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Captain Glosster Vyn der Grafve

Glosster Vyn der Grafve basked in the warmth and light scattered around the market square by the overhead diffusers. The city lights, funnelled and directed by mirrors atop the summit of Rodrigos Mount, compressed by Helio-Pumps, channelled throughout the city by Helio-Glayne fibres until reaching their allocated diffusion lamps. He sipped occasionally from a mug of sourbean kaf and seemed engrossed in a pile of news sheets that he’d bought earlier in the morning. Other than the large war hound lying across his feet, nose twitching at the sights and smells of the market, he looked for all the world like a man with a day off enjoying a quiet afternoon.

The square was filled with the Leoncoeur Travelling Market and the locals were making the most of it. The crowds had been impressive, the Leoncoeur was popular, bringing huge variety to the usual market offerings, there was often something new and unusual for the discerning shopper. Which was in fact what had led Glosster to this square a week earlier, searching for a source of infection, a pollutant in the lifeblood of his adopted home. Now he paid the market itself little heed, having narrowed his focus onto the residence and warehouse across from him. The owner, the merchant Croston Parbold, had made a name for himself by being amongst the first to import the sourbean kaf. 

Innocuous enough but what had piqued Glosster’s interest was that although it was common knowledge that the kaf was transported across the Bittertwang Sea to the port of Neu’Brionne, many didn’t realise that it came from lands bordering the Briarfang Realmgate. And Glosster had good reason to be wary of anything emanating from that region. As he knew well, the Briarfang gate led to lands where the vampiric held sway.

As the day wore on the light began to take on that hazy, golden complexion of late afternoon. The crowds of shoppers began to thin out and Glosster was musing on the risks of making a move against Parbold today when there was a brief, muted flurry of activity at the entrance to the square just off to his left. He carefully flicked his eyes to scan the other entrances and noted an unusual increase in people making their way into the square. Rodrigos was a city often at war, so it was not surprising to see scarred veterans strolling her streets but so many arriving all at once was not a good sign. They wore long coats or cloaks and he was certain they were carrying hidden weapons. 

At his feet he felt rather than heard, the very soft grumble of Fury growling. They were trying to mingle with the crowd, other than a handful they had left guarding the exits, but to his mind they were not very subtle. He picked most of them out in seconds and that was a concern. He was sure he and his team had gone unnoticed, they were the best in Rodrigos, but these new arrivals risked spooking his quarry.

What were they doing here? He wondered furiously. There was nothing for it, he had to make a move. A subtle hand signal to his team to hold in place, and then he stood and waved at the man leading the new arrivals who he fortunately recognised.

“Eyoin! My dear fellow, fancy seeing you here? Come, you must join me for a drink!”

Sergeant Eyoin Maffertan of the Rodrigos Nightswatch, commonly known as the Ratguard, was taken aback to be hailed by name. He didn’t recognise the man, but he clearly knew who Maffertan was. Thank the Lady that he’d not said anything that could give Eyoin away. The Sergeant made his way over, a broad smile on his face as though meeting an old friend. He spotted two of his unit fingering their weapons and frowned ferociously at them until they stopped, the last thing he needed was them blowing their cover.

“Please, sit. Have some kaf,” Glosster lowered his voice, “keep smiling and speak quietly.” Maffertan sat as instructed, and took a sip of the kaf even though he loathed the stuff and it always gave him heartburn. He forced a smile as though a cup of kaf and a natter with this fellow was a delight.

“Good.” Glosster approved. “You’re good. Better than your colleagues anyhow.”

“Who“, he began and then lowered his voice almost to a growl, “by Sigmar’s great Bristling Beard, are you?!”

Glosster tapped at the news sheets and as Maffertan looked down he slid one aside to reveal his badge, a crossed silver stake and hammer over a golden twin-tailed comet. “I thought it was you Maffertan. Though I haven’t seen you without that mask before. I see those burns have finally healed up nicely.”

“Special Branch…?” Maffertan enjoyed something of a reputation amongst the Ratguard but the Special Branch was something else. Whilst still a fairly recent addition to Rodrigos’ defences, rumour had it that they’d had some spectacular successes in recent months.

