Borders Drawn in Blood

Around the next bend...
It Never Ends

Lila is so happy and shocked to see Artigli and Ettore after so many years. She greets them with a warm hug and kiss on the cheek. They are her family after all and even though it has been a very long time they are never far from her heart.

As they head to the kitchen Lila thinks that this can’t possibly be good news for them to arrive as they have. As the young man introduces himself, and begins to tell his tale, Lila is suddenly flooded with memories of how she got to this day. it takes her away from the present as her mind races through the many trials that they were all put through. She feels the loss of Dominic and Freiderich again. Just as suddenly she focuses back on Izemi’s words in time to hear “He has used dark powers to gain his influence – those only granted by our Great Enemy.” She feels a great sadness from her memories and the realization that this could be the beginning of another great evil.

She looks around at the faces of her family and knows that no matter the cost to her she will do what she can to stop this Guy de Lusignan.

Just Rewards
A Post-mortem

For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.
– Isaiah 59:17

The last strike tore through Dominic’s breastplate reducing it to molten iron searing his skin. It rent and scorched his flesh. The earth fell silent and his last mortal vision was the macabre dance of hopeless battle waged by friends.

He found himself kneeling beside the woman in tattered clothes. The blue scarf draping her shoulders was stained with tears. “My faith has brought me back into the fray! You have brought me back to life to finish my task. Thank you.”

“You have been given life, but not a mortal life. Your task is complete; you have brought them as far as you can. You chose this path of sadness and pain for the betterment of man. But you knew it would end as it has.”

There is a gate at the edge of sight. A soft, warm light washes the ground before it. Michael, armored in silver and flame, slowly marches through the open door. “No, they aren’t done. They need me. Please! They are losing.”

“You have done what you could, and now you are beckoned home.”

Dominic stands and rushes to Artigli who stands alone before a foe he cannot defeat. Artigli slashes and hammers with sword and shield. Arrows rain in on his opponent from behind him. And still the glaive came and mercilessly tore him down. Dominic, blind to the pleas of the open doorway, guides Artigli’s strikes through breaches in plate and mail. The opponent falls. Dominic fills Artigli with wrath and he plunges headlong into the fray. Slashing left and right he brings his opponents to the ground.

But, the small group is surrounded, and wounded. Nizar has fallen. Freiderich struggles to remain on his feet. Ettore fearlessly pits himself against enemies he has no hopes to defeat. They will lose. Dominic now understands the sorrow of the woman that now accompanies him.

Lila launches into one of her blessings but the enemies shrug them off. They will lose. Lila clutches her harp, the one her father gave her in another life. She lets loose again trusting in the fairy story her father gave to her about the instrument. There wasn’t anything to do now but trust in fairy stories. The enemies stop – helpless.

“Do you believe that you were the only instrument of God in this fray? Do you believe that this moment was not known – was not planned? That harp was given to her for this moment alone, and now all that was meant has come to pass. You must come home now. You are to be rewarded.”

That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:12

Freiderich’s eyes slowly flutter open. He is immersed in darkness. That’s become somewhat normal. His wounds pain him greatly. They burn as if someone were pouring alcohol into them. There was nothing but silence and he is filled with dread. “We lost. They must have forgotten me in the darkness. I am probably the only one left alive.”

He gets up and attempts to bind his wounds and stop the pain a little. He bleeds through the bindings and the pain is only made greater by the bandage. “I have to get out of this darkness to do it right.”

He gets to his feet and begins to shamble to what he hopes is the edge. He never finds it. It seems to continue in all directions for as far as he can walk. He is tired, and hurt. The feeling of dread he has been feeling continues to grow as he realizes it might not be dark – he might be blind.

There is someone near him. He can’t see. He searches for his bow, but finds only new wounds that crack and open. He must have dropped it, but how could he find it now, with this darkness he couldn’t even make it back to where he had been unconscious.

“Freiderich…” “Freiderich, how do you feel?”

And the presence was suddenly very familiar. Dread turned to terror. This is Donato, and this is not blindness, nor is this life – this is damnation.

“You are mine now Friederich. Just mine… For all time. Come here, we will play a tune.”

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
– Revelation 19:20

It has all happened before. And there will come a day when mankind fails – a day when there are none of faith willing to fight the beast. But, today It is pulled back into the fires along with the constant advisor. There they will dwell in their hatred for one another and their hatred for the gifts of man until opportunity once again presents itself.

Today, there are more immediate problems. Ghost cannot be left to be ravaged by the victims of the sickness. Instead a plan is quickly hatched. Nizar and Ettore stay to guard the bodies of fallen comrades while Lila and Artigli race to the shore. Artigli is an image of vengeance, hacking and slashing through a sea of plague. Lila is on his heels aiding with her blessings and songs of might. She has recalled the captain and crew, but it will be a while before they can come back ashore and they could not hope to withstand the onslaught of Poveglia. The two arrive at the shore, enchant those that hold out there, and meet the company from the ship.

Getting back to the fight is more difficult than before and several members of the crew are taken. The morale of the others falters and Lila plants courage and control in their minds. When they arrive Nizar and Ettore are both in the midst of carnage, but holding their ground. The bodies of the Cardinal and Mother are nowhere to be found. They did not leave, nor cast a spell – they are simply gone. In their place the grasses are burnt and dead. There is a scent of sulfur that fills the nostrils with heat.

