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The Gloucester Chronicles

1149AD

Maelglyn, the leader of a gang of lowlifes, thieves and murderers, hears news of his brother Alfred. It seems that Alfred had heard about a great treasure trove to be found in a ruined abbey near the Bristol road. So Alfred gathers his gang and goes off to the abbey and has not been seen since.

Maelglyn, when he hears of this, wants to do two things a) find his brother, make sure he's OK and b) if possible get the treasure and put one over Alfred. So he gathers his gang and after 2 days of long and arduous walking with bad cat meat pies they finally reach Berkley Castle. The gang are not used to walking far, being city boys going to the next district is a long way. They are not impressed with the fact that they still have further to walk, but the thought of treasure keeps them going. After a good fight in a local pub, with only one 'accidental' death (well he was asking for it said Tostig), and a small amount of rotten leather being bought (bugger knows why), the gang leave Berkley and head onwards.

Finally they reach their destination, a small village with suspicious farmhands. Still a bit of coin loosens them up and the gang stays the night in the barn. The next day they head straight out for the ruined abbey, where Bill finds a load of tracks going into the catacombs and only two coming out. Tostig ventures his opinion over Bill's tracking prowess, which Bill accepts with good grace (either that or a broken nose).

Inside the darkened catacombs are loads of dead people, the richer ones further on in. The gang ends up in a large room with many unopened caskets. Upon spotting some blood and following it they open one of the caskets up and find not only the original occupant but also an addition, one of Alfred's men. It's at this stage that Wulfear hears some noises from back the way they came - he spots a waking corpse, a skeleton to be exact. Wulfear warns everyone, and as usual Tostig ventures an opinion on Wulfear's mental condition. When Maelglyn sees one of them, he tells Tostig to stop being stupid and get to fighting them. Tostig does start fighting but turns on Maelglyn himself.

As the fight ensures, panic reigns, Wulfear is taken by two of them, whilst Bill and Simon make a break for it. Tostig stops beating up Maelglyn when he realises that there really are skeletons, and Edwin backs up Maelglyn in his bid for freedom. Eventually everyone except for Wulfear gets out, and Maelglyn is so pissed with whoever set up his brother that he doesn't take his anger out on Bill and Simon for leaving him down there. He knows that Alfred got the tip in Bristol and so the gang decides to go down there and sort out whoever did this. Bill is sent off to get the lay of the land, and contact an old friend of Maelglyn's called Harold. Harold is an old boss himself and now runs the Black Hare, his son Neil is in charge of the gang now.

Once Maelglyn has recovered a little the gang head off down to Bristol (not before Edwin has 'words' with a certain leather saleswoman and her cats). At the Black Hare, Harold warns Maelglyn that he should go elsewhere as he's expected there. As they leave a rough looking fellow follows along, Maelglyn quickly hatches a plan to capture him. This is quickly done and with no blood split for once, and the interrogation begins. After a few threats, one rather admirable one from Edwin, the fellow gets to talking, it turns out that he's a Fell. Now the gang have heard of the Fells, they are as black-hearted folk, as any know, they even make Tostig and Edwin look like saints! Worse is to come, they were set up by Bill - he's also a Fell, a spy in their very midst.

Poor Bill, still it just goes to show that you can't work both sides of the fence, not with Maelglyn's gang anyhow. Of course he talks before they do any major work on him, seems he's been spying for a good two years now and he's pissing his pants before Tostig and Simon get to work on him. To make sure they can't be identified the gang strip them both, and find a chain with a small black stone about their necks - now this might be useful so Maelglyn pockets these. Anyhow after those two loose ends are tidied up, and the gang are about to leave the now blood soaked alley, Harold spots them and comes along. He gives Maelglyn some advice, get out of Bristol, it's too damned dangerous, and he means Damned. These Fells are rotten to the core, he's seen bad and he's heard worse. They know things that they shouldn't and do things you wouldn't believe.

They set up Alfred, the first time he was here he met a high up in the Fells, Harold doesn't know his name. That time they talked Alfred went off after the hidden 'treasure', of course after this is came back spitting blood! Still the Fells calmed him down and he told of a blade he found and was willing to deal, however even Alfred's iron guts gave out at having anything more to do with the Fells and he decided to skip town. He hasn't been heard of since and Harold says he must be dead.