“Indeed. Now then, keep your voice low, my target potentially has ears everywhere. What are you and your mob here for?”

The Sergeant bristled at the dismissive “mob”, but kept his temper. In comparison to the Special Branch officers, his Ratguard unit of decorated veterans and heroes from Rodrigos’ wars were outclassed, the Specials had been constituted of the very best Ratguard. “Magical items of an unclean, Shyishian nature have been brought into the city. We’ve tracked them back to the merchant, Croston Parbold, major importer of that sourbean crap you’ve just made me drink.”

Glosster’s carefree smile slipped a fraction before he rallied. “I see. Well, Parbold’s as good as dead, enthralled by a Soulblight creature in his business travels we think. It’s a good job we were here first Maffertan, or your lot would have blundered into big trouble.” He nodded thoughtfully. “But we can’t chance it now. They may have picked up on your arrival so we will have to go in today.” Another subtle signal to his team to have them prepare. “Consider yourselves seconded to my team for the moment. We’ll have to winkle them out, it seems they’re loath to leave the warehouse today. Brace yourself, we believe all of Parbold’s people have also been enthralled.”

Maffertan nodded. “We’ll follow your lead.”

With that Glosster was up from his seat and almost halfway across the square with his long-legged stride, Fury casually loping alongside, before Maffertan caught up with him. Glosster urged the Ratguards to close in on Parbold’s warehouse entrance more or less as they had originally planned, Glosster though went straight for the door to the residential quarters.

“Saliceberry!” He called out and a woman that Maffertan could honestly say he hadn’t previously noticed stepped toward the door, jammed something in the keyhole and quickly moved away, turning her back just as the sharp crack of a black powder charge echoed across the square. The door’s lock was destroyed and it sagged open just as Glosster and Maffertan reached it. “In pairs!” He called out, for the benefit of Maffertan’s unit.

Heaving on the warehouse door the bulk of the Ratguard were stymied as it was locked and bolted shut. 

“Axes!” Rychmund Den Staffyrd snapped out. “Here, and here.” As the Ratguard started hacking away at the warehouse entrance he prepared a couple of charges similar to the one Constable Saliceberry had used on the residence door. Glosster glanced over at his Lieutenant, who gave him a thumbs up, they would be through the main door in short order.

Glosster led the assault on the residence. Almost as soon as they were in the door they were attacked by men and women who had been enthralled by the unclean magic of a Soulblight creature. Their personalities and own wants and desires buried beneath the magical compulsion, the inescapable influence of a vampire. Wherever they could be safely apprehended the Special Branch would. Clubbing them unconscious and shackling them together, one man’s hands to another’s ankles to hinder any movement. But many fought so rabidly, so ferociously that the only way to stop them was to slay them.

Above the noise of the fighting the sharp double crack of two black powder charges could be heard, the larger team had gained access to the warehouse, and soon the fight would be over. Except the enthralled kept going, springing out from hiding places, behind drapes and furniture, out of cupboards and dark corners.

Glosster called a halt. They’d fought their way through most of the lower level of the residence. Ahead of him there was a narrow hallway with a door off to the left that he assumed must lead into the warehouse and at the end of the corridor another door, probably into the kitchen area. Some of the Ratguard had ventured up stairs and he could hear them fighting on the floor above. “Saliceberry! How many enthralled have we taken?”

A pause as the Special Branch Constable counted their unconscious or feebly moaning prisoners. “Six alive, eight dead, Sir.”

The fighting upstairs seemed to grow louder and he ordered three more Ratguard to go join their comrades, and with a quick command sent Fury to help them. “Too many.” He muttered, eyes squinting with worry.

“What’s wrong?” Maffertan asked.

“There’s too many of them. I haven’t seen Parbold yet but he, his family and staff came to eleven. Where’ve these others come from?”

The door from the warehouse burst open and Rychmund stick his head through. “Soulblight Captain! It’s heading for the back of the warehouse!”

“Don’t lose it Rychmund! Keep eyes on it!” He turned to the Specials and Ratguards still with him. “This makes sense. They’ve had a vampire here all this time enthralling anyone who ventured in to see Parbold. You four go and clear the kitchen then join us in the warehouse, bring anything that’ll give us light to see.” He gave a severe nod to the rest. “You’re with me. Do as I say and you’ll be fine.”