A collective effort has positive results – Ghost, Dominic, and Freiderich are all taken away from this island and buried properly. What happens to them now is in the hands of God.

The three return to the island during the day. Most of the sickened have retreated to caves and dark holes. There is resistance but it is minimal. They explore the 6 towers of the monastery dedicated to the Sisters of Mercy. Most of whom are stricken with the plague themselves. They will not last long; in fact a few are half-crazed already. In these places the 6 sisters had amassed extraordinary wealth from their victims. Every sickened person would offer all they had – every earthy possession – for a chance to be free of the island. These offers were gladly accepted and then those offering them would wait just a few more days for transport. Always there was hope given that their salvation was close at hand. Always they would wait until the madness came and they roamed the island. In this way coins dropped into the monastery coffers as rapidly as rain from the sky.

Carrying their wealth with them the three left the island. They journeyed back to Verona with Artigli – to recover his father’s shield. The entire long way the party talked of nothing but vengeance for Dominic and Freiderich, except Lila who remained silent. She was always much quieter after that day. Mother’s blood wasn’t enough; Mastino’s would come too. They would overthrow him and plant Artigli on the throne as the Podesta. But, cruelty didn’t end with Mother. Mastino had amassed a great army both of local militia and of trained soldiers from throughout France and Germany. He had recalled most of his fighting forces from the lands conquered by his uncle in order to cement his place in leadership. He saw no visitors. He made no appearances. No one knew if he was even in the city anymore. When seeking out Rosa the party didn’t find her. Worse, there were no philosophers to guide their way. The artists, writers, poets, and scientists had all been persecuted and chased from the city. It was weeks later that they found that Rosa had been one of many of Cangrande’s loyalists to be rounded up and hanged from the castle.

Artigli, for now, had to settle for only the shield, but no blood. He and Ettore crept into the castle and stole it unceremoniously.

The party made their way into Tuscany to meet with Uggucionne with whom their families had been safely kept. On this journey, everyone had adopted Lila’s silence as his or her own. Carrine was saddened by the news of her husband, but did a very poor job of hiding the faint feeling of relief as well. From here, the party went separate ways. Ettore took his “wife” back to Venice to start a life in the shadow of what was left there. Nizar just left, promising Lila he’d return. She didn’t know if that were true. Lila, didn’t know where to go, just that she had to move. Carrine elected to go with her if she’d allow it. Artigli signed himself up on Uggucione’s band.

Artigli eventually became the right hand. He was the most powerful lieutenant in the group. Some speculated as to whether Uggucione himself would’ve withstood him if he had the mind to take leadership for himself. But, he never tried and never seemed interested.

Lila and Carrine traveled through their sadness. They took care of one another. At first they didn’t, but after some time they talked, and then they talked often. They traveled through taverns and were mostly left alone on the roads. They became very adept at concealing themselves penniless beggars to avoid the gaze of brigands. And, the few times that a band was more interested in them than their wealth, Lila quickly changed wicked minds of men. Occasionally they received word of major events. In the time that they traveled – a little longer than a year – several powerful leaders were assassinated without anyone to take a claim to their lands or titles. Ghibelline fell while he slept, cut to pieces while he screamed. The Anti-pope vanished in the night. The caliph of Sicily was found dead in his bedchambers along with two of his wives and a mistress. His chest was carved with Arabic word for “whore.” A brand he’d take with him to the afterlife some thought. The Admiral of the Republic of Venice was found drowned in his own bowl of fish stew.

Gradually, the lands of Verona amassed by Cangrande fell one by one to the marching Lion of Venice. Mastino seemed powerless to stop the march. It was rumored that there was a new player behind Venice’s secretive aristocracy, and that person was using the military build-up from the prior years to gain more territory inland, mainly that of Verona. By the end of the year the column of the Lion of Venice was erected in Verona’s main Piazza and Mastino was found dead. This is rumored to be the first time the phrase “death by a thousand cuts” was coined. Whether that is true or not is unknown, but what is known is that Mastino was sliced by small blades more times than the physicians could count. He was wearing his armor, but it made little difference as the thin blades found their way under the plates and through the mail without hindrance. The perpetrator was never discovered.

Eventually Nizar returned to Lila’s side as he’d promised. He was just the same as before. Lila and Carrine were somewhat recovered but had adopted more stoicism that made travel with the surly Arab somehow more tolerable for both sides. Lila understood his demeanor now, why he’d always been like this and she felt sad for him.

Together they hatched a plan to infiltrate the Sforza family that had since taken over Como. It would be easy if they did it correctly, but they wanted to see what had become of Ettore, and find out if he would be interested in joining them for just one more adventure – hopefully followed by a long life of quiet. Arriving in Venice they found it to be the same rugged place as it was before – but now, without war looming over it – there was joy in the city. Wine flowed freely, the poor were still poor, and the fondamentas were still unsafe at night, but somehow the pall of dread had been lifted. Finding Ettore proved easier than they had thought. After all he’d been through, he just went back to being a gondalier. He politely refused to go with them but offered what help he could offer from afar. That help was vague at best and Nizar and Lila left him confused – as often they were around Ettore.

