Black Forest, 1193

The Walking Diseased, The Birth of Monsters, and The Fall of The Knights Hospitalier


More and more stories of monster sightings reach the ears of those watching the Black forest. Strange abominations neither animal nor man, offenses to heaven formed of little more than offensive flesh. Amongst their number, the dying and sickened, possessed of some strange compulsion. Even stories of Knights baring the arms of the Hospital of Saint John, attacking hunters and livestock. All localized around the Holy roman Empire's Expansive southern Forest…

Calling on a network of Spies and contacts within the Holy Roman Empire, Getan De Reys is able to identify and locate a likely hide out for the Once-Blessed Helena of Trier. A seldom-used fort and tower once given to the order: Schwarzhaus, built upon a savage natural cliff overlying many tributary “streams”, each ragged and raging like a wicked river. Small villages upon these rivers have reported malformed fish-crops and foul water, as well as attacks from savage piscine-men. The links seem obvious.

Getan also receives contact from his close-friend Giacomo Pirenelli, The Doge of Venice, who informs that he believes Helena has within her grasp the still-bloody head of the mythical Beast Medusa, once housed at Sicily, recently stolen and badly-hushed up. Rumours abound about what she may accomplish with such a relic.

Pope Peter the Second does his own research, via the libraries of The Vatican, into the “Craft” of Witches, in order to determine any weakness of Helena's magic. Witchcraft is a magic os Survival, and thus is difficult to simply “defeat”. However, it has it's limitations. At it's highest tiers, a Witch can produce a salve of invulnerability to weapons, but only one kind. Thus, her resistance to swords and arrows is not a resistance to maces and claws and fire.

A potion of shape-changing can also be produced, giving the user full control of their new form and whatever abilities that may entail. However, blood of the desired animal is required. A quick check of Loxos and other's reports shows that no dragon blood has been unaccounted for, thank God. However, being a physical potion, the “prepared spell” can be effectively destroyed before usage or consumption.

At lower levels, less prominent effects: Healing (explaining Helena's talents), Cursing (causing madness via hallucinations), Spying (through a Familiar), Love Potions, Charisma Potions, and Waters of Crop Growth. The final can also be blighted to cause crop failure, swarms of attracted vermin, and eventually, virulent plague - exactly how Helena must have been causing the plagues that gave her Order such “Good Business”

Getan gives his report to Michael of Bethlehem, Loxos of Byzantium, the Angel Sauriel (previously the scholar Jacob) and Pope Peter the Second. Letters are also sent to Emperor Barbarossa himself, who agrees and complies to an assisted assault on the Forest, as well as the medical assistance of Jamila Ad-Dar and Princess Vsevolda (formerly Zeinab). Letters are also received from Siddig Al-Nazihah and his One Thousand Bedouin, and a mysterious message in the sands from the Sultaness Layla (Previously Maha) of the Dust Court. The Pope proclaims that all taking part in the assault should be prepared with both Blade and Bludgeon. The information and research is wide-spread before the armies set-out.

Assault on The Black Forest

The Assault is carefully calculated and administered. In early March, Four armies begin pressing in on the edges of the Black Forest. From the North, Emperor Barbarossa, bearded and righteous, and the First Legion of the Holy Roman Empire. From the West, Michael of Bethlehem, sickly yet fervent, and the Order of Mary Magdalen. From the East, Augustii Alexios and the Ivory Herd of Byzantium, the emperor himself mounted upon Cyril, bedecked in the finest war regalia. From the South, a Rag tag Band of Bedouin Mercenary Warriors, One Thousand in (replenished) number, riding Eastern Ponies. At their head Siddig Al-Nazihah, closely tailed by the Damascan Medical Corps, hundreds of trained physicians and medicinal chemists, led by Jamila Ad-Dar and accompanied by Princess Vsevolda.

As one, the forces press against the forest, fighting the misshapen, fluid-slicken animal-men of the woods - hardy and strong, the freakish monstrosities are challenging in their newly-born numbers. Many are resistant to blades, or bludgeons, but never both, and many Knights have to swap swords for hammers, Arabs scimitars for maces, Elephants tusks for brute strength. Surely, the abominations are crushed before the combined, encircling might.

