- "I bear the mark of Damnation. Chaos flows in my blood, put there by a cultist's cursed blade. I am a mutant like the ones I killed on the road. My body is changing, and though so far my mind remains clear, one day it too will succumb to this curse. Until then, I shall fight against the power and influence of Chaos wherever I find it, with every shred of my strength."
- —Karl Hoche, Hunter of Chaos[2a]
Karl Hoche, known as the Mutant-Slayer, is an eternal crusader against all those of Chaos within the Empire's borders. His name is both fearfully whispered in gatherings of the twisted and corrupted, and angrily shouted in the meetings of Witch Hunters and servants of light. His allies are few - the very Empire he strives to protect has deemed him worthy of execution. Regardless, there has been numerous cults Hoche has brought down from within, and many times has he rooted out and slayed those hidden within the ranks of the Empire who were secretly swayed by the Ruinous Powers. This he does very well, for he is a master of mimicry and renown for his many disguises. His primary weapon of choice is his mind and tongue, which he uses just as effectively as a sword and shield. His efforts to eliminate Chaos will not end until either all of Chaos is destroyed, or he is; from the corruption within.
To call Karl Hoche a "hero" would be highly inappropriate, for the world is too bleak and too cruel to be blessed with a being who seeks justice with a holy heart and a righteous desire to save others. In reality, Karl Hoche is a vigilante who is more than willing to sacrifice anything, including the lives of innocents, in his quest for the destruction of chaos. His soul is far from pure, for he bears the very corruption that he seeks to destroy.
Karl Hoche is a mutant, and upon the left side of his neck is a second mouth that he keeps gagged and hidden. This Mark of Damnation emerged from a cut by the dagger of a dark cultist. Hoche's body will continue to change and warp, for once the seed of chaos is planted, there is no way to weed what sprouts from its infernal roots. Hoche has many times been pushed to the brink of insanity and madness, and even now struggles to keep himself from succumbing to the dark whispers in his mind. But he holds an aspect that is the hallmark of the race of Man: an incorruptible will to drive his own fate. Karl Hoche will sooner die than serve the Ruinous Powers, and the path that he has taken will see to the eradication of many of Chaos' pawns as well as any Hoche deems corrupted and unfit to live; even though no matter what path he takes, all roads will lead to his eventual damnation.[2a]
- "Karl - I may call you Karl? - I apologise. You are a soldier of rare ability, but your ways are too blunt. An enquiry of this kind needs people who are diplomats as well as soldiers, familiar with military and Imperial protocol, who can ask questions so sharp that the answerer doesn't realise how far under his skin they are, and who can persuade someone to give up a secret or break an oath without thinking about it. With all respect, you don't have those skills."
- —Johannes Bhor, smug aide-de-camp.[1b]
Karl Hoche was born in Grünburg, southeast of Altdorf in the Reikland, where he spent most of his childhood as the son of a local priest of Sigmar. When he came of age, he eagerly joined the army and did his part warring and protecting the Reikland from Greenskin raids. His natural leadership and heroics eventually led to him rising very well in the ranks, and he eventually became a Lieutenant and a full army officer in which commanded his own regiment of pike-men.[1a]
During a particularly successful campaign, the army, led by Duke Heller, the hero of Carroburg, was scouring the countryside searching for a hidden greenskin warband that was rumored to have encamped and were attacking the locals. However, after the Reikland army had set up its own camp for several weeks, Hoche noticed that every night of a full moon he heard people and horses move about and eventually leave camp. After becoming more increasingly suspicious, on the third night it occurred, he decided to investigate with his trusted friend and orderly, Rudolf Schulze. After walking to the stables and having a brief talk with a horse groom whom had no business being up at such a late hour, the groom told the pair that officers of the Knights Panther had taken the horses out for a "midnight hunt". Not believing the stable boy's story, Hoche and Schulze decided to follow the horse's tracks on foot to discover why the Knights Panther had been sneaking away.[1a]