Ettore was different too. He was hard. The child that ran to Nizar in tears after their first really close call was no longer. His eyes were cold. After the death of Dominic and Friederich he did not react. He just kept doing his job. If he were angry or sad no one could tell. Lila was upset to see his face had not changed in that year. Ettore smiled when he saw them, but she could tell it was a mask. There was no warmth in it. After digging a little more the two came to find out that Ettore controlled every small vessel in the lagoon. There were no competing families anymore. Those that had killed his parents so many years before were all found dead in canals about the city – dozens of them. All cut by many small blades. Periodically a family would seek to steal the boy’s monopoly and send assassins to his doorstep as was the Venetian custom. Each time Ettore would be happily rowing his Gondola the next morning. Soon, people stopped trying; after several such assaults it became apparent that the killers were not merely disappearing with coin. They were just disappearing.

When Nizar and Lila were about to leave, content in knowing that Ettore was at least safely established in his city, they were approached. Ettore himself came to them dressed in clothes unworthy of his wealth or apparent status. He handed them a leather pouch and said “My love and help is always yours.” In it, there was a gold inlaid medallion depicting the Lion of Venice. The only people who had access to such devices were the Lords of Venice themselves. Either Ettore stole it, or he was far more influential than they had guessed. This medallion was as good as a treaty with the most powerful nation on the Mediterranean.

It took time to travel to Como. No one was sure if they really wanted to go back there – not even Lila. But once there, looking over the great lake around which the city was built, she was resolved. She would get it back, but through much more conventional means. The Sforzas had done a good job rebuilding. Since this was not wartime they hadn’t increased taxes so much. The people had rallied behind their leadership after years of alternating between anarchy and tyranny. Lila Introduced herself to the family. At first she was met with skepticism, but no one made a move against her. The entire family was aware of what she had done, what the two of these travelers were truly capable of. No one was sure if there was even a person in the city capable of besting these two. It is hard to believe that a slight singer and her Arabian bodyguard would be so intimidating.

After several months of interacting with the family, gaining a local following, and subtle magical manipulations Lila had gained a very substantial social foothold in the Hierarchy of Como. And then it was time. The ship had arrived – ship laden with spices, dried fruits, and silk. It was a ship worth a fortune. Lila and Nizar walked into the throne room at the appointed time with the medallion of the Lion of Venice prominently displayed around Lila’s neck. The marriage contract was signed very quickly and almost no negotiation. In weeks she was no longer Viktoria Comaschi, but Lila Sforza. And she had more than a typical say in matters of governance. She was young, and so was her princely husband. It wasn’t very many years before the Podesta died, and her husband took the mantle of leadership. And with Lila whispering in his ear she knew the city was hers again. Always by her side was the imposing Arab. And, for a time, there was happiness. The treaty with Venice held, and ships came into Genoa and brought goods from far and wide overland to Como. Once again this was a hub of trade, and quickly regained its prosperity.

Decades passed. Almost two in fact; long enough that Nizar didn’t even complain so much of the cold anymore. When Lila came into her small salon, the one on the south side with big windows and warm sun, there were two people waiting for her. It was then that she realized she hadn’t ever left her trials behind. She had never let her guard down. Terrifying spells began to swim in her mind as she contemplated how she would steal life from the intruders. This was a moment before she recognized them – Ettore and Artigli. Both had wisps of grey sprinkling their hair. Ettore especially was wrinkled with a face burnt by sun and wind. “We have brought someone. You and Nizar need to speak with him. I’m sorry for being so unannounced, but this must be a quiet meeting.”

After Nizar came in they walked together to the kitchens where a tall, slender, very dark man stood warming his hands over the cook fires. They had never seen him before. Through a startlingly thick accent he introduced himself “I am Izemi.” They had never seen this one before. He was young. They wondered if this newer version were as deadly as those they had encountered so long ago; he did wear two gleaming scimitars at his sides and they were clearly made of fine steal.

“A man that calls himself Guy de Lusignan has gained much power in Jerusalem.” The accent was so thick Nizar begged him to speak in Arabic. “This is not alarming – tense peace has long been maintained between Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land. But, he is not like the other Templars of his order. He is evil and full of hate. He does not look to maintain the tense peace, but has made it clear he intends to pitch brother against brother in terrible war.” It went without saying, but Izemi said it anyway “He has used dark powers to gain his influence – those only granted by our Great Enemy.”

So close...and yet so damn far
Escape of the Nija Sister

I am not sure how, but we managed to survive a battle against the 4 remaining Sisters after a long drawn out battle with Donato Dell’Aqui that same evening. We had hoped to have at least one nights rest at the inn before facing the Sisters. We should have known better than to actually try to get rest at an inn. We don’t have the best track record with that.

We have one unconscious Sister, a street full of dead city guard, and a whole town full of people watching us at this point. We opt for the hasty retreat, gather our horses, a few extras, and the Sister, and make our way out of town. In leaving we noticed that there were no guards at the city gates. This seems very odd but we don’t have time to figure out why at this point. We head a few hours outside of town and try to get some rest.

