The Tale of Oscar Antwort
(oscar is a halfling)
August 01, 2011
The dangers of Drakwald forest are too numerous to count. Undead, Skaven, Beastmen, and the occasional Daemon make that place a hell that no man dare tread. That is where I come in; I am Oskar Antwort - Hell's Gatekeeper.
Rousche is a nice enough town, 1347 inhabitants as of this morning - 84% rural, 12% urban, 3% vagrant, 1% other. It's the 'other' that keeps me in business. 'Other' can be anything from Charlatan to shit eating lunatic, some harmless, some not - it's my job to know the difference.
We run a tight ship here in Rousche, not like the grab ass antics that drove me insane in the Moot. I may be a Halfling by birth, but not by choice. My kind has a well deserved reputation of being lazy and undependable, to that I would only add stupid and irresponsible. It’s been quite a few years since I left the Moot, and I could not be happier that I DECIDED to leave when I did. Not a one of them understood what it takes to defend the Empire, and I wasn't going to sit idle stuffing my mouth with muffins and drinking ale while the enemies of the Emperor still drew breath.
I am first captain of the Emperor's XLI Halfte Mensche Company - Rousche Division. While our numbers are few and resources scarce, we get the job done. At the present moment I am the only one... but I have spearheaded a recruitment drive that I am sure will soon bare fruit. Until we are at full strength it is my responsibility to take up the defense of Rousche. I have been coordinating the XLIst efforts with the locals these last few years and the city has remained secure under our mutual protection. Today I am to meet with Magistrate Franz Brookhaven at the county jail. While he has proven to be a competent ally he does not seem to take the job with the degree of seriousness I believe should be expected of someone charged with the safety of 1347 people. He will have to do until a suitable replacement can be found.
I have made it a habit to be at the jailhouse early to get a jump on the day. Franz is supposed to be there at 6am but rarely is, normally choosing sloth to responsibility - he slept in again. Him shirking his responsibilities is no excuse for me to dismiss my own though. So I sit at the steps of the jail house oiling my sling as usual, "A clean sling leads to a clean shot", I always say.
"Sigmar's hammer, and Ulric's balls - don't you have a home Oskar?" came Franz’s usual greeting. He stepped past me on to the porch and put his key in the door oblivious to the scowl I was giving him. He was an older man in his mid-50s and not in too terribly good of shape having both a large belly and thin legs at the same time with no ass to speak of. He had a full head of grey hair and wore a tattered leather jerkin which was stained with the many meals he had rested on his belly over the years. "I mean for the love of the god's, you were just here last night!"
"The enemies of the Empire do not sleep, so neither shall I". I shot back at him. "What is the schedule for today?"
Taking a breath as if annoyed at me for doing my duty he continued "Yes yes, do your rounds. I just got very little sleep last night. Damn daughter kept me up all night crying about her dog missing... and..." he trailed off and a smile began to form on his face. "Actually Oskar, I think I have a job for you".
Franz stepped into the jailhouse and turned to me "Come in, come in" he said brusquely. Stepping inside I was met with the same unorganized mess that I had grown accustomed to - drawers open, coats un-hung, cell door open with the local drunk inside free to come and go as he pleased... and paper EVERYWHERE.
"What would you have of me Magistrate?" I asked inquisitively, not quite sure what to make of his sudden change of heart.
"Well Oskar, you see, my daughter's dog has run off and...." I cut him off immediately
"Sir, I am a defender of the Realm and a sworn protector of Rosche, a responsibility I take with the utmost seriousness. I have sworn my life to both the Emperor and Empire. I will not stand idle while you try to lower my standing to that of a dog catcher!" I snapped at him not realizing I had raised my voice. From the expression on his face I could tell I caught Franz off guard. He had grown accustomed to assigning me duties and me completing them without question or complaint. .
"Um, no no no no NO Oskar. I wouldn't dream of doing anything like that. Let me finish" he paused for a moment as if trying to find the words "You see this dog of my daughter's had been acting most peculiar these last few days and I think something fiendish may be amiss".
Skeptical, I let him go on "Peculiar, how so?"
"Er, well for one he had become quite moody. Not at all like himself. He never really left the house, than last night he disappeared without a trace".
