The Nisab Diary
Episode Six – 7th Sea
More days and nights have been spent in the dark woods of the Schwarzen Walder. Save for Reikion, who seems to be in his element, the two other try to make the most of the journey as they navigate the rougher woods and uneven terrain. They have reached the deepest parts of the forest. Moonlight barely shines through. If anything, they know they are at least halfway through the darkest part of the woods.
Reikion finds himself enjoying the isolation and cold and absence of man. He has gotten so inspired, he's been catching game to eat. Jan Volta, however, is getting concerned since oil levels are going low and the distance from civilized lands bothers him. When Walden Reichartfinds a second dead body, one underneath a fallen tree, he notes how it is again a religious figure – a woman dressed in a nun's habit, clearly of the Vaticine Church. She is missing the upper half of her head, however, with a clean cut across the head – leaving only the lower jaw and the rest of the neck.
Ahead of them, Reikion can see a barn not that distant from the rest. Embracing Matushka's blessing, he transforms into a raven and flies off to check it out. Walden shows Jan the dead body and they note the clean cut, realizing it seems to have been done by two opposing blades – a massive pair of shears. Reikion flies to the bard and sees the farmland has a wooden fence surrounding it. The place looks to be in a general state of disarray. A smaller barn house stands not too far away. The house shows smoke rising from the chimney, with make-shift shutters on the windows. Reikion notes all the crops, corn from the looks of it, are in a terrible state. Perhaps due to drought or the ground lacks fertility. Reikion lands on the roof of the house, and peering through the cracks and breaks on the shingles, he can see an older woman deeply focused on her prayer by the fireplace. Two younger children, around five to six years of age, silently kneel in prayer, though occasionally nagging each other quietly. Reikion does not find any sign of the father in the household, however. He notices the faint glow in the small barn, and so he flies there to check. Landing on the side window, he sees the older man holding a lamp in one hand while he keeps the cow calm. The eldest daughter is attempting to milk the cow and complains that nothing is happening even if they have been trying for the last few days. Reikion looks up and realizes as thick as the woods have gotten, this farmland must have been chosen to take advantage of the clearing above, allowing moonlight and likely at day – sunlight – through. He decides to fly back to the others.
Jan studies the dead body, hoping to understand how she came to be under the fallen tree. Walden is watching the surroundings, searching for any foot prints and the like. Reikion sees a shiny thing in the woods in the distance as he flies back. Descending to check, he notices the slightest of moonlight reflecting against a metallic surface in the shadow of a tree. Jan realizes the body died from the partial decapitation, so it wasn't a post-mortem cut. Her feet are adorned with shoes that are not practical to wear in the woods. She does not look like someone who would have been traveling through the forest. Walden notices something shimmering in the branches above and he whispers to Jan he doesn't think they are alone right now. Reikion lands by the tree's shadow and tries to get a closer look of the shiny thing. He uncovers it is a belt buckle, with foreign craftsmanship, laid on a clump of dead leaves and mud. He notes the buckle is adorned with the depiction of the rising of the Prophet. Reikion looks up the tree, wondering if it came from someone up the tree. Maybe it fell from the branches. He sees the shimmering thing on the branches – the same thing which Walden had seen – and Reikion realizes from his vantage point it is an ornate throwing dagger. Jan studies the corpse's clothes and realizes she probably came from Montaigne. Walden sees a raven looking up the dagger, and realizes it is Reikion. Just before it could fly up to check the dagger, however, instincts kick in and Reikion dodges to the side. Another dagger hits the nearest tree trunk! The buckle, it turns out, was not just on leaves and mud. A hidden figure owns the belt, and had covered itself in mud and leaves. Reikion squaks a warning to the others. Jan and Walden drop the body and hurry to where the raven is.
There, they discover a woman caked in mud and leaves. The woman, clearly from Montaigne as well, is lacking her right arm and her legs. She is barely conscious. "So much for killing you, but I guess I shouldn't have tried." She laments about dying in what she calls Eisen to be a god-forsaken country. She mutters that prayer does work when Reikion resumes a human form in front of her. Jan and Walden arrive, and as they examine her wounds, she tells them about the terrible events her group had befallen. When Jan informs her he is a doctor and can help, all the more she muses about prayer working. But as Jan tells her he can treat her, his dievas appears beside her smiling. Jan realizes the woman is Montaigne, and he still has a standing promise to insult the first Montaigne he sees. The woman explains she had her companions must have made a "bad walk" somewhere and fell out of the Walk. And that "it" came out of nowhere. Jan tries to suppress her bleeding but when he tries to insult her but muttering this is the stupidest thing he has ever heard or seen anyone do, the woman accepts the statement as truth rather than an insult. The dievas warns Jan that if he fails to insult her before they meet another Montaigne, he fails to fulfill the promise. They wash clean her wounds, clean her up a bit to help her feel better. She mumbles, hallucinating that a dog is licking her face. "Good dog…"
Walden wonders if this even connects to the Montaigne crates they had seen in the greenhouse in Starke. The possible picture of all of these being connected bothers him. The group begins to wonder if she's related to the other religious dead people they had seen in the earlier days. The Walk, however, makes them wonder if it has anything related to the Porte Sorcier they met and the supposed blessures in the area.