We need to keep the Sister unconscious so we can deal with her after we are able to heal and regain our strength. In order to make sure she stays unconscious the men beat on her every hour. It seems cruel, but it is necessary. She would surely wake up and kill us all. I imagine someone looking upon this scene would call us mad. I admit it seems unbelievable to me that we have to beat up on a helpless woman when surrounded by such an able bodied group. Ahh, if she were only a woman and not inhabited by an evil demon.

In the morning Fredrich reminds of us his plan to exorcise the beast from within the woman. He has thought of quite an elaborate and plausible plan. However, none of us know how to exorcise a demon and in the end we opt for ending her as we did the other Sisters. These Sisters have to be killed not once, like normal people, but twice!! You see they rise up once slain with the same powers they seem to have had in life. It is insanely disturbing to watch this happen. The unimaginably powerful creatures falling in battle only to rise up seconds later to continue their onslaught.

Fredrich commands his abomination, created out of Donato, to strike the final Sister and drain her of some of her strength. Then Dominic gathers all of his strength and powers granted to him by Our Lord and plunges his sword into her chest. But something is wrong. The body disappears and she is gone. We try to sense her but fail. According to Darknato she was still alive when Dominic hit her. So that means she is either now un-dead and loose or alive and still free. Either way this is bad news. In hind sight we probably should have given Fredrich’s plan a try.

We decide to travel to Lido, then try and hire a boat to take the group, with all of our horses, to Poveglia to track down the final Sister. We were on our way when a farmer stopped us and Darknato tried to screw us over by showing himself to the terrified farmer. A little bit of soothing by me and he seems to calm down. He suggested we head to Mestre to hire a boat for our trip. After we discussed it we decided to follow the farmer back to Mestre looking quite different than when we left hastily in the middle of last night.

We greet the stable master as though we have never met and I convince him to lets us hire a boat to leave for Lido immediately. Once on board I manage to persuade the captain to take us to Poveglia instead of Lido. He drops us off and then waits just offshore for us. We head into the center of the island and run into a group of people. They try to give us a hard time but are easily persuaded to stand aside. We then head smack into a group of un-dead abominations. Some look vaguely familiar. Guelph’s soldiers!!! This means the ghost of Guelph will soon be after us again.

We seem to be holding our own against the hordes of un-dead coming at us……

The Fall of the Sisters

All hell has broken lose. Ettore and Nizar, who have tried single handedly held three sisters at bay have fallen, “Darknato” has been hitting the heavy armored sister but each time he does she still manages to get a shot off at him. I am fighting another large shadow as Victoria hides in the lobby of the inn with Gino protecting her. Dominique charges the shadow I am fighting and deals a powerful strike against it, causing it to retreat into the ground. The sisters are closing in on the rest of us, the archer now back up from her short “nap” and has begun shooting arrows at us again. The heavy armored sister charges forward and Dominique moves to meet her, they exchange powerful blow after powerful blow to each other as the rest of us manage to take down another sister, fortunately this one is still breathing. I have Darknato move to help protect Victoria as she falls back to the rest of the group and takes on the archer sister. Ettore and Nizar have gotten back up, most likely because of Victoria’s help and begin to reenter the fight. The archer shoots her own sister who we just took down, killing her, and shoots Victoria a couple of times. Dominique connects with another mighty blow and brings down the armored sister in the process. We manage to take down the archer sister and we wait for the armored sister to move and once she did we manage to finish her off before she can even get back up. The sister that the archer just killed disappears, and most of us crowd around the final unconscious sister hoping to prevent the new dead sister from either taking her away or killing her too. All the while, Gino begins finishing off the still paralyzed guards. Darkness surrounds us, for a few tense moments we listen for movement, then I hear Arabic and the darkness leaves revealing the dead sister is standing right next to us. She flies up in the air, and as she does I hear a loud crack in my hands. I look at them only to see my bow crumble into splinters and dust. A moment of rage takes me for a moment, I look up at her, raise my fist and yell “Get back here you fat, dead, bitch!” I send Darknato after her and they engage in the air. Dominique sprouts wings, somehow….. and also begins fighting her. Nizar hands me his bow and the rest of us begin shooting at her. Dominique eventually is struck hard and falls back to earth. The sister envelops herself in shadow and hides among the buildings. We scan the upper floors of the buildings, looking for her. Someone calls out “There!” and we all begin shooting her, she then falls back to earth lifeless. We group back into the alley as Gino just is finishing off the guards. Quick tally: several guards down, 3 sisters dead and then re-dead, we are all injured some of us critically, one faithful bow destroyed, and we have a captured unconscious sister. I know most of our group wants to kill her quickly and be done with it but I have an idea to possibly save her, though I am sure I will have to convince my party to go along with it. I will only need a barrel of water, a small cage, a small woodland animal, and a very powerful holy man.