Amongst the hordes of animals, huge gatherings of the suffering and sick are engaged, babbling in strange tongues, covered in aggravating sores, possessed of some berserker fury. Under commands from Jamila Ad-Dar, the sick are not to be killed at all, but to be “apprehended” (hit with a mace upon the head in such a way without damaging the skull), and transported to the Southern Base Camp at regular intervals. There, Jamila, her physician husband and Previously-Zeinab and their Doctors work at hospitalizing and curing the ill. Many die, and on at least one occasion the princess has to pull an enraged Jamila off a sword-happy Knight whom she had gone to work at with her cane. Of all the sick rescued, 78% are cured, 55% in total survive. As these were the sick and dying anyway, this is remarkable.

Much of the credit is given to The Princess, whose specially developed “Water of Life” is used sparingly to both cure the sick and purify the rotting, curiously over-ripe forest. It is not till weeks later that it is realized that purifying the forest has ceased the spreading of general illness a noticeable percentage. No more rise from their sickbed to join Helena's cause. Jamila and Zeinab are praised, but Jamila is too busy working at her chemicals to notice…

The Assault presses on for days, saving lives, crushing monsters. The constant cawing of Corvids keeps the armies sleepless and unrested. It is only by the second week that Michael of bethlehem identifies the Crows as Helena's familiars, spying on them. The Birds are considred a secondary target, although their air-born nature makes them difficult for all but Siddig's Arabs and Loxos' Elephant archers. On the third week, approaching the centre of the rotting Forest, a pair of Great Golden doors tear through the fabric of the sky, opening to reveal the descending, armed, dancing Court of Dust, strangely not led by their Sultana. Whooping and hollering upon flying carpets, the Desert spirits are ordered by Michael to take out the Birds. Soon the sky is filled with falling black feathers. On the Twenty-Third day, the armies reach their target…


Out of the dark, the fortified tower of Schwarzhaus looms out, battered and collapsing into the darkened, tree-shielded river, water-running black. Both the tower and river are unnaturally bolstered by a disturbing site: unmistakable flesh and pulsating organs, tearing from the ground itself, beating and throwing strange bile to the air. The ground itself is turgid and rotten, large blisters bursting and releasing small hordes of fresh, strange animal men, slick with unnatural fluid and filled with rage. The water too bubbles and rages, strange creatures hauling themselves up the cliffside, away from their strange womb in their dozens. They number in their thousands, surrounding the tower, waiting, retching, screaming. Close to the heart of the tower, some five score knights stand, black tunics, white cross, maces, shields and tall helms. The Elite of the surviving Hospitaliers. Some seem panicked, others praying on their knees. The majority however stand resolute, unnaturally sober and unpannicced, strange oils bleeding through their chainmail. They await the allied assault with cold resolute fury.

From all four directions, the amassed armies charge. Barbarossa, Loxos, Michael and Siddig all lead their men to arms, and meet the strange animal-men legions in combat. Days of learned tactics and studied actions leave the resilient meat-creatures tough but out-thought and out-armed as they are slashed, beaten and trodden under foot. From the air, the whistling and whooping Djinn of Dust strike, turning the flocking crows into explosions of feather and blood, hacking apart the ever-respawning meat-creatures. As one, the Hospitaliers begin to react, amassing and preparing to attack. Some of the more soaked and oiled Knights bark orders, their men flocking around them, scared.

In an instant, the dark woods are lit, a burning golden light blinding all but the Djinn. As the light dies down, above the Tower, an Angel alights. Sauriel, previously Jacob, travelled here by the findings of Getan De Reys. With a swing of his Flaming Blade, he calls those with faith in the Fourth Covenant to strike at the servants of the Mother of Demons. The Amassed Armies of the Covenant Cheer, and strike resolutely. As do a number of Hospitaliers, discarding their helmets, and striking their own “brothers”. Within moments the dissenters are dead by Claw or Hospitalier blade, or safely within the bolstered ranks of The Order of Mary Magdalen, the true Pure striking at the servants of the Demonic Helena of Trier.