"Still sounds like you are trying to make me into a dog catcher". I said back to him unconvinced of his sincerity.
"It was not just that, he uh, that is my wife," He stumbled over his words, but then he burst out; "LAST NIGHT WAS A FULL MOON!"
"Hmm, yes it was. Many strange things can happen on a full moon..." he cut me off before I could elaborate.
"Oh yes, and did you hear the wolves barking? Much more than what is usual this time of year!" he said anxiously to me
"You may be on to something here Franz, did you notice anything else?" I questioned
"Uh, my uh... My milk this morning had soured. I swear to you Oskar that milk was fresh from the cow's tit but by the time I got it in the house it had already turned!"
"All right Franz, this may be worth looking into. I will be to your house within the hour. I need to question both your wife and daughter when I get there". I said as I took out my notebook. "May I have the names of the individuals involved?"
Cocking his head back confused "You know my name Osk...”
"NAME of the individuals involved, please... SIR" I said more sternly.
"Magistrate Franz Brookhaven" he sighed, "My wife's name is Berta Brookhaven, and my daughter's name is Paige Brookhaven"
I shot a look up from my notepad "Any relationship to you?"
Looking dumbfounded, he replied "What kind of question is that?"
"I'll be asking the questions if you don't mind... and the hound" I added
"Hound, you mean my dog? Uh, yea - Grey, Grey Brookhaven" he stammered.
"Is he a relation"?
"Oskar!" He yelled.
I dismissed his outburst for the blatant deflection of my question that it was and continued with my notes. "All right Franz, I am going to look into this and see if your story checks out with the 2 Brookhaven females... are you sure there isn't anything else I should know?" I squinted my eyes at him to show I was serious.
"No Oskar, that's it" he replied shaking his head.
"Field Warden Antwort, if you please". I said curtly, as I turned on my heel to leave.
The Brookhaven estate was at the southern outskirts of town bordering the Drakwald Forest. It was a rural community with a peasant population of mostly farmers whose lives consisted of long hours and empty bellies. Summer had come early and most were out taking full advantage of the extra-long growing season. All of the fields as far as the eye could see had already been turned with the sprouts of various crops poking up from the soil. Things did seem normal, but looks can often be misleading. I was on my guard.
The Brookhaven home was nothing of note, mortar and stone with a wooden roof. Better than a mud hut but not a mansion to be sure. Franz was Magistrate over the town and that was the family's main source of income, but they did still have a few acres they farmed for personal use.
I approached the door and gave a knock. A woman in a long beige dress that went down to her ankles opened the door. She was a bit pale with long brown hair with a few hints of grey showing through. While not an unattractive woman you could see that her best years were clearly behind her. "Mrs. Brookhaven?"
"Hello Oskar" she smiled "What can I do for you?"
Looking down at my notebook I leafed through the pages, "Miss, I am here to enquire about a... oh here it is, a 'Grey Brookhaven'".
"Oh gods, did my husband send you over here for that? Sure has broken poor Paige's heart that he went missing, but you shouldn't waste your time with that" she said kindly, if not sincerely. She was hiding something…
"Am I to understand that you would prefer the matter to be dropped than?" I asked, squinting my eyes for effect.
Laughing she replied "Oh I just think it would be a waste of time is all, he has probably just run off or was eaten by some wild animal. Paige is heartbroken, but it is all just a part of growing up".
"So it is common for animals to just disappear from your property?" I questioned her still taking notes.
"I wouldn't say it is common, but it is true we have had some bad luck with pets... we are out in the country and…" I cut her off.
"Luck will not be a factor in my investigation, bad or otherwise" Looking up from my notebook just for a moment to gauge her reaction. "But if I were to consider 'bad luck', I would have to say the potential victim Grey Brookhaven is the one who seems to have had a run of it. He has been missing for a night and it seems his owners are none too concerned".
Looking at me bewildered, "Oskar, he was just a dog".
I penned that quote into my notebook mumbling, "Just a dog". Speaking up I added "I notice you are now referring to him in the past tense - interesting".
I continued "Who was last to see the victim before his disappearance?"
"I suppose that would be Paige." she said with a new brashness in her voice... I was breaking her.
"I will need to speak with her, where is she now?" folding up my notebook and placing it in my pocket.
