Being the first chapter in the Prophet's War Campaign. Featuring:
Cardinal Erika Durkheim pays Major Algernon Edward Wetherby a visit at the Freiburg Explorer's Society chapter house, to thank him for his timely rescue from the roving schattensoldat that still plague Heilgrund, even weeks after Stefan's death. She also invites him to accompany her on a trip to Vaticine City, where she is planning an expedition that she believes he will be a tremendous asset for. The Major agrees.
Just as she is leaving the chapter house, Cardinal Durkheim is beset by a gang of assassins. Her guards are quickly overwhelmed, and Erika herself is shot by one of the assassins. However, a passing Knight of the Rose and Cross, along with his Tyro, intervene and turn the tide of the battle, assisted by a young Montaigne duelist who also chose to defend the Cardinal. After winning the fight, the rescuers determine that the assassins were hired by an anonymous figure highly placed in the new Montaigne government.
The Knight is Sir Gunter Hans von Blaustein, and his Tyro is Maximilian Kopfraum. Apart from his prestige as a Knight of the Rose and Cross, Sir Gunter is also well-known for his founding of a new Swordsman School. The Von Blaustein School is a variant of the Desaix School, which replaces the Desaix off-hand knife with a panzerhand. Young Max is his first apprentice in the style.
The Montaigne duelist is Sebastian de Gaulle, the son of a Montaigne nobleman and an Ussuran noblewoman. He is a master of the Gaulle style, as well as a memorable figure in the Montaigne court, for his gift of Pyeryem is a rare thing indeed among the Montaigne.
Cardinal Michel Durand del Falisci is visiting his brother, the prince Donello Falisci, in order to ask a favor. Michel requests the services of Antonio Donetti, a Lord's Hand of Falisci's. Donetti's loyalty is unquestionable, and he and his Fate Witch wife Merletta possess particular talents which Michel is in need of. Donello graciously grants his brother's request, and Antonio accompanies Michel on his trip to Vaticine City.
Father Pedro de Gustavo is a troubled man. He is haunted by his failure as a Church Guard assigned to the protection of the lost Cardinal Argenteau. His commander, High Captain Thibaud, summons Pedro into his office, and instructs him to attend the Hieros Council meeting which is scheduled for the following day, and to be prepared to leave immediately afterward on a mission for the Council. This mission is intended as a form of atonement for Pedro, as it concerns the missing Montaigne bishops.
At the Hieros Council the next day, Cardinal Erika presents proof of Cardinal Argenteau's death- his signet ring. The ring is examined by the other Cardinals, and they verify its authenticity. She explains that the ring came into her possession two months ago, through mysterious means. She also received information regarding the location of the missing Montaigne Bishops from the same mysterious source. She spent some time investigating the authenticity of the information, and getting some Church agents in place to investigate the nature of the bishops' imprisonment.
The bishops are being held in a fortress which lies within the monster-haunted forests on the eastern border of Montaigne, near the city of Prevove. This fortress has some sort of Syrneth artifact which attracts these monsters, but which also forbids them from coming too close to the fortress itself. This effectively gives the fortress a living moat of deadly creatures. The fortress is supplied by caravans which carry a related artifact, which has the ability to repel the monsters from a small area around it. The assembled heroes are assigned the quest of rescuing the imprisoned bishops, and are instructed to obtain passage to Paix, to meet with the Church agent Remy Prevaix, to travel to Prevove and attempt to obtain the safe-passage artifact from the caravan.
When they meet Prevaix, he informs them that Paix is not a safe place, and that he believes he is under surveillance by agents of the newly-formed Committee of National Welfare. He suggests that they leave the city at once, and take him with them.
On their way back to their lodgings, Antonio notices that the party is being trailed. He nips back to deal with the agent, and rapidly dispatches him in an alley. He rifles the body and discovers papers which identify the agent as an authorized agent of the Committee. So yes, Paix is a dangerous place to be.
Agent Remy recommends that the party hurry to Prevove at all speed, since the Committee almost certainly suspects what the party is up to now. The heroes leave the city that day, and travel towards Prevove with all haste.
The following day, the heroes notice that they are being overtaken by another group on the road. The Major, Father Pedro, and Pedro's Guardsmen mount an ambush on their pursuers, defeat them, and steal their mounts to catch up with the rest of the party, which kept riding on. This gives the heroes a sufficient lead to arrive in Prevove before any other pursuit could possibly precede them.
In Prevove, they locate the caravan. They devise a plan to fool the caravan guards by using the documents that Antonio looted from the agent's body in Paix. Merletta forges the documents to match Sir Gunter's description, and he fast-talks the guards into believing that there are spies who are attempting to sabotage the caravan, and that the caravan should leave immediately and be on its guard. Sometimes the truth really is the best policy, after all!
Father Pedro determines that the teamsters who form the bulk of the caravan crew are devout Vaticines, like the majority of the Montaigne peasantry. He quietly talks with the crew boss, tells them of the heroes' mission, and persuades the teamsters to assist. So that night, the heroes take over the caravan from the Committee-loyal officers quite bloodlessly, with the backing of the teamsters.
The officer who understands the operation of the artifact makes a spirited attempt to run off with it, but is tackled and brought back. He is also persuaded to keep the artifact operational, since if the artifact gets deactivated, he will get eaten along with everybody else, won't he?
The caravan reaches the fortress without further incident, right up to the point when the safe-conduct artifact vanishes from Sir Gunter's hands, with the distinct ripping sound of Porte. Apparently, something tipped off the fortress crew, and they have arranged special treatment for one of their prisoners if he maintains a blooding on the artifact, and retreives it on demand.
The heroes are disarmed and led into the fortress. The fortress commander decides to liven up his otherwise dreary duty, and tells the heroes that they get to watch each other die, one by one, by being torn apart by the guardian monsters. He has the heroes go up, under guard, onto the battlements of the fortress, and lowers a rope down. He asks them who wants to die first. Sir Gunter bravely decides to go first, but talks the commander into letting him keep his weapons. The commander lets him put his panzerhand back on, and tosses a rapier down to the ground outside, and tells him to go get it.
At this point, Antonio, who carries any number of concealed knives in addition to his more obvious weapons, sidles over to Gunter, expecting the fun to start at any moment.
Gunter knocks his captor over the battlements with a mighty swing of his panzerfist, while Antonio dispatches his guard with a concealed knife, and liberates him of his sword as the guard joins his fellow over the wall.
At this point, the Major demonstrates a stunningly effective technique of sending armed men over walls. The fight rapidly becomes a free-for-all as guardsmen are liberated of their weapons and sent over the side.
Finally, with the battle won, the heroes claim control of the fortress, and liberate the prisoners, including the ten missing Montaigne bishops.