Now Maelglyn is pissed as Hell on hearing about what these Fells did to both Alfred and himself, so he swears to get them. Harold says that he'll help but now's not the time. So the gang quit Bristol and head back on home to Gloucester.

Once Maelglyn is back he goes and delivers the bad news to Alfred's wife. She hears what he has to say and then offers up Alfred's savings, some 300d, to get the remains of the gang and get some new guys involved, and make sure that the Fells pay for what they've done. Finally she also gives him a sword that Alfred thought was special.

Winter 1150AD

Things aren't going so great for the gang now, the Fells have been fighting back something terrible. It'd be alright but it seems that any counter-attack Maelgwyn tries fails. It's as though someone is telling them everything he's planning before it happens. Even tried and trusted tactics like changing safehouses and having Tostig beat suspected snitches to death just aren't working. So when Maelgwyn and his inner circle meet in a backroom at the 'Boiled Dog' the situation is grim. The gang only controls a third of the city now and there are well-armed men with Bristol accents all over town. The lads are discussing matters when Tostig hears a strange hissing noise coming from in the fire. Everyone shuts up to listen and it turns out there's a voice coming from the fire. Then the candles start to flicker and a mansize shadow comes out of the flames. It's pretty obvious to everyone that this is something sent by the Fells and the creature says it has a message for Maelgwyn. Maelgwyn wisely decides he doesn't want to talk to any shadows and tells everyone to get out sharpish. But when Tostig tries to open the door the doorknob turns so cold it burns the skin off his hand. The shadow then tries again to tell Maelgwyn the message but Tostig kicks the door down and the gang scarper into the main room of the tavern. Edwin sensing another set-up has a quick look round the room and sure enough, there are four strangers, with armour showing underneath their clothes and weapons under the table. Maelgwyn decides maybe he'd better find out what the message is after all and so he volunteers Tolwyn to go in and find out. Tolwyn isn't too happy about this but he figures talking to a shadow will probably hurt less than refusing Maelgwyn so in he goes. The message is simple, "Join us or die. You have until tomorrow night to decide." Just to emphasise the point as the gang are making a hasty retreat up the stairs they're surrounded by the strange men and more on the first floor. A loaded crossbow ensures that there are no heroics and the Fells hammer home the point that they can get the gang whenever they want. Fortunately they seem keen to give Maelgwyn time to decide and they leave.

Obviously the Boiled Dog's no good for meets anymore so the lads go to an empty warehouse Edwin knows down in the docks to discuss what's to be done. Maelgwyn figures that with all these shadow men and talking fires he needs some help from someone who knows about supernatural stuff so he tells Gregory and Edmund to go and find Theo at the Briavel village. There's talk of plague in Blackney where they met before. As an afterthought he sends John the arsonist to go and burn down the Boiled Dog. Even if the landlord, old Mick, wasn't the one who ratted them out, the ale in there was shit anyway so it's no loss. Edwin goes off to speak to some guys he knows in the watch to tip them off about all these armed men from Bristol who are appearing all over the city. If he can persuade the watch that there's some plot against the Earl they might start to take action.

Now although it's still very late at night Gregory is a convincing fellow when he needs to be and he persuades a bargeman to take him and Edmund down the river. They come across a new-looking wooden jetty half an hour upstream of Blackney and decide to get off there and head straight for Briavel. There's a muddy track leading up the hill which they follow and after nearly falling into some small pool in the dark manage to find the settlement. There's a bit of trouble with an arsey Welsh sentry who's manning the walls but eventually get in. Aside from a real stunner of a serving wench there's nothing much to report about the place though. Gregory and Edmund meet up with Theo and tell him the score, though as usual Edmund spills his guts and says more than he should. Theo agrees to come back with them, along with his man, Martin, and so they head back into Gloucester, travelling back on the same barge. Gregory having previously made sure that its owner was only too happy to wait for them.