The greatest run on sentence ev..
Lets all give a hand for Danato and his last symphany. As we sit huddled around Mr jerkface with Victoria about to interigate him, i look at his stumpy arm and think man…u never do get use to that dismembering thing…still pretty gross. Victoria creeps into his mind and dominates his will , the asshole almost finds humor in most of what he has done.. the evil has stained right to the bone of this one. A long series of questioning gets us infomation.. but not enough. One thing is for sure and that he has made sure that if he doesn’t return.. that who ever delayed him will be questioned. It seems cruel and un just to kill this man in a non christian way..whatever that means .. but we have a long discusion on different methods of this till i decide that maybe me and Victoria should.. well just get the hell out of there and some of us walk back torwards are refuge to get ready to leave to check on ghost before…hell breaks lose would be the appropriate phrase. i guess fredrick gets to kill him..more teeth i supose..and some where about that time the strangest thing i had ever seen happened…i know right ..the strangeset thing "i "had ever seen… fredricks little hellian shadow runs off in a fury by us and what look like … Well what we now will call “Darknato” comes bolting after it like a cheetah after a gazelle and competly destroys it.. Holy shit Jesus!! i will say it again…Holy shit Jesus!! i crapt my full plate! once realized that the shadow puppet seemed to be off its leash. and at that point its charging fredrick until its demanded to stop and with whatever unholy force it does even though its trying to gouge his eyes outs with his little smoke fingers.. then it tries this on all of us. i Guess fredrick does have control over this.. but this ones different .. this one has a presence.. it seems to be colder.. its bigger..its not right… I am really starting to question what i am gonna allow.. and what i am not gonna allow from now on. All this evil makes my eyes hurt.. better hurry up and defeat the mother of mercy and the sisters so i can finally send fredrick and nizzar back to hell.. did i just say that?? oh shit thats right we were leaving. We make our way to the stable and inn and victoria and nizzar go in , not looking like themselves and pay to keep ghost longer.Iguess ghost broke a kids arm, probally deserved it.. later when we get our rooms we ask for the private rooms so .. i quess we can have privacy.. even though i never get any privacy…and never at an inn, i usually only tried to get murdered at an inn… so me , victoria, gino and artilie stay in one room and team evil stay in another( sorry ettorie , your kinda creepy too). and of course here comes the murder part late that night as i hear a womans voice commanding downstairs with a bunch of tin cans with her. Maybe there looking for someone e….OK EVERYONE UP. ettorie sneaks down and sees a women in full plate and many men. luckily with adultrous rooms they come with options… and u don’t only get ass.. u can save your ass by climbing down the window. coast looks clear so we all climb down and narrowly es….nizzar what do you mean there are 2 people watching us ? we aren’t even rested from the last ass whooping… suddenly they appear and .. shit, they brought a darknato too! i try to send it back to hell with no luck, nzzar goes running off after a sister , we all scramble and its black.. am i dead.. no it wouldn’t be black (ding) ok theres the light again ,SHIT! the’re shadow is still here. Fredrick sends darknato to fight…which is oddly comfortng now, no,,no never comforting .. that thing is never comforting ( note to self never turn my back on fredrick again) and i try to take down a sister with everything i’ve got and my sword goes right through her …Shit !jesus !Fufffffff———inally i nail her .About that time i notice nizzar and ettories combat stance change from down the alley…. oh the battalion is here with another sister( i wonder if they re hiring ??) no time to lose faith after a few more hits the one sister goes down. “Don’t kill her !!!” …
The Trap Worked (sort of)

After spreading our rumors, we buy supplies for a couple of weeks and head back to the ruins in the swamp at the south end of the island.
We wait for 8 days and then at night during Victoria, Artigili and Gino’s guard shift, I am woken up to hear a man’s voice in conversation with Victoria. He is spinning some BS about running from the law and coming here to hideout. Victoria moves outside flanked by Dominic and I, the man appears from nowhere at the top of some ruined stairs. He releases an effect at me and I drop screaming in agony and deafend. Victoria has been playing her harp all the while, and when she moves to get closer she runs into something invisible. She moves left then right running into something each time. So she releases her song, there is the sound of armored men clattering to the ground. Dominic prays over me and my agony subsides. All the while Friedrich, Gino and Artigili launch arrows at him. The man, we can now see is Donato, points at Artigili, and Artigili shouts he can not see. He drops to the ground inside the ruin, getting out of sight. Ettore rushes toward Donato only to trip on the invisible bodies. I regain my feet and ask Allah for the blessing of seeing invisible things. There are a total of 18 plague collectors, 9 collapsed at the base of the stair and 9 more to the left, 3 of which begin firing arrows at me. Damn they hurt as I am struck by multiple arrows. Friedrich and Gino begin firing at the soldiers, but the hit me with another volley. Donato the releases another song and we are stunned and hurt by the sound. And before Ettore, Dominic and I can reach the top of the stair Donato shouts again, this time only hurting some of us and a lot of his own men, but we are knocked prone. We rise again only to see Donato vanish into the floor. Victoria says he is within a quarter mile and we must find him. She also banished the invisibility on the men, saying they are only paralyzed. Ettore, Gino and Donimic start to slaughter the helpless evil men. While Friedrich, Artigili and I race for the beach where I believe he has a boat. Yes Artigili his blindness wore off. Victoria and Friedrich vanish leaving Artigili and I to run down the twisted path to the beach. as we reach the beach Friedrich is there trying to hide in the bushes. He says he has not seen Donato , but there is his boat. Friedrich then releases 5 arrows at me and I drop to the ground “dead”. Friedrich’s Shadow attacks Artigili, but he is unharmed. Victoria then appears flying with angel wings about 15 feet in the air. Well that is new!! She then dispels Friedrich’s mind control. everyone takes cover and Victoria heals all of us. We can hear Dominic and Gino running toward the battle. Ettore is silent as always. I stand and use Allah’s blessing to glitter dust the invisible Donato, so everyone knows where he is. We close with him and Victoria heals us again. Friedrich contects with several arrows, Artigili hits him several time using the flat of his sword and shield to due subdual damage. I wade in with a ponce attack and remove his arm at the elbow with my Kukri. Play your damned lute now you bastard!! and my final hit renders him unconscious. We won… sort of.

