Episode Three – 7th Sea
The three arrive at Starke and their welcome at the gate is one that forebodes the danger to come. The city's captain, a man named Kurt, welcomes them after identifying Walden Reichart as a member of Die Kreuzritter. Each of them is questioned on their purpose of being at the gates, and then are given Mother's Mercy, a thin soup created using Hexenwerk to purify themselves before entering the city. Jan Volta and Reikion of the Eventide both are apprehensive at first, but Walden reassures them the soup is safe.
They enter the dark and dismal town to find most of the folk already locked away inside their homes. Kurt tells them they had come a terrible time as a horrific event has befallen the city. The three offer to help out and Kurt admits it would be of great help if they do. They are lead to the government house where the Mayor stays and find lots of worried folk in the area, mingling about. The cold and quiet city, however, seems heavily contrasted by the muted laughter and revelry coming from the nearby taverns and inns where music still plays and drinking continues unabated. The militia present are mostly volunteers, individuals whom have chosen to watch over the city while the Mayor is unavailable. Worse, the Mayor's wife has also gone missing. She supposedly vanished three days after whatever befell the mayor had happened. Reikion is bothered that no one has bothered to look for the wife. Walden admits that might be somewhat normal by Eisen standards. Reikion is bothered given how cold it is out there, and if she has been gone for more than a night… The corridor leading to the office has a line of salt perhaps to ward any evil. Candles glow all about. Prayer books of the Vaticine Church are visible all around. Kurt pushes the door open and hands everyone scarves to use to cover their noses before stepping inside the door, which only creaks open a third of the way.
Led inside, the three are brought to see the nightmarish sight. The mayor lies unmoving upon the table, his body the garden for a strange growing vine. The tendrils of green creep out from inside his mouth, nostrils and ears, and their leafy growth spreads out vibrantly. Reikion admits he has never seen such a plant in the woods before. Walden confesses he is unfamiliar with such a monstrosity himself. "Matushka's care… what is it?" Reikion shakes his head. Kurt admits he was found unconscious and unthinking somewhere else, but they brought him here to recover. Mother's Mercy was fed to him but it does not seem to be enough. The mayor has laid like this for a week, and he was then doing his rounds around the city when it happened.
"Out of the way! Let me pass!"
A woman shoves her way into the office, and scolds Kurt for bringing these strangers into the room. She is dressed with the robes of a Vaticine Nun and Kurt identifies her as his wife. She admits she does not trust them, but does thank them for their willingness to help. She understands her husband only trusts them because he knows Walden is one of them, a member of Die Kreuzritter. Kurt was part of the thirty year war, fighting in it for twenty years. Reikion believes the mother will protect him as he studies the vine and he tries to understand what sort of plant can do this. As Jan and Walden investigate the body, they discover he seems to be still breathing. As Jan leans close to investigate, he discovers something worse, he might still be alive. The sap seems to be capable of numbing a victim to a weakened state. Jan pricks his finger and drips some blood at the vines. But Kurt's wife reaches out to catch the droplet before it reaches the plant. She warns it that feeding something blood might allow it to hunt a person in the future. When Walden tries pricking the Mayor's finger, however, they discover he does not bleed. His skin tears open like dry paper. They learn that there was a recent new structure in the city, a plantation of orchids owned by a Montaigne. They wonder if it is connected. Reikion thinks about how every plant has a seed, humans plant them, but on their own, seeds either travel through air or are spread by their fruits. He does not see any signs of a recent meal, such as a plate or what, but does discover there might be something in his pockets. They learn the wife was the last one to touch him, given she was the one who brought him to the office. Slashing the pocket open, they find a half-eaten fruit, matching the one in his mouth. Kurt's wife wants to inform the Vaticine Church, but Walden insists it would be best not to. They consider meeting the Montaigne owning the plantation, but Kurt's wife insists it would be best to try in the morning as he is still asleep. Reikion pockets one of the fruits, and as he slices it midair, he feels his mouth salivate immediately upon smelling its sweet fragrant aroma. The seed looks like a peeled grape, tiny and round. Kurt sends out people to find more of the plant in the city. Jan wonders if someone would have intentionally brought this plant here. The horrors of the night are far from over, however, as the mayor's mouth begins to open to reveal a plump pentagon-shaped fruit.
The group retires to a nearby tavern to eat and get some rest. But while there, they discover an oddity that almost infects them as well. People are caught in moments of laughter and almost uncontrollable intoxication, cheering for the simplest joys. The place, the Silver Tongue, seems alive with customers. They also feel the desperate urge to eat more and more of the bread being served in the tavern. Jan Volta and Walden Reichart had taken some of the bread and are plunged into fits of laughter and hunger. Reikion finds the daughter of the mayor in the tavern, hugging her knees and worrying over her father. She offers them a place to stay in her father's manor if they desire to. Walden reaches the kitchen as he struggles to investigate the bread's addictive qualities and discovers the same odd fruit has been used to spice the bread!
When they even find the same strange plant growing in a pot in the mayor's home, the daughter does confirm it was a gift from the Montaigne named Henri duPont and the group splits up to investigate. They head out, realizing that the insidious infestation may have been happening far earlier than they realized and that people might be eating the strange fruit without realizing it. Soon, they discover that the plant thing is indeed growing in the greenhouse plantation owned by a Montaigne and worse, a monstrosity is growing within much like a giant tentacled horror! Jan and Walden nearly fall prey to the thing had it not been for Reikion's timely intervention. Kurt begs them to use the silver weapon he had lost within the greenhouse, which Walden realizes is a rare weapon that the Die Kreuzritter have access to: Drachenseisen. Terrifyingly, the thing seems resistant to fire. But they arrive too late. The monstrosity is gone, having broken the ground open to reveal the sewers and has fled the scene. The three can only wonder if the beast had fled north towards Sudsee Lake or towards the south for Barcino. They even cough out some of the tentacles, realizing the thing had infected some of them from what they've eaten. But thankfully, they rid themselves of it and worry only on how many others in the city are currently infected and cannot be cured in time.
They find two bodies inside left behind, dried up and emptied of blood. A woman. And a man. The man's clothes have pockets, The silver weapon is a broken sword blade. Jan picks it up and discovers it feels weightless. There is a faint glow about it that fades away. Walden mumbles how Dracheneisen glows when there are monstrous threats nearby. The monster must have finally moved beyond its range. The crates in the place mark they came from Montaigne. The name of the recipient was Henri duPont. They find a letter addressed to Henri, and it is signed by Gasparo Angelo. The letter speaks of the monster being a gift from her to him, and how they were able to create it thanks to the works of Nisab Guissola, the Die Genetische Gesatze der Natur. The letter speaks of their plans to take control of the world. "It is best you are gone before winter. Enjoy my present. It is for our future."
The letter ends signed.
"Knowledge is power. We shall bring a new order.
Novus Ordo Mundi."
The heroes spend time at the city, helping people shut down the taverns and inns, purge themselves of the fruit and to get rid of the seeds, they realize they cannot burn it. They draw their steel and attack it until they can tear it to shreds.
Reikion flies about, checking if there's any sight of the plant monstrosity. He sends out the ravens to scout around and search for any sign of the thing. He worries if anyone makes the mistake of taking the plants in.
Somewhere, a potted plant is being pruned. The hands gingerly trim the leaves and then close the glass case around the plant. A sign reads, "Starke Experiment" above it. The figure walks to a nearby wall where the whole of Theah can be seen. Red marks are on different places in the continent. The figure places a red pin on Starke and smiles.
"Nisab. Thank you," the figure closes the lights.