It's a little after midday when they get back to the warehouse where Maelgwyn and the rest of the gang are waiting. Theo has a quick look around and then decides to go down to the basement. A few hours later he comes back up saying that there was an imp on Maelgwyn's shoulder which he'd killed. No one saw a thing but that's wizards for you. Theo says the imp had been there for months passing everything Maelgwyn said and heard on to the Fells. Figuring that the Fells would know about the warehouse Edwin slopes off to go and arrange for the watch to arrest any Fells coming to storm the place after Maelgwyn's deadline expires. The rest of the lads head off to a new location by the docks. When Edwin gets back he tells us that the guard have caught the four men from the Boiled Dog and they're going to hang tomorrow. With that good news Theo and Martin leave. Theo says he'll be back in the New Year. No one really knows whether he really killed an imp or not but whatever he did, it worked. Within a few weeks Maelgwyn's got things running smooth and easy again and the Fells are on the retreat. Seems the Earl's heard about this "plot" from Bristol and there's been a bit of a crackdown.

Spring 1151AD

In comes another year and Theo's back as promised. It seems all's not well with the wizards though, they've got a problem they want some help with. Theo's got this picture of a bloke who's been causing them a lot of grief. He's one of these senior Fells or something. Now the gang's not a charity so Maelgwyn drives a hard bargain as they discuss what's to be done next. Eventually they agree on an expedition to this place near Snig's End. The one that was marked with an 'X' on the map the gang found got from the body of the boss Fell last year. The gang's going to get the lion's share of any loot that's buried there and after Maelgwyn reassures 'em that it's not as half as far the jaunt out to the crypt with all them bloody walking dead, the lads are happy to go. All except Edwin that is. He's got some weird thing about trees which no one can quite figure out but no one takes the piss 'cause no one wants to have to spend the rest of their lives wondering if their next drink or meal is going to kill 'em.

So off the gang goes to these woods and get there without any problems or unfortunate bar room fatalities. They start digging around, but what they find ain't treasure, it's sick stuff like a dead baby with a black stone stuck where its heart used to be and a pair of eyes in a box. Then Cuthryn's dog hears some noise off in the woods, sounds like someone's coming so everyone dives into the woods surrounding the clearing where they've been digging. It's a right mixed bunch who turn up and no mistake, a hunchback, two noblewomen, a knight, a woodsman and two peasants. One of the women pulls out a live baby and Maelgwyn decides to attack before they call up anything nasty. He fires his crossbow but some devil magic sends the bolt into Tolwyn's leg. Luckily for Tolwyn it's not too bad and he's still able to charge into the fight. Simon has a bit more luck with his bow and he hits the knight but he's wearing heavy armour and the arrow doesn't stick in. Now though the lads are piling in and Tolwyn gets in a hearty blow on the knight. The bitch with the baby gets chopped, despite trying to parry Cuthryn's blow with the kid. Then Tostig arrives with another of his fearsome tackles and takes the knight clean off his feet and face down into the dirt. Simon gets the hunchback with a well-aimed arrow and Tolwyn moves in to deal with the woodsman as Gregory and Cuthryn sort out the others. There's no sign of Edmund, he's probably still hiding in the bushes shitting himself.

Still it's all going pretty well, though the surviving woman is shouting something weird in Latin which can't be good news. Things then start going downhill as the woodsman beheads Tolwyn with a single sweep of his sword. It's pretty clear he's no ordinary woodsman and there's a nasty green tint to his sword. He goes to stick Tostig who's beating the shit out of the knight on the ground but Tostig sees him coming and rolls the knight over on top of him so the woodsman chops his own mate. The guy is well pissed off now and brings up his sword to do Tostig good and proper but the big man gets a hold of the woodsman's leg and pulls the bastard off balance. Just then to everyone's surprise, Theo, the mild-mannered wizard, comes screaming in and runs the woodsman through. The rest of 'em are easy work after that, except for the woman who's disappeared off into the woods. They go after her but can't find her, save poor Martin, but something horrible happens to him and there's naught but a pile of old bones left when the gang get to him. Seems she somehow struck Theo blind as well, his eyes are all milky white.