After walking for quite some time while tracking the horses' hoof-prints, the pair was eventually led to some burned down rubble that may have once been a village house. The pair was then quickly beset by a pack of wolves that were scavenging around the area. They managed to fight off the wolves, but before the beasts fled into the night, one of them managed to slightly injure Schulze with their claws. Karl Hoche then made a discovery that would forever alter his life. It became apparent that the reason why the wolves were prowling the area was due to two bodies that laid bare in the moonlight. There were dark holes in each of their chest, and Hoche was shocked when Schulze recognized them as young soldiers whom he thought deserted the army last week. Questions soon turned to fear when it was discovered that one of the bodies - one that could only have died and been placed there hours earlier - carved into his flesh was the rectangular-horned symbol of the being some call Khorne, the God of Blood. Sweat prickled Hoche's skin when he glanced around, only to realize that a stone block that he dismissed earlier as just some rubble had a dark red cloth spread over it. This was most likely used as an altar. The cloth, he realized, was a banner of the Empire, and the reason why it was red, was because it was drenched in the blood of the Empire's soldiers. And there, in the center of the banner, were two still-dripping hearts.[1a]
Karl Hoche immediately knew he had to expose this corruption within the Knights Panthers and have it rooted out from the army that he so dearly served. Dawn was quickly approaching, and Schulze was too injured to make it back quickly to camp, and after some time deliberating what to do, Hoche ordered his orderly to remain at the site while he goes back to the camp to inform the Duke and send help for Schulze. Schulze grumbled something about sleep but reluctantly agreed and obeyed his superior and trusted friend as Hoche ran back to the camp.[2b]
When Hoche made it back to the camp, he immediately made his way to the Duke's tent, but was momentarily stopped by the general's aide-de-camp: Johannes Bohr. But after Hoche was insistent that his message was of the upmost importance, he was led through to the Duke Heller's quarters and told him the whole story. However, only ten minutes later, the men heard the crack of a pistol, followed by shouts and screams and steel clashing against steel, and a faint vibration coming from outside the tent. The camp was in an uproar; the Knights Panther on their armoured horses had gone berserk and attacked everything and everyone; most likely killing any witness and destroying all evidence. However, they were quickly apprehended and the Duke had them arrested and bound in chains. Sir Valentin, leader of the stantioned Knights Panther, escaped with half the stationed knights, and Hoche was horrified to see smoke in the not-so-distant horizon; he had inadvertently sentenced Rudolf Schulze to his doom.[1b]
Hours later, the Duke held an impromptu council with the other leaders and officers of the army to decide what was the next best course of actions. However, what was suggested to do flabbergasted Hoche, who's heart was still ridden with guilt: that there be nothing done in the wake of the Knights Panther treachery. Duke Heller reasoned that to let loose rumors of Chaos infiltrating the Empire's army would only wreck havoc on the morale on the men, and was satisfied instead with rumors that army cooks had accidentally put "Mad Cap Mushrooms" in the recent stew fed to the Knights Panther regiment, being the cause of their sudden attack. Karl Hoche was shocked and flustered that no action would be taken upon this evil that plagued the army, and refused to sit idle while Chaos potentially spread. Johannes Bohr suggested that there be an investigation, at least to uncover the source of this corruption, and approved that Hoche be the head of this investigation. Hoche's first set of actions would be to send word to the Knights Panther Chapter House in Altdorf and bring its leaders news of the corruption and help coordinate its removal. And when Bhor and Hoche were alone at the meeting table, Bhor instructed Hoche to make contact with a secretive group known as the Untersuchung: a conspiracy-group that investigates cults and subversive activities that was specialized in dealing with Chaos and Magic. Hoche was reluctant at first, but after Johannes Bhor swore on his honor and life that this would not be some form of cover-up, Hoche agreed. It was this agreement that would forever change the fate of Karl Hoche.[1b]
- "The only way you can save yourself is to join the Untersuchung, Karl. The Knights Panther won't dare come near you if you're one of us. Face it, your career as a soldier is over. This is not the army, not as you think of it, but it's a prestigious role in a prestigious team, and it's still a chance to serve the Emperor. You're the sort of intelligence officer we need... Plus it will save your life."
