! The power I shall wield when this is finished…it is intoxicating. Amadeus, come forward and let me tell you of your reward.
Amadeus: Gladly, Master.
Amadeus steps forward eagerly. Vrood bends over slightly and whispers words into Amadeus’ ear. The faintest glow of green can be seen, fluttering in the air between Vrood’s thin lips and the ear of Amadeus. After finishing, Vrood straightens up again.
Amadeus: Such a reward! (He drops to his knees) Master, I am not worthy of your gifts.
Vrood: Rise. There will be more such rewards, for you and for us all. Ours is the moment. And now, we must begin the sacrifice.
Aleece: What? No! (She turns to Brunhylde) You said you would release me! You said you would let me go. Please…help me!
Brunhylde: (smiling) …I lied.
Amadeus (laughs loudly, and glances to Luramin with some pride)
Vrood (addressing Aleece, an ironic gentleness to his voice) Ah, but she told the truth. You WILL be released. (The gentle words fade, and those that follow drip venom as he continues) Released from this freakish mortal shell, born again as a spirit, free from the grasp of the Gods. You WILL be let go, let go from the shackles that hold back your ignorant and worthless life. (To the necromancers) Begin the ritual!
The necromancer acolytes and Vrood step forward, each lending their voice, speaking well practiced words in a whisper. These are the last sounds that Aleece shall ever hear.
All, except Aleece: Ah, Necromancy Sweet! Wizard erudite! Unleash the skill, that I instill. The pain surgeons assuage in vain, no Herb of all the plains can Heal. We are the bridge between life and death, we offer to the Way this breath, ripped from its mortal womb, such the bloom, that undeath may triumph.
Aleece: No, NO help! Please, NO…somebody help me…Please, help!
Aleece’s screams continue as one by one, starting with Luramin, the necromancers each draw a wicked looking dagger and take turns: they pace slowly towards the oak, then plunge the blade deep into Aleece’s chest as her screams grow louder. The last to act in this ritual is Vrood, who slits the throat of the poor girl with long, sharpened fingernails. The four cabalists then stand back, silent, as blood oozes from the body, pooling at their feet and seeping into the roots of the tree. They stand this way from some time, until the silence is broken by a “Caw!” from the raven.
Vrood: It is done. Our Way grows stronger by another soul.
Luramin: What shall she be, Master? Will we have another ghoul?
Amadeus looks at his brother with scorn.
Vrood: No. Why would we perform the Rite of Amherst for such a weak creature? No, I have something…special…in mind for this freak’s soul.
Brunhylde: What next, Master? I yearn for the future.
Vrood: Yes…yes…we must seize the future. We must now travel to Lepidstadt, for we have work to do there. The details must be kept to the Whispers, for one can never be sure of who might be listening.
Amadeus: Master, I will stay here until the spirit rises, then bind it to my will. I will follow with my brother on our steeds; we will not rest until we have caught up to you.
Vrood: Your diligence is noted, as is your brother’s. Brunhylde, you will ride with me and the flock. Amadeus, when the spirit has risen, deposit the body near the nest of the spider. No one will suspect anything else but an attack from that beast. Luramin, you will return to your post at Ravengro and once again adopt your disguise. It has served you well in the past. Keep me informed if any questions are asked of our work there. If none are present, await further instructions.
Luramin: Yes Master, I live to serve.
Vrood: Very good. Ride, ride, and ride thrice then. We are done here.
Vrood lowers his voice to a whisper.
Vrood: Benedictus mortis perpetuum.
Necromancer Acolytes: Benedictus mortis perpetuum.