Meanwhile back in the clearing it turns out the fighting's not over after all. Tostig and Edmund, who turned up as soon as the fight stopped and the looting started, have had something of a falling out. Unsurprisingly this goes very badly for Edmund. Tostig who's got an nasty look in his eye, even by his standards, is about to stamp on Edmund's throat when Maelgwyn tells him to stop. Luckily for Edmund, Tostig'll still listen to Maelgwyn. Edmund's in a bad way mind, there are precious few people who can handle a fistfight with Tostig, and Edmund's sure as hell not one of them. After picking over the bodies, the loot situation's looking much more promising, there's even a horse, which should fetch a decent amount. So off the gang go, heading back to Gloucester.

The noblewoman witch obviously didn't hang around after legging it and there's a big and well-armed search party led by this witch and some nobleman, with hounds and everything. Its not too long before they pick up the gang's scent and it soon becomes clear the gang aren't going to be able to make it back to Gloucester on foot. Theo starts talking to the animals (well he is a wizard) but doesn't seem to get anywhere so he says something else in Latin and suddenly Cuthryn can see in the dark. Cuthryn leads everyone down in a procession to the river. It's too wide to ford so Maelgwyn sends Cuthryn ahead to Ashleworth where he smooth talks a boatman into coming and picking them up. The barge can't go too close to the bank without running aground so people have to swim a short ways out to it, holding onto a rope and haul 'emselves aboard. Two of the party clearly aren't going to manage this though. The horse is a big loss, Edmund less so. He's still messed up from the beating he took from Tostig so Maelgwyn has Simon cut his throat so he can't rat the gang out. Happily the lads make it back to Gloucester without further incident and set about spending some of their hard-earned loot.

1152 AD

So now it's 1152 and all's goin' great for the gang. Maelgyn controls most if not all of Gloucester, the Watch turn a blind eye to all his dealings and he's even got spies inside the Earl's castle. But the boss man himself ain't happy, seems he can't sleep very well, he keeps on having these strange nightmares. The eerie green-tinged sword he picked up off that diabolic woodsman a while back seems to provide him with a bit of comfort though so it can't be that bad can it? Anyway, it turns out that ain't the only fly in his pintpot at present. Word is that there are two assassins from Bristol who've come to Gloucester to off him. Any doubts about their presence are removed when Jake the Blade, who ran the gang's operations in the Eastern quarter of the city, is found disemboweled, with his throat cut for good measure. Unsurprisingly, Maelgyn's now a little nervy about security and so he always makes sure he's got Tostig and at least one of his other trusted heavies with him. A couple of night after Jake met his untimely end, Maelgyn, Tostig and Cuthryn are walking back from a meeting in the far side of town, when they spot an archer above on the rooftops. The lads don't wait to find out if he's after them or not, they turn and leg it. The assassin almost gets a bead on Maelgyn, but Tostig manages to drag him out of the way and the arrow glances harmlessly off the cobbles. They split down an alley, losing touch with Cuthryn as they do, and race through the dark side streets, anxious to get back to a safehouse. Seems this killer's no slouch though and as they round a corner he drops down onto the road ahead of them, drawing two evil lookin' blades as he does so. Maelgyn knows this just ain't the time for heroics and about turns and heads back the way they've come, Tostig's a little less reluctant to pass up on a fight but he listens to the boss's instruction to follow him. Anyway the sudden appearance of the assassin is just the spur they need and they speed across town as though the devil 'imself were after them, which ain't that far from the truth, and our boys make it to the Dancing Bear, knackered but unscathed.

After that fright, Edwin pops out to try and dig out some dirt about these assassins. Talking to a few of his contacts, he finds Tom, a 12 year old lad who's been bragging about how there's going to be a change of leadership in the gang. Edwin gets a couple of the gang to ask young Tom to come over for an informal chat and naturally he's only too happy to co-operate, given what'll happen if he doesn't. As well as confirmin' that there are two assassins in town who've come to take out Maelgwyn, it turns out that there's another bloke from Bristol here, who's been asking about how the Fells are getting on in Gloucester. A queer looking guy by all accounts, with a glassy stare and a strange air about him, he's got to be one of 'em himself. The description sounds somehow familiar, but Maelgwyn can't quite put his finger on why. This man got Tom to check out what was going on and report back to him, via some rope salesman called Simon, who Tostig recognizes as having a stall near the market tavern. After declining Tostig's kind offer to go and beat Simon to a bloody pulp, Maelgwyn sorts out a plan to get hold of this Simon and get an insight into what the Fells are up to. First off, after disposing of the luckless Tom, he has his mate Martin brought in and interrogated as well. Edwin tries out his new trick of cutting off a kneecap and Martin squeals like a stuck pig. There's not much more to add though, save that this bloke from Bristol is called Frederick.