Reuniting With an Old Friend and Setting a Trap

We arrive in Venice and I must say, it has seen better days. The streets are crowded with an influx of men an arms, the houses now have constructed make-shift racks on the side of the to allow additional sleeping places for more people, further limiting the amount of room to walk. The streets are slippery with salt water, algae, and dried blood. The monastery now lies in ruins. Large amounts of warships patrol the harbor and lagoon. Venice is preparing for war, against whom we don’t know. The corpse collectors also seem to pulling a double shift, taking infected people to an island named Poreglia so they can be ‘cared for’ by the sisters. Sounds like they are rebuilding their plague army.

Friedrich reflects as the party finds a place to hold up while in Venice. We found a room in a “inn” which is a attic in a converted house which was obviously taken by a hostile takeover. The first thing on the agenda is to find out what has been going on since we have left 4 years ago and to see if the abbot is still alive. After an interesting first night, sharing half an attic with a lonely old man can make things awkward when there is only one ladder up there, we manage to bribe a local, with food, and he tells us that Admiral Gotti is now in charge of all of Venice. The Doge it seems has left the city in his charge and hasn’t been seen in over a year. We are not sure if he has taken an extended vacation or he has been ousted. The man also tells us that the monastery had held up to several sieges until an earthquake tore it down and the Venician troops stormed the place. The locals also think the place is haunted by the ghosts of a thousand templar, guarding the place in death which they couldn’t in life. ‘At least the locals will avoid the place, that will help us avoid any unwanted attention when we are on the island itself’.

We do manage to take a boat to the neighboring island of Giudecca, putting us spitting distance from the monastery. After getting more information and wild stories from the locals, we manage to find somebody who is allowing us to borrow a boat, which isn’t his, for the night as long as we tell him what we find on the island. We go to the designated spot that night and find the boat, along with a bag of rosaries and crosses most likely for our protection. Ettore steers our boat to the former concrete dock which we landed years ago, now a rubble beach, and we all head out looking for any signs of life. Ettore goes ahead and finds a well tended garden. I begin scanning the ground, I find a set of fresh tracks leading to the monastery, “No more than a day old, most likely an Italian man from the foot size, walking pace, also appears to have a cane or crutch from the small and regular indentions on the side of the trail…” I look back at my group, I can see that they looking at me like I am crazy. “Never mind, just follow me” I say under my breath.

We follow the tracks to the monastery where they disappear on the stone floor and we begin exploring the place. Ettore unlocks a trap door in one of rooms and we hear a loud clanging noise. ‘If anyone is here they now know we are too.’ We open the hatch to reveal the large bar holding the door in place has fallen onto a well placed pile of pots and kettles purposely put there to act as an alarm in case of intruders. ‘Touche.’ I go down the ladder first to find a large cellar filled with large barrels with spigots. ‘Can it be, I have heard that the monks make it in their monasteries, but I never thought I would actually be in one.’ I approach one of the barrels and pull out a cup from my pack and put it under the nozzle. ‘Here goes nothing’. I turn the handle and a liquid pours out, I fill it just enough for a mouthful and close the spigot. I put the cup up to my nose, ‘It doesn’t smell like wine, maybe…..’ I take a swig and the cool, bitter carbonated fluid enters my mouth. My eyes almost swell up in tears of joy as I swallow the beer down. I take a moment to savor it ‘Oh, I have missed you so’. I fill the cup up this time and down it quickly down it in a few gulps before I call up to the rest of the group letting them know the coast is clear. Further exploration reveals a sleeping area and staircase leading up into the kitchen. Victoria cries out “Is anybody there?” A voice replies: “Lila, is that you?”

We find Abbot Morrisini doing pretty well considering all that has happened. After a quick greeting, we swap information of what has happened in and out of Venice. Apparently Denato was part of the attack upon the monastery and also is the Admiral’s information gatherer. At this point we can only guess where the sisters and mother of mercy are, but if we capture him, we could work their locations out of him. We also learn that the last Corvo we couldn’t identify, Estavan, is the spiritual adviser to the Holy Roman Emperor. Whether they are planning a great war pitting the empire against Venice or if the Corvos are playing both sides making sure they are with the winning side we aren’t sure. But first things first, we have to capture Denato. We devise a plan to drop rumors of a group or individuals like us hiding in a remote part of Venice called Pellestrina. This will hopefully lure him out with not a lot of protection where we can kill his guards and capture him.

