The group from Gripplin had been in quite a lot of shock from the attack. The bishop had everyone move back while he examined the two bodies of the bizarre creatures, although no one else besides Sigmar, wanted to be any closer to them. The creatures were made for death. All of their features were eldritch and unearthly, and the raw power they possessed had been clearly demonstrated. It had been dusk when the attack came and now night was upon them, which only made the men more antsy. They had plugged up the hole as best as they could, but with the superhuman strength displayed by these things, their poor excuse for a barrier was little consolation. The men were noticeably happy when the bishop declared that the creatures’ presence was something that must immediately be report to Zvolig, the capital, and that they should set out at once. Clearly Olsbrin was done doing any favors for the Church, but beneath his hard exterior he showed the slightest bit of fear and it seemed like he wanted to leave as much as any man. He made the order that they should move out and at least make camp outside of town before anything else was done. Nothing more could be done for Gripplin. He dispatched three men as messengers to Dresdnik to make a report to the Commander while the rest of the unit made camp outside Gripplin’s valley, despite the continuous protest of the bishop.
The morning came without incident, although the company was hardly rested. Watches had been tripled, so most of the men got little to no real sleep. They broke camp early and wearily set out for Zvolig. The trip would be around a week’s march with only small towns in between. Their rations would be pretty low before they got the capital, so Olsbrin halved the rations, further adding to the dissatisfaction of the men. The two prisoners, nicknamed Butch and Twitch were still chained to the wagon and brought along. The men got tired of Twitch quickly as he never stopped his wild mutterings and he always seemed out of touch with reality. It didn’t take long for the men to notice that the two monsters they had on the wagon were adverse to sunlight. By the end of the first day, the creatures’ skin had dried, cracked, and began to decay rapidly. They almost looked preserved, like they’d been dead for a century. The bishop covered them up in the hopes of preserving the bodies.
The trip was uneventful, except that on the third day, Twitch disappeared. He had been chained to the wagon and the two prisoners had a guard that would check on them occasionally for the safety of the men, but no one saw or heard anything. The following morning they looked for any signs of him, but the manacles were still securely closed and no one could find any sign of his leaving. Olsbrin wouldn’t let them take much time looking for him; no one was worried about him coming back after them. So, without success, the company had just moved on.
- * * * *
The sprawling metropolis of Zvolig was set before them. Boasting some of Ilithria’s greatest engineering feats, Zvolig had a colossal central palace and a number of multi-storied buildings, which were usually uncommon across the rest of the continent. It was a sight to behold. The men’s spirits were raised at the prospect of a hot meal, a real bed, and safety from the crazy unknown that they had encountered in Gripplin. As they approached an unmistakably large host of armored soldiers could be see outside the city between the incoming group and the gate they intended to enter. When they were quite close a number of officers and knights on horses rode up.
“Captain Olsbrin, you are under arrest for the siege of Gripplin. Have your men lay down their arms and surrender peacefully or else force will be used.” Mardan saw the man that had spoke. He looked quite important, although he didn’t appear to be directly under army command. Perhaps he was a leader of the city’s defenses. He wanted to protest and defend Olsbrin, but he figured this wasn’t yet the time or place. There would have to be some sort of hearing. The armored men flanked the unit and escorted them into the city where they were broken up into smaller groups. Mardan and Sigmar went with Olsbrin to some of the city’s central buildings and were questioned separately, although they weren’t held for long. After getting out, Mardan found out that the bishop had pulled some weight to explain what really happened. It was quite a double standard for the interrogators to believe the bishop when Mardan had said the same thing… Who knew what version Sigmar had given them. Olsbrin was still being detained for the time being and the rest of the unit was being reassigned and dispersed so they could be watched over. Mardan and Sigmar, being men of the Church were free to do as they wished, so they set about trying to research the horrors that had attacked them.
- * * * *
Three and half weeks had been spent in Zvolig. The capital was a beautiful place and Sigmar couldn’t complain. He wasn’t as important as he had been in Dresdnik and there were an ample number of clerics and bishops that outranked him. He and Mardan had spent numerous hours pouring over Church records and library resources trying to find out what the four-armed and winged monsters were. They had had little success, although they had come across mention of faceless horrors in relation to a rumored dark god named Nzaakczu. He was supposedly some god of corruption and chaos, although his origins were unknown. All good clerics knew about Orien, god of the light, and the Dark One, his enemy. The two fought for the hearts of men and power over the world. This Nzaakczu had no place in that fight. Despite the tomes’ dismissal of his existence as rumor, they had stumbled across some sort of cult that thought he was real, if indeed that was the same thing, and they had these monsters to prove that something else existed.
Without being able to find much more they had settled in for some rest before they decided what they’d do next. M’ut had just disappeared and it had been over a month since they’d seen him last. It was a shame, as Sigmar had grown quite attached to that strange and dangerous man. Rumors had been growing about the north of Nyderiwen attacking parts of the south. Sigmar had also gotten an unbelievable report that Nipid had attacked and laid waste to Dresdnik while Commander Remorric had simply taken his men and left the town defenseless. Zvolig had responded by mustering the troops that it could and had marched, although it had been too late. Apparently, the “assault” on Gripplin had been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Word came out that the north didn’t believe the monster story that the south had given, and had found out that a unit from Dresdnik was present at the town’s destruction. Sigmar later learned that the north had been looking for a reason to secede from the oppressive southern government, and it was given to them.
A few weeks later, a meeting was to be held in the Citadel, a neutral location for both parties to parley, although skirmishes were still taking place along the newly-created border between north and south. The north had claimed they were Nyder, and no longer a part of Nyderiwen. Belwall was claimed as their new capital and their own army was being mustered. Nevertheless they still agreed to meet for negotiations, likely just to flaunt their newly-proclaimed independence.
The meeting was tense. They met in a large, open courtyard in the center of the Citadel, and both sides brought a small army to the “diplomatic” meeting. Mardan and Sigmar were asked to attend so they could give their accounts of what had actually happened in Gripplin. After they’d given the account and showed the now nearly completely-decayed bodies of the monsters, the northmen’s leaders had dismissed it all as an elaborate farce and the arguments continued. This went on for almost three days before it all went south. Mardan had noticed that one of his closest friends, nicknamed “Shorty” was one of the marshals on the northmen’s side. The two had met secretly, and Shorty had tried to convince them to join the north. Mardan had considered in carefully. On the third day, he had made up his mind to defect and join the north, but that was the same day that negotiations failed.
After one heated discussion, a large ball of fire had appeared out of nowhere from the northmen’s side and burst right on one of the main leaders of the south, burning him alive. The fight broke out fiercely and chaos ensued. High-value leaders were protected and escorted away. Spells were flung. Swords drawn. Men died. Mardan and Sigmar took this as their opportunity to defect. As they made their way across the courtyard, they saw Shorty beckoning to them. As they moved closer, an arrow took Shorty in the neck and he slumped to the ground. Through the mass of chaos, the two clerics had to fight their way across the courtyard, and by the time they had reached their fallen friend, he was dead. Mardan began to drag his friend’s body away as high vision blurred with tears. Sigmar helped as much as he could while trying to defend them from other attackers. The Nyderiwen civil war had begun in full…