So Maelwgyn sets his plan in motion, though his nightmares are getting' worse and he's barely getting' any sleep at all. Still that strange sword seems to take the edge off it all. Word is, that when he's in town for the market, Simon stays at the Red Lion inn, a fairly respectable merchant-type place. The stable lad there has helped out in the past and he's happy to tell Maelgwyn what's goin' on inside, which room is Simon's, what his habits are and the like. The plan is for Tostig and another heavy to hide in Simon's room, grab him when he comes in, subdue him and then chuck him out the window on onto a cart where Cuthryn's waitin'. It's all set up nice, but goes a bit amiss. Tostig does the grabbin' and droppin' out the window bits just fine, but he gets a bit carried away with the subduing bit and it's all Cuthryn can do to keep the guy alive. His face is shattered and there's blood everywhere. Cuthryn works wonders in gettin' the guy stabilized enough and movin'. There's a bit of discussion between Tostig and Cuthryn as to whose fault it is, Tostig being Tostig, ain't takin' the blame though and no one's especially keen to push the point. Anyway Maelgwyn's not best chuffed to find out that his first potential informant may never speak again, even if he makes it through the night.

In the midst of all this, Theo turns up with some well tasty bird called Diana, who it seems is another one of these wizards. After all that's gone on lately, Maelgwyn's pretty cautious so he just speaks to Theo alone at first. Theo claims that the green-tinged sword is really bad news for Maelgwyn. He says that to his "sight of the otherworld" it looks like it's made of black, cold flame. Now Maelgwyn's not daft, he knows there's something fishy about it, but all the same, it's got a powerful hold on him and he makes Theo swear, on pain of death, that he won't try and nick it if he brings it out. Theo agrees and Maelgwyn fetches it. Theo stares at it in that funny way of his, then looks carefully at Maelgwyn and finally in the corners of the room. After all this, he looks a bit worried and tells Maelgwyn that he's got shadows over his eyes, otherworld type shadows that is, not real ones. This apparently means that the sword has twisted his perceptions somehow. It seems a bit weird to the rest of the lads in the room, but Maelgwyn thinks he tellin' the truth so he dismisses Theo and calls in Diana who Theo says is an expert on these things, even though she's a woman.

Diana studies the blade and says it's a binding piece for a demon and a danger to whoever wields it. She has it covered up sharpish an' all, in case anything bad's usin' it to listen in to what's being said. Then she asks if Maelgwyn can give up the blade and explains that just throwin' the damn thing away won't do no good anymore. This demon's seen him now and while she can't destroy it 'erself, she knows some older wizards who can. These here wizards won't come down to the city to help out though, she'll have to take the sword to them. Although he understands her warning, Maelgwyn's loathe to just give it away, after all they had to fight damn hard to get the bloody thing, just ask poor Tolwyn. After a bit of haggling, Diana agrees that in return for the sword, she and Theo will help Maelgwyn find where these two assassins are hidin' out. She'll also get the information that Maelgwyn wants out of Simon. Whatever magic or otherwise she does, it must be effective, as after an hour alone with Simon, she comes out and tells the gang a whole lot of useful stuff which he knew.

The "rope merchant" is a fairly senior member of the Fells and has a lot of contacts in Berkeley, Stone and Chepstow, including this Frederick bloke, who's a "disciple" in Bristol, which is real senior apparently. She even conjures a picture of Frederick's face right out of thin air so the boys can see what the bastard looks like. The reason for all this aggro of late is that the Fells are worried about the loss of their spies in Gloucester and how well Maelgwyn's been doin'. Some of the shit also relates back to Maelgwyn's dead brother Alfred and that treasure he was lookin' for. The Fells are lookin' for more artifacts and they reckon there are some more of 'em in Gloucester somewhere, which is probably why they're getting' so het up about all their spies getting' chopped. Now Maelgyn's an honourable man when all's said and done, so after Diana promises to go off and find out where these assassins are hidin' he gives her the sword.

