The Rise of the Black Company
The Book of Vulture
The day started like any other, it consisted of sitting around, playing tonk, and shooting the shit. Basterd stood up and left, looks like he’s getting called up to the officers area. After a few minutes he comes down from the captains place, with a solemn look on his face. Basterd gives us the break down, apparently Opal has been conquered, and shit’s going down.
Day 5, Morning
Day started with Basterd barking “get your asses up boys, get ready”. Perfect. Croaker gets woken up, apparently we’re off to escort the wizards to necropolitan hill, at least that’s nice. Sounds like my luck is looking up. Its the usual group, along with Tom Tom, Goblin, Silent, and One-eye. The city was abandoned, filled with the dead.
As we reach the top of the hill, we see the ship from the north in the bay, eerily perched next to the island just off the north shore of beryl. The huge tomb creases my face into a smile. Big tomb equals expensive shit. The door’s blasted open, and scorched. The wizards start talking together all hush hush like.
Croaker tells us to get into position. The wizards take their places around the door. Croaker, impatiently barks for the spooks to get to work opening the door. Answering Croaker’s call, Fitz heads towards the door. Basterd tells us to back him up. Tom Tom is the first in, with Goblin behind him and Silent not far behind Goblin. Tom Tom comes out and says “wasn’t a trick” he sounds funny. Goblin and Silent inside start sneezing. Croaker heads in to see what’s going on, and we all follow behind him and Basterd. The tomb is full of bones, stacks and stacks of ‘em. Doesn’t look like a normal tomb though. No prized possessions, no money, just bones sin gore. All of the bones are clean, with the exception of seven fresh dead soldiers wearing the colors of the urban cohort. Apparently the rumors of the cohort pillaging the hill was true.
Croaker drags one of the bodies out. I walk over to take a look. Its completely mangled, the smell and look cause me to gag. Thanks to my cover, I doubt anyone saw it. The body was ravaged by very precise claw marks.
Something was off, the more I looked I realized that there was no blood. Along with the lack of blood, all of the organs had been removed.
Croaker strikes up a conversation with Tom Tom, apparently he’s seen something like this before back in his childhood. The damage seems deliberate and calculated. This probably wasn’t some random wild animal. Tom Tom admits to the beast being a were-leopard. A beast from the far south. N’gamo, Tom Tom’s and One-Eye’s old master, couldn’t even handle a young male, and this one appears to be an old female. Tom Tom seems pretty rattled up. I see Mumbles start precisely removing hand bones. Not wanting to be out done, Fitz strolls over and procures himself a whole hand with the quick flick of his ax.
Six heard something down the hill. A howl. Seems like this were-leopard is on the move and feeding. This can’t be good. Croaker and Basterd decide to head back to camp, and report what we’ve found. Fine with me, getting that close to the graves was nice. I took a couple of notes. I’ll be back soon enough.
Day 5, Night
This is where I went out and stole shit.
Basterd comes down from the officers quarters and fills us in. Turns out Mumbles tracked the were-leopard last night, saw it take down a family of six along with some other crazy shit. Not sure what we’re planning yet. I find myself listening more than speaking, but that’s fine with me. If they need some info on the towns people ill work my magic, otherwise I’m just a sword wielding line fighter. I know what I can do, and I’m not about to push my limits. I’m more useful alive than dead..
Turns out Beryl is demanding a new Syndic. And all the political groups are asking the company to specifically stand down from this fight. The only question now is our honor as a company. We always uphold our end of the bargain, we NEVER go back on contracts. However, there are always loopholes. The only loophole we could see being the termination of the contract holder, the Syndic himself.
Night comes along, and a storm ravaged the city.
Lieutenant came and ordered Basterd to get the group together to accompany Lieutenant, Tom Tom, Croaker, and Silent on a mission. We all head out of the bastion and into the city. I finally gain a hold on our position, and realize we’re heading towards the bay. In the middle of the groan Six announces we’re being followed. Suddenly our outfit is ambushed by armed men. They attack from all sides in an attempt to flank us.