With a swing of his great blade, Jacob sends a plume of azure fire into the river. the impure and decaying flesh explodes into purifying flame, spreading up the river bank and cliffside, obliterating many of the flesh creatures' numbers. With cries of anger, the Hospitaliers charge, the advancing forces close enough to still give the fallen knights an advantage to defending their tower. Prematurely, the Alliance falters, both blades and bludgeons clattering uselessly against the inhumanly strong Traitor Knights, both Barbarossa and Michael turning defensive and Loxos confused upon his Great Elephants. A pannicked Siddig, his whip useless in any-given situation, discovers the Witchcraft-addled Knights' weakness by planting his foot several inches deep into a Knight Lord's crotch. Helena has left these ones somehow weak to fists and feet. With a charge, the armoured knights are awkwardly battered and thrown aside, many trampled gleefully under Loxos' herd. Both the monsters and Knights' numbers are majorly reduced, victory closing near.

Suddenly, the cheers of near-victory are silenced by the lilting childish whispers emanating from the Tower's Great Window. Golden mask obscuring her rotting face, black dress-robes in ruin, the Thing That Was Once Helena Of Trier, known as both Gura and Lilith, stands, singing a strange child's song to the pestulent winds, ancient words intermingled with girlish tune. In her hands, a burning censer, strange green and brown clouds of incense emanating from the flaming bowl. With an inhuman leap, the thing clatters from teh tower, flailing like a retarded child in the air, and landing like a cat amongst the masses. Without a moment to breath or cry heretic, the censer is swung, great clouds of flame and smoke erupting from screaming Knights and Arabs, their skin bursting and burning with unnatural pain. Barbarossa charges, screaming glory to his Empire, swinging his sword. Unphased, the blade smashes into across Helena's head. Jacob swoops, flaming Blade passing harmlessly through the Hertetic. With an intake of breath, a great cloud of Black Fog emmanates from the Helena-thing's be-masked mouth, clogging the Resplendent Angel's eyes and mouth, sending him choking and reeling from the sky. The Red Beard dodges the next censer swing, and grabs the object thrown to him by Michael of Bethlehem: a Great Mace. Calling on the Wrath of God, he brings the bludgeon around the censer and into the Grandmaster's back.

With a gut-wrenching snap, the Heretic is sent sprawled through the air, crashing suelessly and broken into the rotting, diseased earth. Her hips face the wrong direction, the mask is thrown from her face. There is no blood, but a light black oil. Barbarossa screams Victory. The Flesh Beasts lose all will and collapse to the ground, falling apart and decomposing on the spot. The Traitor knights drop their weapons and fall to the ground, kneeling, hands behind heads. The Battle is Won. Cheers ascend the forest as Michael and Loxos approach the Fallen Witch, Siddig sending his men for the Damascan Medical Brigade. Helena is totally broken, shattered and splintered, a blubbering, babbling wreck, but still alive. Michael doesn't even bother witha prayer for her soul, now long dead, lifting his blade to strike.


The screams are what give it away. The Generals turn, to see a monstrous site. Swearing Eternal servitude to Helena, Gura, the “Virgin Mother”, and other abominations, the kneeling Hospitaliers as one all swiftly bring their hands to their throats. Many onlookers scream and try to intervene as the Traitor Knights puncture their throats, gurgling and screaming with their own fingers. The bodies, at the moment of death, begin to change, bursting from their armour and flowing together like thick, rancid mud as death rattles still escape their throats. The flesh of the monsters also become supple and alive, all the unnatural sinew meeting together amidst the sickened and God-fearing cries, twisting and reshaping into a new, colossal form. Some 20-foot tall, of close size to the Manticore, the Great Flesh Beast tears it's six eyes open for the first time, and roars from it's three mouthes it's hatred on the heavens, before tearing into the startled, praying gathered. Cerberus, the guard-dog of Hell, stands in the Black Forest, destroying the armies of God. Loxos, Michael and Jacob charge the thing, leading their men to hold it off from getting near it's unnatural mistress. Blades and maces clatter almost useless against the thing, tiny wounds in such a great beast, it's great maws and claws reducing numbers in moments…