Three days later, Diana appears again and says she's found three Fell safehouses, one of which, situated in a quiet part of the Northern quarter, has some sort of otherworld shadow about it so chances are that's where these killers are. If they're as corrupt as she thinks they are, just the merest touch of sunlight will burn 'em so they'll be inside during the day. This is too good an opportunity for the boss man to pass up and he's got a plan straight away. First off, he has a word with the Watch, who know their place now and agree to keep away from the area around the house and even give him a few uniforms so's some of the lads can pretend to be members of the Watch themselves.

The plan is simple, burn the house down to the ground and kill anyone who comes out. So Maelgwyn gets a big crowd of his boys together and sets them in place to cut off all possible escape routes. When they're ready, John the arsonist pours oil under the front door and then a couple of good lads help him through the window. Inside, quiet as a mouse, he sneaks round soakin' the walls and furnishings with oil until it's good and ready to go up like a bonfire. Sure enough, when he chucks in a torch it goes up a treat. So everyone pulls back to a safe distance and waits. Although the house burns real good, there's no sign of anyone comin' out and a crowd is startin' to gather nearby to see what's goin' on. Tostig who's keepin' 'em back isn't being very convincing as a watchman, his criminal brand can't be helpin' mind, nor can the fact he's rapidly losin' his rag and has already smashed one guy's face in. Just then, when it seems impossible that anyone could still make it out alive, a figure wrapped in a big black cloak comes runnin' out the front door. Simon, the gang's resident marksman, puts an arrow in him before he's even got out the front yard, but it looks like the bloke is wearing chainmail and he keeps on goin'. Edwin jumps down off the roof where he's been watchin' the proceedings and surprises the man in black. There's a bit of a scuffle, but Edwin knows what he's doin' in a knife fight and manages to slash the assassin's neck with a poisoned blade. Diana's words about these guys being something unnatural are starting to ring true now and despite this the assassin is still goin' strong and the bastard easily runs through Harry, one of the lads who tries to stop him. He's reckoned without Simon though. While he's been fighting Edwin and poor Harry, Simon's got himself in position for another shot. He don't miss neither and armoured or not, this shot brings the assassin to his knees. A third drops him face down in the dirt and he ain't even twitchin' after the fourth.

At about this time, the second assassin makes a break for it along the rooftops. Simon spots 'im and has a pop, but he's a ways off and is movin' quickly. Even so it's close enough to give him a fright and force him down off the roof and onto the street. By chance he lands near where Maelgwyn and some of the other lads are waitin'. Maelgwyn shoots at him with his crossbow but this guy's too quick and crafty and the bolt flies wide. He makes as if to leg it, but then recognizes who it is who's shot at him and he draws two evil lookin' swords and comes a chargin' down the street towards Maelgwyn. Luckily for Maeglwyn, Lucky Dave steps in front of his boss to protect him. Whether the Fell is surprised by this show of loyalty or Dave just gets lucky again is impossible to tell, but in any event Dave catches the assassin by surprise and takes off a large bit of his scalp with his shortsword. The blow clearly shakes up the assassin and his counterattack goes well wide, so wide that he slips and stumbles. It just keeps on gettin' worse for him as well. He's gettin' to his feet to murder the man between him and his target, when Tostig arrives like a charging bull and hits the assassin with one of his infamous tackles. Before he can react, Tostig's got him in a headlock and twists his head right round so it's facing behind him, with a surprised look on his face. Job done.

With the would-be killers dead, Maelgwyn gives the signal and the gang slip off back into the shadows leavin' the locals and the Watch to clear things up. The boss is feelin' much better about life now. The bad dreams have stopped and the Fell assassins ain't gonna be assassinatin' anyone no more, so he throws an almighty piss-up at the 'Sly Fox' inn to celebrate. There's bound to be trouble when some of the lads drink too much, but why should Maelgwyn worry about that? The Earl might have his castle and his title, but Maelgwyn knows who really runs Gloucester now.
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