I tumble around to the back of one but my slash is ineffective. Scratch quickly dispatches the man I swung at. The Lieutenant runs, and tumbles through a window and into a building. Shortly after a scream is heard and the slump of a body hitting a wooden floor. Tom Tom walks up and places his hand on one of the assailants, who is then sent through the wall several yards behind him after a fiery explosion. The sounds of combat thunders all around me. I see another opening in the combat and roll behind the enemy. The combat ends with the Lieutenant disemboweling the soldier next to me and his surviving comrades giving up.
The man in front of me drops his weapons and throws his hands up. I put my knife to his throat “try anything funny you’re dead”. Basterd puts his sword on the chest of the man I have hostage and says “Give me a reason, because I really want to” before the man can answer Lieutenant answers for him “Do it.”. I part the neck with my blade. Fitz walks over and punches the last survivor in the neck sending him to the ground limp.
I scour over the bodies searching for evidence. I find 23 silver pieces and some papers, all of which point to these men being “blues”. I show Basterd my findings, he reports to Lieutenant. Seems we found two respectable weapons. Basterd takes the longsword and Fitz takes the other.
We finally make it to the docks where we find a group of men waiting for us. They turn out to be friends of Tom Tom and One Eye. We board a small dingy and head out into the bay. We approach the black ship, which grows to an impossible size. The crew of the boat tosses us a rope ladder. Tom Tom leads the way. I don’t like the feel of the air, everyone seems too up tight, too disciplined. The tension could be cut with a knife. Tom Tom, Croaker, and One Eye go down stairs. A few minutes later they reappear, grim looks on their faces.
We head off the ship and back to the bastion. Not much is said. The few who met with the leader of the north keep glancing at each other from time to time. We make the walk without any interruptions.
Everyone goes about their business, playing the regular games of tonk and what not. Suddenly Six busts through the door claiming the Forvalaka is here. After scurrying to brace the door, One-Eye pauses a moment and says to open it now. The door is opened, Tom Tom, Goblin and a few others come into the room. They inform us we must go tell the captain of the Forvalaka’s presence within the bastion. We make it quick. We bust into the captains chambers to find Croaker and Captain there. After much debating we decide we must go after this thing. Although Tom Tom and One Eye seriously disagree, we go on with it. We grab halberds and bows and form ranks. We head up the paper tower. We find the first victim at the base of the stairs. Blood everywhere, and he’s gutted. We push onward up to the next room. Here we find a bloody mess. The walls are covered in blood and body parts are strewn across the floor. I lose my stomach. As I pull up my mask to vomit I reveal the state of my neck, hopefully they didn’t make note of it.
Lieutenant claims he is going to get the rest of the company to trap this thing. A scream is heard from above. We follow it. We climb five stories, and on each one the same scene as before. Blood, guts, and carnage litter each room.
We come to an abrupt stop. It’s here with us. Two things are now present: the Forvalaka, and the almost tangible anticipation of the horror that we face. There is some whispering from the men, I can’t make it out, but it sounds hurried and hysteric, pathetic forms of reaffirmation of the uncertain. Tom Tom signals for us to advance after the short pause. I hear Basterd mumbling to himself, egging the creature on. I smile; Nothing phases that fucker.
We advance out onto a landing, and then up the stairs and into an office room. A howl breaks the silence not from twenty feet away. The crossbowmen fire, and quicker than I can make out, a large black blur pounces over the halberd line.
The ranks scatter as the beast growls. We have it surrounded. The soldiers are swinging at it and a couple hit. One halberd finds purchase in the beast’s thigh, rendering that leg useless. Both my bolts fail to strike true. The beast pounces swiping at the circle of men. Two go down and Basterd caught a claw to the face. Captain steps in and hacks at the beast as an arrow catches it behind the ear. We’ve struck several blows that to any other beast would have been mortal blows, but seem to barely hurt this thing.
Suddenly a gray flame erupts from the group of mages and strikes the beast. The beast screams in pain as it is seared. It breaks combat with the halberdiers and pounces into the casters, shredding Tom Tom. Fitz goes berzerk and charges the beast screaming, and places his halberd square in its back. The beast roars in anguish and knocked One-Eye backwards and Silent over the rail and unto the floor below us.