Barbarossa stands aghast, praying to his Saviour to shield him, his back turned to the crumpled Heretic. It takes Siddig's raised and furious voice to convince him it's just a distraction. His eyes meet the hair, blood and rot-bedraggled face of Helena of Trier, great rotten holes instead of eyes, an unnatural crooked smile on her face, fresh blood-red potion on her tongue, tiny empty phial in her broken fingers. It happens fast. The robes tearing. Chain buckling and exploding. The form expanding upwards and long-wards. Barbarossa tangles in the mass, swinging his great bludgeon furiously. The broken laughing seamlessly transmuting into the slither of scales and hissing. The armies scream and begin to fall back despite garbled commands and Siddig's fury. The shape stops unfurling, Barbarossa caught in the great coils of a gargantuan serpent, some two-hundred feet long, hacking hopelessly with his one free arm as the great female torso turns to behold him. It is voluptuous and feminine in every way, but perverse and a reminder of it's monstrous origin, green-black scales around it's palid skinned form, a beautiful feminine face, eyes closed, serpents for hair, all hissing and slithering a tearing, a great giant bee-hive mess upon her elegant face. Around her neck, part of her chest, like an unusual growth, a smaller, real size human form - a naked female, her arms and legs lost below the surface of the great beast's flesh, her eyes bound over by a cloth like flap of skin: all taht is left of the True Helena of Trier.

Slowly, Gura, Lilith, The Gorgon Helena, now Echidne, Bride of Typhon and Mother of Olympus' monstrous sport, opens her eyes. It is inevitable. Siddig, already briefed by the doge gives his men a brief signal, and they all avert eyes. Many others are not so lucky. Barbarossa included. Like a tide the grey shadow sweeps, picking out those beholding her beauty, and as lifeless stone, they die. With a defiant scream, the red beard strikes, the blow slowing at the same pace as his dwindling voice. His Great mace falls from his stone hand. Soon he too is dropped, discarded, with a clatter and a crash. The Holy Roman Emperor is dead.

In less than a minute, the armies are truly decimated, men torn up by the great tearing maws of Cerberus or killed instantly by Helena's glare. With another signal, Siddig rallies both his men and the Djinn. As one, the Dust Court explode in orange sand, and reform each as a great shining mirrored shield, dropping into the waiting hands of a Bedouin Soldier. Co-ordinating with their mirrors, deflecting the deadly gaze, Siddig and his One Thousand become the front guard, carefully avoiding the frozen dead, arrows loosing into her great form. They do little, but keep her smiling, en-pleasured form back. The same is true of Cerberus, whose great form is only truly hurt by Loxos' Bow and Joshua's Sword, Michael's unnatural form able to hold off the Beast's vicious advances but not known for how long.

It is unknown how long the strange battle lasts. Hours or minutes. The armies unable to hurt the beasts cowering behind their shields. Many already resigned to death in the babbling Gura's coils, her petrifying stare or in Cerberus' maws.

Then the noise. A throat being cleared. Silence. The Gura Gorgon Thing stops, and turns, to view the nuisance. A single figure, leaning on her cane, carefully viewing the floor, looking like she's waiting impatiently in a queue. The Gorgon thing pulls lower to observe the human. Something deep inside, and practically lost, recognizes it. The Arab Doctor. Jamila. Ad Dar clears her throat, and tells Gura she had been given a chance. Smash.

The Vial leaves her hand, and shatters against the Gura Thing's scales. Swiftly, milky white lines spread like lightning over the Beast Mother's body. Panicked and in pain she babbles and screams. This could have been hers. So Close. The white continues to spread cracking and breaking like ice. A great clawed hand swings. Jamila is caught and sent spinning through the air, crashing against a line of bewildered Knights. Within moments it is done, the babbling diminishing into crackling nothing. Helena is nothing but a gargantuan marble statue of a Gorgon.