We leave the Abbot in his monastery, after I filled my waterskin with the best beer I have ever tasted, and return to the spot where we got the boat. On the way back we create a story about ghosts and evil spirits and we proceed to scuff up the blessed items the boy gave to us. When we pull up to the shore, the boy is waiting for us. I immediately leap out of the boat and begin kissing the ground thanking the lord that we are safe. Victoria tells the wide eyed boy a story of how we nearly escaped certain death and presented the damaged rosaries and crosses as proof. He leaves us, satisfied with knowing what is “really on the island” and we go and prepare to set our trap for Denato.

Bigger and Badder
Who killed Messini?

We once again managed to survive an intense battle that added yet another level of confusion to an already strange few weeks. We have encountered some of the “Sisters” that are apparently demons or devils I’m not really sure which, that have taken possession of some poor soul. So for all our efforts to destroy them we merely kill the body and the “creature” moves on to find another one to inhabit. At least we are slowing them down. I realize we are in a battle that will never be over but for me, it is one I must continue to fight.

This battle ended at least one version of a Guelph General but it seems his body is no longer where he was slain. It ended Messini as well, although not in the way Nizar envisioned. We learned there is something more sinister out there that managed to kill Messini by sending a bolt of light through his chest. Messini was scared to death of this new threat which I thought for a brief moment was a good sign for us. However, this same thing managed to banish Michael, yes the Angel, into Dominic and throw him across the room pinning him to a wall. So much for this thing being on our side.

We saw 2 or maybe 3 or maybe even 4 “Sisters” leaving the ruins and who thank the Lord did not spot us. We now have the group of not quite dead soldiers marching along with the “Sisters” as if they needed some sort of protection. If that wasn’t so funny I would probably cry.

So I prayed again for guidance and it seems fairly clear that attacking them on the way back to Venice is not going to be an option unless some of the split from the group. So we have decided to head to Venice ourselves and hope we find opportunities to strike at the “Sisters” when they are NOT, I repeat, NOT altogether.

looks over at Nizar

If he doesn’t get out of this “I must kill them all, consequences be damned” mindset he is in, he may just get us all killed. I don’t know how to reach him. He has not been the same since we had those visions with the “waif”, aka Lucifer. Actually he is much like when we first met him. Hostile to the point of suicide. Luckily his great skills as a warrior have managed to keep that from happening.

On the positive side Fredrich has not done anything utterly creepy lately which gives me a little hope that his soul might be saved still. Ettore’s skills with both weapons and deception are almost supernatural these days. And Dominic, my ever vigilant protector and champion, is becoming ever more powerful as the days and battles continue to test our group.

Venice will be the end for us. How it will all is the question.

The Platemail Tortise and the Fire Hare

Across the stream the squad of White circle knights exchange bow fire with us. And aside from a lucky shot that severed Gino’s thumb, Dominic channels the power of his god and reattaches the thumb. We are winning the battle, when Victoria changes her song and some of the men start fighting amost themselves.
About then a fire bomb drops on the road behind us, the fire starts to slowly spread. Then Victoria gets hit by an arrow even though she is hiding behind a bush. She “suggests” that I make everyone invisible. So I channel Allah’s power and the knights can no longer see us as we start to cross the river. We are part way across and half of the group looses thier footing and begins to be washed down stream. The rest of is catch everyone but Pierre the mercenary. He becomes visible when he leaves my radius of power. The last we see of him is his battered body being drug underwater by the wieght of his platemail.
We finally reach the other shore, only to notice the fire, started by the guards signal torch, is spreading as well. We start up the road when a fire bomb drops on the road ahead of us. We are limited to Dominics pace as he is slowed by his heavy armor. Another bomb drops behind us, we are trapped unless we can make the gap between the cliff and the rapidly spreading fire. Move! Dominic move! We all pass Dominic and go single file, with the fire licking at our heels. Several of us become visible as they leave the radius of power to avoid being burned, but I don’t think anyone saw us because of the smoke and fire. Another fire bomb drops on the road ahead and another mad scramble and we are finally clear.
As we round the rocks and near the ruins on the hilltop, we find Lord Gelph on his war horse and even more disturbing one of the Undead plague victims on an undead horse. Worse yet he can see us and charges Ettore who is in the open, relying on the power of greater invisiblity Allah granted me. As we attack we become visible and Lord Gelph charges Dominic, dealing him a greivious blow. Ettore, Gino and Friedrich manage to take down the undead man and start in on the horse. When more men pour out of the ruin and begin fighting amongst themselves in the doorway. Dominic, Artigli and I are doing massive amounts of damage to Lord Gelph but he returns the favor dropping Dominic and turning his attention to me. Wounds open on his back as Ettore gets invloved. That “boy” can do some damage and Lord Gelph goes down. Artigli finishes the war horse. Other men are involved now as the fighting in the doorway stops because Messini killed the men effected by Victoria. And we see more in the building still. Freidrich drops one of the men filling him with arrows in seconds. Victoria heals us all, and Dominic heals himself. We are all still hurt some, but ready our selves for the next onslaught. Messini throws a Jeruselem cross on the ground and points to me. He is going to die today and Allah and I have a suprise in mind for him.

