Read 03 - Sword of Vengeance Online

Authors: Chris Wraight - (ebook by Undead)

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03 - Sword of Vengeance (57 page)

BOOK: 03 - Sword of Vengeance
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The wisewoman wrapped up the baby in a dirty bundle of rags
and made the sign of the comet over it. It was bawling with confused rage, fists
clenched tight, eyes screwed closed.

“What is it?” demanded the girl’s mother, peering at the
wisewoman’s bundle.

“A man-child,” said the wisewoman, handing the baby to its
mother.

The girl took it and looked into the bawling infant’s face.
It had pudgy features. Not attractive, but redolent enough of the father.

“You must name him,” urged the mother. The anxiety in her
voice had been replaced by excitement.

“He will take his father’s name,” she murmured, lost in awe
at the screaming ball of life in her arms.

“Insolence!” hissed the wisewoman. “Choose another.”

The girl glared defiantly at her.

“I will name him as I please,” she said.

The wisewoman glared back.

“Choose carefully, girl,” she warned. “You are favoured, but
do not anger the gods. This is a child of the wyrdblood.”

She reached over to the baby and pulled the rags away from
its face. It stopped crying and returned her glance. It shouldn’t have been able
to focus at all.

“Blessed Sigmar,” she whispered, taken aback. “Keep him
hidden, and guard him well. There is a destiny on this one. Just as there was on
the father.”

The girl looked down at her child. Her defiance faded as the
baby looked back at her. Its brown eyes were steady, and there was no fear in
them.

“Siggurd, I will call you,” she said. “Siggurd, son of Rufus,
son of Marius.”

She smiled, and the pain of labour seemed to fall from her
features.

“You will be mighty,” she cooed. “Mightiest of them all. And
when the time is ripe, the runefang will be yours.”

The wisewoman looked at her carefully. The girl was already
feverish. Her eyes were lit with a strange light. She’d be lucky to survive the
night.

“Siggurd, my son,” she whispered, falling into an exhausted
slumber even as she held him tight to her breast. “The runefang
will
be
yours.”

 

 
APPENDIX

 

 

My dear Erich,

As requested, please find enclosed the documents pertaining
to the Averheim affair for deposit in the Palace Archives. Regrettably, the
journals of the late Elector Marius Leitdorf did not survive the destruction of
the city, though I have succeeded in retrieving some related papers from His
Lordship’s retreat at Drakenmoor. These will prove of limited interest, being
mostly routine matters of state, but are included for completeness.

The correspondence between Heinrich Lassus and Natassja
Heiss-Leitdorf is of more enduring importance. Though much of the communication
between the pair will now never be found, the letters the Lord Schwarzhelm
recovered from Lassus’ office comprise a reasonably thorough account of their
intentions.

Regrettably, my somewhat hasty deciphers did not survive the
unpleasantness at Averheim, and in any case I would not wish to vouch for their
total reliability—you’ll understand that I was working under rather unusual
circumstances. Since I have now left my previous employment, I judged that the
best course of action would be to send you the originals, together with a
summary of the means to their deciphering. It is simple enough—surprisingly so,
perhaps, given the nature of what was discussed: an orthodox implementation of a
Vignius polyalphabetic cipher with a substitution key of “Wenenlich”. For
convenience, I have reproduced the table here:

 

 

To decipher the texts in your possession, move to the row
indicated by the first letter of the key, then along to the cell containing the
corresponding letter in the ciphered text. The character at the head of the
column will yield the deciphered character. Then move to the next letter of the
key and ciphered text, and repeat. Be aware that the original text has been
highly truncated, and that even after decoding it will require further work to
render fully legible.

I need not remind you of the sensitive nature of the
material, and recommend complete discretion in its handling. The Palace
Archivists will be able to advise further, though be sure to seek guidance from
one of the more enlightened, and one you can trust. Sadly, one can never be too
careful in these straitened times.

I trust this finds you well, and please send my best regards
to Alicia and the boys. I had no idea Rikard was in the pistolier corps—how
time flies! Before long we will be old men, and such things as these will be
long forgotten. As for me, I am uncertain where life will lead me next. I will
depart Altdorf soon, perhaps for a long time. If you have some pressing need to
contact me, the Shrine of Verena behind the courtrooms on the Salzenstadt may be
able to assist, though I place no assurance on it.

I hope we may meet again at some point to discuss these and
other matters. Until then, may all harm be warded from you, now and forever.

 

P. E. Verstohlen

Altdorf, Kaldezeit 2523.

 

 

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