- —Captain Gottfried Braubach of the Untersuchung, soon-to-be mentor of Karl Hoche[1c]
Upon arriving in Altdorf, sore and muddy from the long ride on horseback, Karl Hoche immediately made his way to the Knights Panther Chapter House. He had a direct audience with local leaders of the Knights Panther and revealed in detail the possible Chaos corruption that may have made its way within the regiment. Even though most of the evidence was circumstantial, it still warranted an investigation, and the leaders assured Hoche that one would very much be meticulously carried out, and in the mean time that he rest and eat.[1c]
After eating a particularly excellent venison stew, Karl Hoche was led to an inn after dark by an escort of two guards, since the streets of Altdorf are rarely safe at night. However, Hoche found himself becoming slightly unsteady and found that the streets were becoming more and more twisted and confusing. All too late did he realize, when one of the guards strided ahead of him and led him to an alleyway with the other guard blocking the path behind with their swords drawn, that the Knights Panther had drugged his stew and had planned for him to die alongside any chance of the chapter's reputation being damaged.[1c]
With quick thinking, Hoche untied his money pouch from his belt and offered it to the guard in exchange for his life, but before the guard could answer Hoche threw the pouch at him in a spray of gold and silver coins, and when the guard put his hands up to protect his face, Hoche quickly thrusted his sword, piercing the guard's right shoulder. Hoche then shoulder-rammed the guard to the cobbled ground and took off running, with the other guard fast on his heels.[1c]
The chase went on until Hoche quickly dived down into another alleyway and reached a dead end; a low wall that beyond it ran the Talabec river that connects to the Reik. Hoche then quickly turned around, sword outstretched, bracing himself. The guard then came hurtling down the alley, his momentum causing him to rush into Hoche's sword, impaling himself, and slamming into Hoche with enough impact that it threatened to throw them both over into the fast-moving river. Hoche, trying to steady himself, demanded to know from the guard who he was and who sent him, and the guard opened his mouth as if about to speak, but only blood surged out; gushing over Hoche's face. Hoche pushed him off his sword, and the guard slumped over dead, right before the other guard Hoche had slammed came running around the corner, but at the sight of his dead companion and Hoche covered in his blood, he decided to flee rather than fight.[1c]
Trusting no one, and with no other option, Hoche then traveled to the Headquarters of the Reiksguard. As he approached the newer building - a brick-built foursquare around a series of courtyards - he saw four sentries guarding a gate. Considering that the Knights Panther may have sent word to the sentries, Hoche took a deep breath and walked briskly towards the gate. He greeted the guards, and causally asked, "Why is there a rope hanging over the stable-gate?," resulting in one of the guards exclaiming, "He's climbed in!" and taking two of the other guards with him westward. The remaining guard required more conventional tactics to get past, so Hoche pulled out a flask of kvas and offered it to the guard, but before the guard could respond, Hoche splashed it into his face and ran through the gate and locked it shut while the guard was rubbing the strong spirit from his eyes. Hoche then ran down the courtyard, following the directions Bohr had given him, until he reached a passage that led to another courtyard with many doors within the wall. Counting the doors precisely as instructed by Bhor, Hoche opened a door that led to a pitch-black corridor which contained a narrow staircase that led to a second door. Hoche heard alarms being raised and knew his time was limited, so he quickly climbed the stairs and knocked on the door.[1c]
After what had seemed like an eternity, he heard a muffled voice say the first part of a phrase, which indicated that a second part was needed to be spoken for entrance. After Hoche replied, "I don't know the password. But I have a letter for the Untersuchung," he heard a, "Oh for Sigmar's sake," come from within the room and the door opened, revealing the silhouette of a man that beckoned him in. As Hoche entered, he saw that the man was in his early forties, with salt-and-pepper hair, and deep lines and scars on a face that didn't smile much. The man introduced himself as Captain Gottfried Braubach of the Untersuchung, and Hoche was momentarily surprised to see that he was holding a small flintlock pistol that was most likely aimed at Hoche from the moment he stepped into the room. Braubach commanded Hoche to give him the letter, but only after Hoche starts telling him why he took such risks to be there.[1c]
After Hoche told Bruabach his story, the Captain of the Untersuchung told Hoche that he's made powerful enemies, and not just with chaos cultists, but also with the Knights Panther who most likely made contact with Witch Hunters to hunt down and kill Hoche; Whoever was the one who told Hoche to visit the Knights Panther first pretty much signed Hoche's death warrant. Hoche told Braubach that it was his regiment's aide-de-camp who told him to make such a visit, and that he was also the one who had instructed Hoche to deliver the letter. After Braubach finished reading the letter, he revealed to Hoche that that the general's aide, Johannes Bhor, was in reality a man named Gunter Shmölling, and that he was in fact a deep-cover agent of the Untersuchung. When Hoche asked Braubach why he was telling him all this secret information, Braubach cheerily replied it was because Hoche was pretty much a dead man regardless; with so many enemies in high places and whatnot. That is, of course, if Hoche chooses not to make a decision that would save his life; that he chooses to join the Untersuchung. Karl Hoche, with little hesitation (more so due to fatigue rather than the fear of losing his life) swiftly agreed to join. Captain Gottfried Braubach of the Untersuchung then gestured to a table in a corner of the room where a mattress and a couple of blankets laid, and advised Hoche to get some rest, for he would very much need it.[1c]
- "First we have to get you thinking like an agent, and then we have to teach you how to think like someone else entirely. When you're undercover, disguised, you must become the person you're dressed as. Knowing who they are, how they think, how they'll react to surprises or attacks isn't enough. Don't pretend to be them, become them."