"Out back playing in the corn" she said nonchalantly.
My right hand immediately dropped to my sling, and the left to the stones in my pouch. "Are you telling me that your family has a relationship with Khorne?"
"Oskar, what in the hell is wrong with you?" looking at me like I was crazy. A clever ploy, but one that would not work on a mind as disciplined as my own. Waving her hands as if to display the entire area "Look around you, there is corn everywhere".
Oh gods, it was an ambush. So stupid of me to not have recon’d the area before I came. Darting my eyes back in forth my sight confirmed what my gut already knew. The mark of Chaos had touched this place. Dead rabbit in the road, dog chasing a cat, and a farmer butchering a hog. Subtle perhaps...but that is how 'they' operate.
Taking a few steps back but never letting my guard down I continued, "How long have you been Khorne's servant?"
"Corn's servant? What are you talking about? How long have we grown corn here? We have always had corn here to some degree". She looked clearly annoyed, the servants of Chaos do not like to have their dark masters questioned.
I had to tread carefully here lest the daemon inside her shed its mortal skin and attack. The thralls of the Blood God are ferocious beyond imagining. 'She' had the advantage at the moment and I would need to buy time to formulate a plan of attack to destroy this daemon whore!
"Oskar, are you ok? You look sick", she said feigning concern. "Oh goodness, this heat must be getting to you. Come in the house and I will make you something to drink".
I knew if I entered the house I was dead. Still, if I were to flee it would show my hand and she would end me on the spot. I decided to go on with the charade, taking out my handkerchief I wiped my brow and than gave 'her' a slight smile and moved forward as if to enter the house.
"What would you like?" she said turning to enter. "We have milk, lemonade and I believe some cider..." I didn't give 'her' a chance to finish the sentence. I ran forward and threw my shoulder into her buttocks as hard as I could throwing her into the house. 'She' wailed in outrage at the attack but I would not let 'her' distract me.
'SILENCE SHE BITCH!" I yelled into the home as I took out my dagger and jammed it into the door wedging it shut. "Save your daemonic cries for the interrogator’s rack!"
I knew that this would not hold for long but it might just buy me enough time to make my escape. I saw that the daemon thing that had been butchering the hog had witnessed what just transpired and it would only be a matter of moments before he summoned more chaotic minions to come to his aid. I had only one option, to take my chances in the Drakwald forest. I sprinted to Donner and leapt onto the saddle grabbing the reigns I jammed my heels into his side. Responding instantly we jolted forward towards the outlying of trees just beyond the crops.
I had escaped with my life, but that was of little comfort. The Blood God had his grip on Rousche and I had to give warning to the population lest the city fall to Chaos and damnation.
The sun shone bright as mid day came to illuminate the forest making this hellhole appear far more pleasant than it actually was. Birds chirped, wind blew, and animals ran about as they would in any other forest, but Drakwald was far from being 'any other forest'. Sling in hand, I was on my guard for whatever evil might await me in this cesspool of corruption. I knew I could not go directly back to Rousche, they would be expecting that and I would be killed before my message of warning would ever reach the ears of those who needed hearing it. I decided to ride close to the edge of the forest until I got to safer ground, away from the daemon hordes surrounding the Brookhaven estate before coming out into the open. 'They' would never anticipate that.
I had ridden about 20 minutes when I saw something from the corner of my eye. Bringing Donner to a halt I lifted my hand over my eyes to shade them from the brightness of the sun and focused my attention deeper into the forest to try and discern what it was. I saw it again, a gleam of some sort, metal maybe, or perhaps glass. The foliage became too thick so I dismounted Donner in order to investigate further. Rummaging through leaves and brush I found the source of the glare, a thin piece of metal covered in refuge and blood. I pulled the shirt out of my pants to clean it off only to have my worst fears confirmed. This was an ID... I was too late.
"Murder" I whispered.
I placed the tag in my pouch so that it could be used later as further evidence of the daemon whore's treachery. I started to investigate searching for more evidence but had little luck. Then by chance I looked up and noticed a bit of smoke off to the south towards some of the larger, thicker trees. After checking to be sure Donner was still secure I decided to find the source. Going from bush to bush, tree to tree, I crept closer until finally it opened into what could only be described a very badly constructed campsite with a fire that had run itself down to embers. Judging from the look of it, its creator had not been long gone. A spit was straddled above the fire with some animal roasting on it. At first I could not ascertain the type of animal that was on it, than horror struck me at the realization of what it was on that pit. I had found Grey Brookhaven.