But lo, to their horror, the Schattenmann appears! The nightmarish figure turns out to be real and with his massively long limbs, it begins to close in on the group with its gleaming shears. The group realizes they have to act quickly! While Reikion uses his dueling skills to give him an edge, Jan Volta tries to fulfill his promise to the dievas while trying to help her as well. Walden learns that the farm house somehow has never been visited by the Schattenmann and after asking them for help, wonders if the group can run there to find sanctuary from the horror.
Jan resorts to doing something unthinkable. Using a favor he has with the dievas, he strips the Montaigne woman of any memories of the horror she has gone through, then tells her of how she has brought failure to the people she was tasked to protect. The woman undergoes the terrible anguish of once more feeling her inadequacy in watching over her charges, and worse, re-experiences the painful trauma of losing her limbs once more. The act touches Jan with a hint of Corruption and the dievas smiles.
Their combined efforts thankfully begin to weaken the Schattenmann, and with the use of vines, ice weapons and well timed shots, the three successfully defeat the horror! Jan glimpses a long forgotten lore about the thing, through the dievas' help, and discovers the Schattenmann is a cursed state gained when someone touches the silver shears. For this, he agrees to say yes to the first "offer" he is given within the next 24-hours. He quickly buries them under some earth and leaves and tells the rest that they should head back. When they get to the Montaigne woman, whom they had left on the grass while they fought the horror, they discover she had passed on. The guilt gnaws on Jan Volta, who promises to not consort or use the powers the dievas has given to him as a penance for his actions.
The group arrives at the farm house and learn the family has reservations of allowing one of the Waizen into their homes. Reikion opts to rest in the forest, not feeling welcome given the family's strong focus on their faith in the Prophets. Walden opts to camp somewhere else as where, nearly hitting the shears in his walk. And Jan finds himself quickly falling asleep, He does not see the eldest daughter, Tomasin, sneaking into the room and staring at him.
One can only wonder what she has to ask from him by the time he awakens.
The next morning, Jan awakens to find himself alone at the breakfast table, where he is given bread and butter and water to enjoy. Reikion soon arrives, and thankfully is still welcomed to join for breakfast. Walden, however, still feels unwelcome given the view most Eisen have for one of the Waizen. But when the older son goes missing, the family begin to worry what may have happened. The heroes are tasked to see if they can help with the farm animals, as well as if they can find the missing boy.
In the barn, Reikion inspects the animals and finds a black goat locked up in a cage. The family sees the goat as an ill omen and does to allow it to roam free. When he inspects the cow, he discovers it is unable to create milk given the terrible nutrition is has. He recommends they allow the cow to graze outside the fenced area. Reikion searches the woods as well for the missing boy and finds another farm house further in the woods. The group commences trying to find more signs of the boy.
In the woods, a bear is found sleeping. There are signs of it having attacked a boy. Worse, they find the boy's shoe there. When the eldest daughter learns of this she asks them to find the boy. Also in the woods, they find Olaf, the brother of the siblings from tower. He confesses to them that he had come upon the boy, found him near death, and unfortunately he had transformed him though it was not an intentional act.
They find the boy in the other farm house, and he has sadly transformed into a vampire. With Jan and Walden killing him, as his hunger has gone out of control, they soon find the mayor with other men outside the farm house demanding for answers. The family learns of what has happened to their son and the group seeks the monster than cursed the boy to punish them.
The group confronts the crowd, and thankfully, convinces them to leave them to deal with Olaf for the transgressions. They exile Olaf for his actions, hoping to at least spare him for having unintentionally caused the problem. They inform his sister of the events and convince her to abandon the tower for her own safety. She agrees to leave only after her people choose to leave with her, and burn the tower and the homes to settle the matter with the mayor.
In the end, the group feels they have won a hollow victory. Olaf is forced to leave. And his sister finds herself consumed with the anger and hatred of having lost the only one who mattered to her in her family. The heroes do not realize that she has been set upon a path leading towards becoming a Villain. Walden destroys the flayed man, thinking it would be best they were not influenced by the terrible thing anymore, but fails to realize with his death, the sister's appetite for blood might now grow unchecked.
The mayor then asks the heroes to accompany him, and they make their way to Heilgrund to be guests of the Eisenfursten Stefan Heilgrund for having helped the people.
Thomasin laments the loss of her brother. And one day while grazing her cow outside, she bears witness to an event that scars her psychologically for the years to come. The cow comes upon the shears and is affected by its curse, transforming once more into a new Schattenmann that walks away and vanishes into the woods. She will never speak again.
And Olaf, as he leaves, finds a portal opening. A figure arrives and pulls him away, as he now has a new part to play in the schemes of an unknown mastermind.