- —Gottfried Braubach, instructing Karl Hoche [1d]
Karl Hoche's training began in the earnest the next day, and in the beginning it was difficult for him to shed his military routines. Indeed, Hoche was completely unaccustomed to this new world of disguises, double-dealing, and double-crossing; Hoche was more used to charging and attacking a clear enemy on a battlefield, not navigating through tangled webs of deception to track down and eliminate an enemy that was often invisible and two steps ahead. This massive culture-shock was exasperated when he was introduced to the rest of the main headquarters of this covert agency. Hoche was flabbergasted to find that the Untersuchung headquarters lacked any pretense of a formal military atmosphere; Men and women walked around with no uniforms, arriving briefly to dispense vital information reports before being set off again to complete assigned missions.[1d]
The Untersuchung was not a Witch Hunter organization, and as of such, the agency did not simply just hunt down, kill and burn (sometimes indiscriminately, sometimes not) the accused, as Witch Hunters are so prone to do. Instead, the agency investigated, infiltrated, and gained the trust of those touched by Chaos before they striked. Not all those captured by the agency were immediately killed and burned on the spot - some were interrogated, and others were put to use in the aid of infiltrating certain positions. Any that the agency detained that were twisted were not immediately disposed of either, and their cadavers were preserved and sent below into cellars where they could be studied to find the weaknesses of Chaos. Such an agency very much and very often butted-heads with the Witch Hunters, who vehemently despised their tactics. Not to be ignorant of or not incinerating anything related to the Ruinous Powers at first sight is a method that many in the Empire would find extremely unorthodox and dangerous, and Hoche thought no different at first. The Untersuchung primarily gathered information on a wide range of cults and other organizations that littered the Empire, and Hoche's skin crawled when he discovered that many forbidden texts and heretical tomes that were outlawed were quite amply supplied in the headquarters (and not particularly well hidden either). Hoche managed to accidentally make such a discovery when he found a hollow opening in a bookshelf that contained such an illegal tome.[1d]
Even though in the back of Hoche's mind there was the thought that all of the Untersuchung would be eventually burned down if Witch Hunters ever made such discoveries, he was not necessarily in a position to just leave. When sent out on an errand during his training by his tutor, Hoche was walking down a river-bridge that overlooked the Reik river, when suddenly, a hand grabbed the back of his cloak and pushed him roughly against the parapet. The man who had pushed him called Hoche a name he didn't recognise and accused him of deserting the Emperor's armies. Hoche quickly realized that this wasn't a case of mistaken identity when two other men with heavy cloaks and murderous glints in their eyes emerged from a now-alarmed crowd, drew swords, and started to encircle Hoche. The first man who pushed Hoche also drew his sword and told Hoche that he had stained their reputation and they would hunt him down until that stain is 'erased'. Knowing that these men were most likely sent by the Knights panther, Hoche had little options and could not fight three-to-one. With quick thinking, he leaped on top the parapet behind him and jumped, right when a great river-barge was passing directly below him. Hoche sprained his ankle when he landed on the barge, but managed to escape his pursuers, resulting in a little respect gained from his fellow Untersuchung agents. When his ankle did heal a week later, he continued his training.[1d]
Even though Hoche was slow to learn the ways of the Untersuchung, and to the annoyance of Braubach, needed to work on observing when he was being lied too (as was shown when he had been swindled multiple times when sent out on training missions), Karl Hoche came close to becoming a full-fledged agent. Karl Hoche learned how to master the disguise; he could subtly change his hair and face, his accent, his walk, and many more until he could become virtually invisible within a crowd. He learned the secrets of infiltration, and managed to bust a meeting of cultists by taking part in a sting-operation, that didn't quite go as planed, but still managed to yield successfully with subdued cultists. Even though his training was not yet complete, Hoche's ability had grown so much that he was eventually assigned on a mission that was of the utmost importance to his mentor.[1d]