Maffertan gripped his sword and pistol tightly, he knew a soothing lie when he heard one. “These old dwellings don’t have rear exits, the thing will have to get through us to escape into the city.” The older “buildings” of Rodrigos were carved out of the living rock of the city in a rush, in those early days speed was a more important factor than the convenience of a rear door.

The undead creature was trapped, but any hope of catching it off guard and ending it’s vile unlife quickly were so much smoke in the breeze. If it dug itself in somewhere defensible, even the Special Branch might struggle to winkle it out.

But the creatures of the Soulblight are arrogant, and the thought of running from mere Mortals had no doubt stung it’s pride. As Glosster, Maffertan and Saliceberry charged  through into the warehouse, following in the footsteps of Rychmund Den Staffyrd, the sound of desperate combat could be heard. Pistols fired, swords clashing briefly and then an agonised scream, swiftly followed by another, more drawn out scream.

Rychmund came flying out of the gloom toward them, knocked through the air by a punch that left him winded on the floor at least 15 feet from where he had been hit and with a cracked rib. Mafferton just managed to avoid tripping over the prone lieutenant, jumping over  him and loosing a wordless cry of surprise as he did.

“Blood!” Glosster cried and a couple of the Specials fired a pair of crossbow bolts laden with small clay globes attached. They flew wide of the deeper darkness of the vampire in the gloom, but when they shattered, spraying carmine gore around, the scent threw the vampire’s concentration. It faltered, his instinctive hunger distracting him, drawing his attention away from the Specials for a moment. Glosster signalled for the attack but a handful more of the enthralled including Croston Parbold emerged from behind a stack of barrels and threw themselves at the Ratguards. There was no time for mercy now, not whilst in the eyeline of the vampire. The hapless Rodrigan merchant and his fellow enthralled were swiftly and brutally hacked down but the vampire’s momentary distraction had passed.

Crimson eyes flared blood red in the gloom and Ratguard pistols cracked all around Glosster as they tried desperately to bring the vampire down. It shrugged most of them off, but Saliceberry was firing thrice-blessed silver and the creature screeched in outraged pain as her shot tore through his shoulder, and it finally fully re-focussed his mind on them.

In fury and desperate rage it came out of the gloom heading straight for the Constable and ripped at her throat with an iron-clawed grip. Concealed beneath her up-turned collar, her sigmarite reinforced gorget creaked under the strain but prevented it from tearing her throat out. It threw her into the oncoming Ratguard catching up from the residential quarters, sending them all sprawling, Saliceberry’s pistol skittering away across the roughly slabbed floor.

Glosster struck out at the creature’s back, his sword slicing across it doing little damage, but it did distract the vampire from making an escape to the front of the warehouse. It turned with astonishing swiftness and lashed out, claws sparking off his breastplate and sending Glosster flying.

Maffertan, aghast at the speed of the creature discharged both his pistols point blank, but it was on him so swiftly that it managed to turn one barrel so the shot went astray and the other shot just seemed to enrage it. It lifted him high to throw but was staggered and dropped him as some of the more foolhardy Ratguard piled in. They didn’t live to regret it, both went down, one screaming at his swift evisceration, the other quietly gurgling blood through her ravaged throat.

“Keep back!” Glosster yelled at the Ratguard. They were not prepared to face such a terrible foe. In truth none of them were, they had come hunting the enthralled, never imagining a Soulblight creature would be nestled in a residence in the heart of Rodrigos.

As Glosster launched into another attack the vampire casually caught and wrenched his blade from his grip leaving his wrists stinging with pain. A Ratguard rushed in hoping to take advantage but the vampire simply struck him in the chest with it’s free arm, throwing the man back with such force he crashed through a stack of the merchant’s wine barrels. The broken angle of his neck clearly showing he was dead, the iron and salt of his blood mixed with the heady scent of the wine making a grotesque combination. 

