The Enemy Within

A Rude Awakening

Backertag, 14th of Brauzeit, 2496 IC

Schweiner is awoken from a troubled sleep. The tent is dark and cold, with only a hint of moonlight visible through the stitching of the heavy canvas overhead. He shivers despite the heavy woollen blankets, as if some half remembered nightmare gnaws at his consciousness with an ungraspable sense of unease.
The Von Schirach trumpets had signalled a withdrawal due to the failing light while Schweiner was still inspecting the Baron’s wounds. Realising how greavious the damage caused by the crossbow bolt was, the halfling had known that the Baron needed to be operated on immediately. Berthold, Aletta and Lev had helped him fashion a makeshift stretcher out of discarded spear hafts and the tattered battle standard which they then lashed between two horses. The four of them had hastily taken the dying man back to the camp where Schweiner, with Magda assisting, had performed the life saving surgery. It had been a difficult procedure to remove the bolt. The Baron’s eye was lost, but the bleeding had stopped and the man was alive, for now at least. Schweiner was amazed that someone could survive such trauma. Lesser men would surely have perished. As tired and sore from the day’s events as he had been, the halfling had still insisted on tending to Aletta’s and Berthold’s wounds too. It had been a bloody evening for sure. Albrecht and Caibre had fought on at the Captain’s side, finally driving the enemy away from the hilltop. The young man had returned to camp in an exhausted state, while the elf had volunteered himself for picket duty.
The halfling lays motionless in the dark for a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the gloom whilst trying to figure out what has awoken him. The tent is silent and still, except for Albrecht’s soft snoring from the cot opposite. The sounds of the camp outside are muted, most of the men now taking the opportunity to rest before the fighting begins anew on the morrow.
But as the halfling becomes more aware of his surroundings, he detects a low, muffled whispering sound. He isn’t able to make out any words, but it sounds as though it’s coming from the surgery in the main part part of the tent. Could someone be in need of a surgeon at this ungodly hour? He wonders if Caibre has returned from picket duty already.
Schweiner slowly pulls the blankets aside and quietly slips from his cot. He moves carefully towards the canvas flap leading into the surgery to investigate…
The surgery is a big circular tent (where Schweiner does the operating) with several smaller ‘side tents’ leading off from it. There’s an infirmary (where people are put to recover – It doubles as Magda’s quarters and is currently occupied by Aletta, Berthold and Fritz), there’s another one that is Schweiner and Albrecht’s quarters) and a third one where supplies are kept and any cadavers are stored in there until disposed of. Caibre and Berthold have separate tents beside the surgery. Given the state of the Baron, Schweiner didn’t want to move him unnecessarily so he’s recovering in the main tent. Two of his personal guard are standing watch outside the entrance to the tent. His personal physician, Dr Enschelman has been sent for, but enemy raiders behind the lines are delaying him. The Barons orderlies have been protesting that Schweiner shouldn’t be allowed to touch a man of such noble birth but the captain and Schweiner have made it clear to them that the halfling will do his work else the Baron will die.
Schweiner slowly lifts the flap and peers cautiously into the darkness beyond. Everything appears as it should do. The cramped surgery is still and quiet. The Baron lies seemingly motionless upon the operating table. Only the feint trace of his breath in the cold air
shows that he has not crossed into Morr’s realm. The flap to the infirmary is lowered, but Schweiner can hear muffled, erratic snoring from within. Deciding that the Graveroot has obviously done its work, and that it was Berthold’s and Fritz’s collective snoring that has awoken him, Schweiner turns with a sigh of relief to return to bed.
But as he does so, a sudden sound makes him stop in his tracks with a shiver of fear. A muffled, wet, whispering sound is coming from behind him…
Schweiner wakes Albrecht, putting his hand over his mouth so he doesn’t make a sound.
Albrecht tenses at being awoken, and struggles momentarily before realising its Schweiner trying to wake him quietly. It is eerily quiet…
Schweiner gestures for Albrecht to be quiet and follow and heads quietly back to the flap drawing his razor as he goes.
Albrecht reaches for the axe kept beside his bed and follows carefully.
Berthold awakens in the darkness of the infirmary but is very groggy and disorientated due to effects of the drugs Schweiner has given him for the pain.
Schweiner and Albrecht pause warily at the entrance to the surgery. Schweiner holds a finger to his lips and urges his friend to be quiet. They listen keenly, but all that can be heard is the laboured snoring from the the infirmary, and the murmured conversation of the guards outside. There is a faint waft of tobacco leaf and the guards are silent once more. “What exactly are we_” Albrecht begins to say before Schweiner claps a hand over his mouth suddenly. The halfling strains his hearing. There is definitely a strange muffled whispering coming from the darkness beyond..
From where they are, they can’t see anyone moving around within the surgery. The whispering seems to be coming from the centre of the room, where the Baron still lies upon the operating table.
As they edge forward cautiously, they realise that the noise is coming from the Baron himself. But his gurgled words are unclear from their position just inside the doorway.
They tentatively approach the Baron. Schweiner’s heart skips a beat as the man makes a faint gurgling noise again. The nobleman’s remaining eye is closed, and his breathing is shallow. Schweiner leans closer in an attempt to make out what he’s saying, and to check that his airway isn’t blocked. He stops suddenly, and his eyes widen in fear as the realisation dawns on him that the sound isn’t emanating from the Baron’s mouth. The odd, wet sounds seem to be coming from within the man’s tunic, just below his left collar bone.
Albrecht can feel the hairs on the back of his neck prick up. He tightens his grip on his axe as Schweiner nervously unbuttons the Baron’s tunic. The halfling’s mouth is dry, and his heart thumps in his chest as he slowly peels back the thick brocaded fabric, and cuts the dirty undershirt away with his razor. Schweiner and Albrecht exchange a nervous glance, and the halfling swallows dryly as a leather harness is revealed beneath, stretching around the unconscious man’s chest and shoulder. It is held in place by two small sets of buckles that sit either side of a short stretch of thicker leather just below the left collar bone…
Suddenly there is a noise behind them, making the pair physically jump and sending pangs of fear rippling through their bodies. They spin around to find a groggy Berthold staggering into the tent behind them. The young wizard is clearly still under the effects of the Graveroot as he clings drunkenly on to a tent pole for balance. Schweiner lets out a long sign of relief while Albrecht curses the wizard to the Wastes and back.
“What in the hells is wrong with you two?”, Berthold slurs at them in confusion..

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