Captain Gottfried Braubach once had another protégé prior to Hoche, a man named, Andreas Reisefertig. However, Resiefertig had renegaded and failed to report back in. Hoche's mission was that he had two months to find Reisefertig's tracks, find out what happened to him, and if there is any evidence of his death, to report it back to the Untersuchung. But if Hoche were to find Reisefertig alive, his next course of action would be to kill him. This mission meant so much to Braubach that he made Hoche swear to Sigmar that he would kill his former student if he found him alive. The air was full of tension, but eventually Hoche swore to his mentor; he swore that he would kill Andreas Reisefertig.[1d]
- "You've heard of the Tilean spy caught because someone swore at him in his own language, and he swore back without thinking? You must learn how to play a new role so deeply that it becomes your life. It's the only way to survive in the long term, to convince people that you're who they believe you are, capable of doing what they believe you can."
- — Gottfried Braubach, to Karl Hoche during training. [1d]
Karl Hoche was soon deployed to Marienburg, a city that found itself in the middle of a secret war. The great port city was the main hub of trade and wealth for the whole Empire, but it had a second, lesser-known trade: Knowledge. Marienburg is home to the Unseen Library, an archive of knowledge and information so secretive that most researchers believed it to be a myth or nonexistent. However, only a year prior, a great flood had hit the library, and most of its collection was destroyed. This resulted in various religious and academic groups warring for control over the books and knowledge that was not destroyed, and being fought by priests, academics, and half-blind scholars. Andreas Reisefertig's tracks led to right in the middle of this scholarly mess, and Hoche was determined to discover any clues about the rouge agent.[1e]
Karl Hoche's first set of actions within Marienburg was that he made contact with another deep-cover Untersuchung agent whom was stationed in a safe-house in Marienburg. The agent was named Erasmus Pronk, and even though Pronk appeared to be an unusual monk-like old man, with a balding patch amongst grey hair, and with drooping face features that held a pair of lenses within a silver frame; he was a well-experienced and seasoned veteran agent of the highest degree, and eagerly dispersed information to Hoche that was vital for his mission. Hoche had discovered that Reisefertig was trying to locate and research particular documents within the city, and Pronk advised that clues on the rouge agent's whereabouts could possibly be within the Unseen Library itself, but that Hoche would need to find a way to infiltrate it. Hoche also learned from Pronk that Gunter Shmölling, the undercover agent whom was posing as an aide-de-camp named Johannes Bhor, was a partner and a very close friend of Pronk, and was also stationed within the city. However, Shmölling had left Marienburg without any word whatsoever, and Pronk was quite worried about the wellbeing of his friend and partner, but he was relieved when Hoche revealed to him that Shmölling was doing quite well undercover in the army.[1e]
Pronk set up a meeting between Hoche and a Priest who had connections within the library. Hoche was disguised as a over-curious college student whose lust for forbidden knowledge drove him to want a book known as the, The New Apocrypha. After the priest was paid his large fee of gold crowns, Hoche was approached by four silent men in grey-robes two days after the meeting. The silent men frisked him, removing his knife and blindfolding him before escorting him through the quiet streets. Eventually Hoche heard the the sound of a door closing, and felt that he was descending steps. His blindfold was soon taken off, and Hoche found himself in a room that had no windows and only a single door, but was filled with shelves upon shelves that held an uncountable number of books. He had successfully made it into the Unseen Library, and standing right in front of Karl Hoche was a chair and a barren table that held only a single book and candle. It was The New Apocrypha, as specifically requested by Hoche. Only one of the grey-robed men now stood in the room, guarding the only door with a knife of a strange design in his belt. Hoche was reluctant at first, for the book would most definitely contain blasphemous secrets of Chaos, but he knew potential clues would be found in this book, so he pressed on, reached out, opened the cover, and began reading this forbidden tome.[1e]