As one, the rallied armies push against the Cerberus Monster, pushing it back, vastly out-sizing it in determination, no longer able to hold off long enough to heal it's wounds. Screaming, it yields to Jacob's Blade and Loxos Arrow through the throat, two heads exploding in gore. The final head still stands, biting Knights in twain, tearing horses, scaring elephants. Michael recites the words of Arabic, and gestures to the sky, demanding the power of his Court. From his very hands, a great flaming spear suddenly emanates, burning with golden fire, with but a gesture, and calling on the name of God, Michael plunges the spear into the beast's throat. With an ichor-filled roar, the thing collapses and tears, exploding into rotten carcass. The Threat is Truly Over.

Zeinab rushes from the medical facilities to help Jamila. As one, they make a shocking discovery. Jamila has been blinded, her eyes literally turned to stone, almost certainly caused by a glimpse of Helena's eyes as she was knocked through the air. After a moment of unfocussed fury, she shrugs it off. Just another step to overcome in the path to perfect medicine. Someone makes an statement that it's ironic that Jamila is now blind, as Helena used to be the best medic in the world, and was blind, and Jamila now is too. They are met with a literal stoney stare. And a cane to the head.

With a whistle, Loxos gets the attention of his herd, as one, they charge the statue of Gura. Marble cascades and falls to teh ground, shattered, broken. Irreparable. Other statues are tended to carefully, especially Barbarossa's. On estimation, Of the Three Thousand or so men present, seven hundred are dead or turned to stone, creating a strange if not beautiful statue garden.

Jacob stands morosely amongst the bodily wreckage, staring focussed at the rising sun. As Michael asks him what worries him so, he explains that he had a brief vision at the point of the statue's destruction. He claims to have seen amongst the rubble the shadowy form of a repentant woman, clad in nun's habit and robes, blindfold across her eyes, thanking the Lord that her soul was free, but regretting her foolish choices and embracing her divine punishment. And as she turned her head to the ground, she burnt black, ebon flames consuming her form, and she sank, burning, into the Earth…


Helena of Trier is dead. She is remembered as a pious woman who was corrupted by Powers Beyond Her Ken. In years to come, the ill and dying with no sight of recovery are said to pray to “Blind Old Helen”. A statue of her is erected in Trier, at the behest of Al-Afdal, with the inscription ”To Gaze Upon The Face Of God, One's Eyes Must Not Be Cast Without, But Within”. It is defaced and destroyed with the Century. Within another, she is forgotten entirely.

Medusa's head is carefully re-acquisitioned from within Schwarzhaus, and placed into the capable hands of the Doge of Venice, and “carefully hidden away”, away from the frankly untrustable hands of Athens and Sicily. It's location is still lost to this day.

A horde of gold and relics, an inordinate amount of sainted bones especially, are seized from Schwarzhaus. The Relics are split between those “Christians” present to be returned, while the money is given to Siddig's Mercenary Soldiers, whoa re now easily rich enough to support themselves as Soldiers of Fortune.

The Knights of the Order of the Hospital of Saint John are officially disbanded by the pope, and denounced as Traitor Order. The records of their pious past are ruined and burned. The truly repentant and innocent within their order are put on trial at the Vatican, many claiming they had their hands forced and were only doing orders. None of the innocent belonged within the ranks of the First Company, The Blessed Hand of The Righteous Virgin Mary, Helena's Private Circle.

The truly repentant are either given a chance to redeem themselves through faith as secluded and cloistered Monks (vowed never to speak of their times as knights), or through battle as Knights of the order of Saint Lazarus. The Lazarians themselves are promoted to a True Order, and given the same duties that the Hospitaliers previously had.

The Black forest is decontaminated. Thousands of Lives are saved. Helena's Plague is either Vaccianted or Destroyed by The Water Of Life. The forest itself becomes an attraction, bringing thousands from all around to see the stone warriors still locked in combat…

Friedrich I, Emperor of The Holy Roman Empire is Dead. A Great Funeral is held in his honour, attended by Thousands. Disputes rise as to who will take the Throne…

news/sickness_in_the_black_forest.txt · Last modified: 2009/07/12 00:03 by david
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