“Grenadoes!” Glosster called desperately but his remaining Specials were either down or engaged with more of the vampire’s enthralled, mindless slaves emerging from amongst the merchant’s goods.Wringing his numb hand trying to bring back some feeling, Glosster looked up at the looming vampire. “Well, shit.” He said with feeling. He reached back trying to free his spare sword but his hands were still aching from their earlier savage wrenching. The Soulblight creature stood over him and paused, then cocked it’s head to one side before whispering in an incredulous hoarse growl. “Cripplethorn?”

“Lady take me now! You- You’re mistaken!” He replied, paralysing fear writ large across his face, but as it drew back as though to take another look, Glosster’s desperate scrabbling fingers brushed the grip of Saliceberry’s pistol. With his injured hand he snatched his badge from around his throat and thrust it at the vampire.

“Sigmar Vyedet et Jyudyces!” He cried out, “Sigmar sees and judges!” 

The vampire reared up and back in pained surprise. It clawed at it’s eyes for a moment and howled in agony, before growling out in a voice heavy with hatred. “Found you at last! We’ll flay your filthy, thieving soul from your bones, Tavistock Cripplethorn!” But Glosster had bought the time he needed, he swung Saliceberry’s pistol around and fired, cutting the creature short. The thrice-blessed silver of the Constable’s pistol ball pierced the creature through it’s withered husk of a heart.

“In Sigmar’s name, taste oblivion!” Glosster cried out in a ringing voice, drowning out the weakly coughed words of the vampire’s last breath.

“Cripplethorn.” It sighed and as the light died from it’s eyes it smiled triumphantly at Glosster. “Found you.” The vile magics which kept it vital and healed it’s injuries were outmatched by the holy blessings and purity of the silver shot. The vampire was finally dead, it’s cursed soul blasted into the Naethervoid in pieces.

In the still and sudden quiet he could hear men and women gasping for air, the moaning of the injured and the death rattle of the Ratguard the vampire had eviscerated. But he had no time for niceties, he needed answers and he needed them fast.

“Fetch me a lantern.” Glosster called out, his voice shaking. “I want this warehouse and the residence searched from top to bottom again. Confiscate all papers, any records, ledgers. Tear out the floors, the walls, I want everything! I need to know everything Parbold has been doing! Look out, some of the creature’s victims may still be alive and must be taken into our care.” He turned to Maffertan. “It’s rare, but sometimes the enthrallment outlives the Master, we must be sure any survivors are truly free of the cursed creature.”

Taking the lantern proffered by Constable Saliceberry, Glosster studied the dead vampire’s features closely in the light it cast, as though searching for answers in some ancient manuscript. “Did you know them?” Maffertan asked gently.

“No.” Glosster’s brusque response invited no questions but Maffertan was burning with curiosity.

“But it seemed to think it knew you, called you Cripplethorn?” The Captain turned a furious stare upon Maffertan.

“Then it was mistaken! I am Glosster Vyn der Grafve!” He shouted, a shrill, almost panicked edge to his words. The shocked look on Maffertan and Saliceberry’s faces caused him to pause, catch his temper and when he spoke again it was in a more even tone. “I can only assume this creature perhaps killed a distant ancestor, or maybe just someone who looked like me.” Maffertan nodded thoughtfully and looked away as though chastened but in truth he was embarrassed. 

He may not have been good enough to serve in the Special Branch of the Ratguard, but he was an investigator with a lot of experience and he could spot a lie. Vyn der Grafve had just lied to him, he had seen it clearly, as had Constable Saliceberry in all likelihood. He wondered what secret the Captain could possibly be trying to keep hidden away. He exchanged a glance with Saliceberry, she remained unreadable, a stolid expression on her face, firmly behind her Captain. But under his gaze he thought he saw a slight shift, a hint that her trust in the Captain had been shaken. 

Perhaps an acquaintance he should cultivate if he was to find out who and what Tavistock Cripplethorn was to Glosster Vyn der Grafve, and whether the Captain was in fact a threat to Rodrigos. Glosster wasn’t the only one who wanted answers, Maffertan had lost five of his Ratguard today and in their memory he would find out just what had gone down in Parbold’s warehouse.

Special Branch (Rodrigos Ratguard)


2 responses to “Stakeout”

  1. maenoferren22 avatar

    A wel written piece. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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