The bitch had not only killed him but had skewed him alive and planned to devour him. Monster! I could not afford to let my emotions take control, I had a job to do and I intended on seeing it through to the end.
Placing my hand on the spit I said quietly "Don't worry my friend, you shall be avenged".
I checked around the camp to see what else the daemon whore may have left. It seemed empty until I walked upon some ground that did not have the give that ground should. Brushing the dirt aside I found an axe of some sort. Picking it up it I was able to tell that this was no normal woodsman's axe, but one made for battle - more than likely of dwarvish design. Giving it a once over I noticed a name scratched into the hilt "Gearhart". This must have been the Daemon's true name, it was foolish of it to leave such information in plain view.
Before I could investigate further I heard noise in the distance. Dropping the axe and kicking dirt back over it I quickly stoked the embers of the pit and than clambered up a tree. I hid in the branches waiting for "Mrs. Brookhaven" to come and claim her dinner.
With my new vantage point I could see the bushes moving as the daemon whore got closer. Finally 'she' emerged and what I saw shocked me to the core of my soul. She had shed her mortal skin and was more horrendous than I could have ever of imagined. Her true form was a full two feet shorter than that of the body she recently inhabited and 'she' was slouched over with a hunchback, its head set deep between it's shoulders. Further, a coat of dingy brown fur flowed the length of its body down to the spine where a knotted tail protruded 2 feet and swayed back and forth as it walked closer to the fire. The creature now had the head of an animal with squinty eyes and a narrow snout now replaced what was once human features. The addition of whiskers now gave her the look of a rat more than anything else. As it meandered closer to the camp the beast raised its nose to smell the roasted corpse of poor Grey Brookhaven, and with a long slimy tongue licked its lips.
"Yes, come Mrs. Brookhaven, I am sure you must be hungry". I said quietly to myself as I fished into my pouch to retrieve a flask of oil.
Coming to the spit it grabbed hold of one of the hind legs and pulled, ripping it from the torso. It than shoved the amputated limb into its maw and began to eat. Meat and gristle dripped down from the daemon's mouth as the beast devoured the flesh of poor Grey Brookhaven. This desecration was more than I could bare and with the fury born of one of the Emperor's chosen I stood upright on the branch oil in hand and yelled, "BACK TO HELL DAEMON WHORE!" as I hurled the flask of oil down onto the fire.
Moments before it hit the beast heard my cry, but it was too late. The flask exploded on contact sending fire in all directions knocking the creature off its feet. Taking advantage of its disorientation I loaded my sling and fired a rock down at the beast striking it on the leg as it tried to recover. Pressing the attack I loaded another rock and fired it down, hitting the beast squarely on the backside of its head. The creature staggered, and I knew now would be my best opportunity to finish it. Leaping down from the branch, sling in hand, I screamed "FOR THE EMPEROR!" and dropped on the beast knocking it off its feet once more.
Lying on its stomach with me on its back the Daemon became frantic in its attempts to escape, but there is no escape from the Emperor's wrath. It's small clawed hands dug into the dirt trying to get free while simultaneously attempting to bite me with its razor sharp teeth. I took my sling and wrapped it around its neck like a garrote and pulled. Its breathing stopped and its clawed hands grabbed at the sling attempting to pull it from my hands, but I just pulled tighter.
"How do you like that lemonade she bitch!" I spat out as I saw the creature's eyes roll into the back of its head. I didn't want it dead though, at least not yet. I needed to take it back to town to be questioned before I it sent screaming back to hell.
Going to Donner I retrieved rope from my saddlebag and secured the creature's feet with just enough length to ensure it could not run, tied its snout so that it could not bite, and finally its clawed hands behind its back. Then with a length of rope I put a noose around its neck to secure the beast to Donner's saddle.
Mounting my steed I turned and dumped water over the creature's head and it began to stir. "On your feet Mrs. Brookehaven, the Emperor's justice awaits you" as I spurred Donner forward to Rousche.