More swipes, Fitz and Basterd get the worst of it. After a scream the beast leaps over the ledge and takes off out of the building, followed by Captain yelling to the men down below “It’s coming!” Mumbles looks over the mangle body of Tom Tom and answers the question everyone was asking with a slight shake ‘no’ of his head.
We head up stairs to search for the Syndic. We are greeted with the sight of massacred Black Company guards and politicians. The silence is broken with Captain saying “Search for the Syndic”. We find a stone box covered with claw marks. Elmo walks over to the chest and pops it open, revealing a load of treasure and the Syndic cowering. Lieutenant bursts through the door and announces “It never came down, I haven’t seen it.” I turned around to see the chest closed and Match sitting upon it, cleaning his nails with a dagger.
Captain broke the silence again, “Search the tower! Maybe it went up.” We spread out and looked until someone found a blood trail. It went down two floors and out a window, then up the exterior wall of the tower. Our job here is done, time to try and rest. We all head back to our barracks in the bastion.
We sit around conversing, most people keeping to themselves while some honor the dead. Rumor spreads saying we aren’t employed anymore, and that its time to move out of Beryl. Captain made the rumor a truth as he gave the order to load up and get the hell out.
Captain says the leader of the Northeners is at the pier unloading men. Just as we finish packing a platoon of one hundred Northeners led by the legate appear at the gates, “Move out.” the order came from Captain. As we moved out, the Northeners moved in.
About two thirds of the way to the Gate of Dawn, the Captain orders a halt. Suddenly Basterd barks out “five by five ranks! Move out!”. We move through the rubbish gate, and towards the Fork Barracks. As we move through the gate we spot a sleeping guard. Elmo slits his throat. We move into the barracks to find three thousand beds filled with sleeping men. We massacre them. Slit throats for the sleeping and a swift round of stabs for the waking.
Are squad alone is ordered by the Captain to go upstairs and deal with the leaders of the Cohort. We head upstairs and are greeted with a locked door I make quick work of. As we enter the room five of the men begin to stir. I sneak up and remove his head with my Kophesh. The second to stir receives an arrow through the head sent by Six’s bow. Scratch slits another’s throat with his sickle, while Basterd puts his sword clean through the chest of another. The last of the waken is put to rest by Fitz’ shovel-axe. I kill my fair share of the captains before I begin to scour the room for any important belongings.
After the last of the leaders of the Cohort are killed we go back downstairs. No men lost, and five thousand of them killed. The sun finally rises. Message of the day? Don’t fuck with the Black Company, that one was for Mercy.
The Captain orders the final withdrawal, and we head towards the lighthouse on the pillar of anguish. A ship is spotted off shore. Looks like a twenty ton coaster. Turns out it was bringing news to Tom Tom and One-Eye. Only One-Eye was there to talk to them. He didn’t say what about.
The rest of the day passes uneventfully. We camp for the night.
The day brought fog, but not much else. Shortly after nightfall a boat landed on the beach, the legate was here. We began to pack up. Half a dozen boats beached for us to load up. After each boat was filled, it was pushed out to sea and into the fog.
We hear a distant howl coming from the sea. Another boat arrives. This one’s for us. While departing we hear a commotion on the shore, and then the sound of One-Eye being tossed onto a boat. The big ship appears from the fog, from which another howl emanates. We climb up the rope ladder and into the ship. We see a large cage next to the mast of the ship, containing a leopard which then shifts into a woman who paces the cage, testing the bars.
The legate arrives from the decks below. He walks up to each Black Company Soldier and places a brooch on each soldier’s shirt. The legate then steps back and says “Welcome to the service of the lady” punctuated by another roar from the forvalaka.
Many thoughts raced through my head. The most predominant being, who is this “lady”, and how have we stumbled into her service.
I see One-Eye staring down the were-leopard and saying “this isn’t the one Croaker, this isn’t the one we fought”