Something Lost, Something Borrowed

I grab Victoria by the collar of her shirt, she gives a minor protest but more out of confusion than anything. I take her to the stream and push her down to her hands and knees so that she is looking at her reflection in a moderately still pool. Then she sees what the rest of her party have been staring at, her eyes now glow like candles in the darkness. I notice that she is frightened at first but then she begins having a one way conversation shortly afterward. “She is talking to herself again!”, I shout to my other companions. I leave her be and begin collecting the horses. That’s when I realize how much that poison has taken out of me. It doesn’t take much more than crossing the river and I am out of breath and weak. Fortunately the horses have calmed down and are easily brought back to camp. After Victoria has finished her conversation with herself, we sleep the rest of the night, most of us too weak to go anywhere at the moment. Ettore is the worst off, he is extremely pale and with any movement, he is breathing heavily.
We wake the next day with the intent of trying to round up the rest of the horses and finding a safer place to camp. I manage to track most of the horses but several have run off. By the time we get to the ones that have stuck around, I am so out of breath I can’t motivate myself to get them, so Nizar and Geno step in and manage to get all but one. After a short respite we look for a place to camp. During the search, I can hear Victoria shouting something about wanting to hit Nizar but I missed most of it because of the distance and the grogginess in my head from being so weak. I do manage to find a cave which is a godsend considering how many caves are actually in this part of Italy. I try to hide our tracks going in and quickly head inside for a nap.
That night our rest is interrupted by a call from outside the cave. ‘Apparently I didn’t do a well enough job hiding our tracks this time’. Thirty men are outside the cave looking for us to surrender. I take a peek at the one yelling out us, from the look of him we could easily take them on normally but i wouldn’t risk it in our condition. Victoria manages to coax them inside ‘She is getting better at tactics, bringing them in an area that takes away their advantage in numbers, but she may be a little over confident in our abilities at the moment.’ Once they are in, she yells “The man next you is going to cut you out of the loot”. One of them responds “Hey, she’s right” followed by an all out brawl just inside the cave entrance. ‘How did she manage to do- ugh never mind’. The fight doesn’t last very long, most of them kill each other leaving only four alive but injured. Geno and Pierre dispatch them quickly and we begin to take care of the unconscious ones. ‘Hmm, what if we were to use them, they could have useful information or could be fodder for us. We might have to torture them though for them to cooperate.’ I suggest sparing some of them and they could be useful but the rest of the party shoots that idea down. ‘Well if they are not going to be of use to the group, one might be of use to me’. I begin surveying our dead and unconscious pursuers, I see one who is still alive and who appears to have been in a lot of battles. I look to see if anyone is looking and I start dragging him out of the cave and into the forest. I hear Ettore’s voice “Friedrich, where are you going?”
‘Damn that boy’s good eyes’. “Just taking a leak”.
‘Well that was easy’
I bring the unconscious man a good distance from the cave. After I prop him up against a tree a take a small break, I am out of breath again. After I take a moment I kneel in front of the slumped over, still unconscious man. "You look like you have been in a lot of battles, probably have done a lot of horrible things. I think we both know where you will be going, so really you should be thanking me. I am giving you a little more time before the inevitable. I then reach my hand toward his chest, I push against it and my hand passes his skin like I am reaching through a thick liquid. I am not reaching in him, there is no wound, its not a body part i am reaching for, its something else. After a moment I feel it, like silk scarf stretched against a body. I take hold and pull. Its tough at first but eases up as I pull. I almost have my hand out when the man wakes up. He gives out a horrified scream but I press my other hand on his mouth to stifle it. I give one last long pull and i can see the white wisp resembling his figure begin to emerge, it also having the look of pure terror. One last tug and I rip his soul from him. His eyes now glaze over and his body once again slumps over, now dead. I stand up, still grasping the almost intangible object when I hear a voice come from the direction of the cave.
“Friedrich, you alright?”
“Yeah,” I look back at the body, “there was just a straggler I had to take care of!”
I then look at the ‘object’ in my hand, it remains motionless, waiting for me to say something. “You will remain hidden, for now. Overlap my shadow and do not show yourself until I say”. I let my new shadow and it floats down, doing exactly as commanded and becomes indistinct from my real shadow. I return to the group, they don’t ask anymore questions and they don’t notice my new ‘friend’, perfect.
After a few more days we decide to take care of the sister in our custody. Remembering what happened the last time, we make sure to tie her up before we execute her. Once we are ready, we remove her head and upon doing so, Victoria’s eyes return to normal and the now removed head begins to let out a long wail. The rest of the party remove the rest of the body’s limbs as I wait for something to happen, and I hear a voice in my head “MURDER THEM ALL”. I am filled with an overpowering rage and almost out of instinct I raise my bow and shoot at Geno, hitting him and dealing a crippling blow. Dominique closes with me says something I didn’t understand, and then punches my arm. I hear a loud snap and my rage leaves me. I collapse from the pain, when I look down I can see my bone protruding from my upper arm. I am then filled with regret, “I am sorry Geno, I don’t know what happened, …. i am sorry…” the rest of the words are indistinguishable.
After a bit of healing and several apologies to Geno later, we emerge from the cave headed again east. We cross the river and it doesn’t take long before we come across two armored soldiers. After a short talk, we learn that these men are commanded by Guelf, and they are on the other side of this ridge. One of the second soldiers lights a huge fire and we kill both of them shortly after. We take position on the other side of a stream and see several men heading our way. We get ready and wait for them to come to us……


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