When Hoche reached a loose page, he realized it wasn't a loose page at all, but actually a piece of parchment that someone had used as a bookmark. Drawn on that parchment was one of the secret symbols of the Untersuchung, usually drawn by agents to indicate any hidden items or caches that would be useful to whoever found them. Hoche noticed that the way the symbol had been drawn indicated that it was not equipment that was stashed, but information. Hoche knew that in order to find the cache, he would need to know the location of the book when the unknown agent had put the note in it, which obviously wasn't near the table. He looked up from the New Apocrypha, and thanks to the orderly minds of the librarians, he managed to notice that there was a shelf with a single open space that a book was missing from, and below it was some loose wooden panels. Hoche then stood up and told the grey-robed man that he needed to use the privy, and from the strange silence of the man, Hoche realized that this man was missing a tongue. As the tongueless-man reached for the blindfold, Hoche stepped towards him and gently put his hand on his shoulder, and with a few quick maneuvers, the grey-robed man was falling to the ground face-first.[1e]
Hoche quickly tied up the man and picked up the knife that had slid to the floor, not having much time to worry about why the handle felt so strangely. He used it to prise open the loose panel that he had noticed earlier, and discovered a folded page that must have been torn out from another larger book. It read, "The one you seek, I left in the care of Saint Olovad. Beware, you are among worshippers of Tzeentch." Suddenly, Hoche heard creaking from outside, and he knew that he would have try to escape now if there was any hope of getting out. He approached the door and tried to open it with its handle, but it would not move. He tried to probe the keyhole with the knife, but something was blocking the blade from the other side. As he heard louder noises get closer, he rammed the door with his shoulder, but sadly, to no effect. With the last of his effort, Hoche then grabbed the chair and battered it against the door's panels. He was successful, and the panels shattered. As he pulled the pieces away he looked on in horror to see that there laid only brickwork on the other side. It was a false door.[1e]
Suddenly, Hoche heard swords being drawn, and as he turned around, he saw that a bookcase had swung back to reveal a passage and the true entranceway, and within it stood the three other silent librarians; two with crossbows and the other with a sword. Hoche slowly raised his hands, pretending to surrender, but then quickly hurled the knife at his attackers. As the silent librarians flung themselves away from the knife, Hoche rammed one with his shoulder and tried to run past them, but a heavy crossbow caught him in the back of the head, and he tripped over another librarian's leg, and they all fell in a heap. Hoche's wrists were grabbed and quickly bound, another blindfold looped around his eyes, and he was dragged to his feet with the point of a dagger dug deep into his neck. Hoche threw himself forward, trying to break away, and he felt the dagger-point rip the left side of his neck. For a moment he was free, but he was then slammed against the wall. Dazed, he was hauled through the corridor until he was outside, and could smell the filthy canals of Marienburg. With his neck still bleeding, something was looped around his ankles and pulled tight, right before he felt a push from behind and fell forward. Instead of hitting ground, he hit water, and he felt something heavy tied around his legs dragging him down. Hoche thrashed, trying to untie his wrists and ankles, but to no avail, and the water swallowed him in and crushed him. Hoche's lungs burst and he breathed in the black water. Then, he sank.[1e]
- "Don't count yourself a failure, Karl. You got into one of the Ancient Order's libraries, they think you're dead - which is always a useful thing for a secret agent - and I don't believe you broke your cover, or they'd have treated you a good deal worse. Not so bad for your first time out. No permanent injuries either - that cut on your neck has festered a little, but keep that poultice on it and it'll be fine in a week."
- —Erasmus Pronk to Karl Hoche, after his recovery.[1f]
Karl Hoche was slowly creeping into consciousness when he realized that he was lying down on a bed. He was in the Untersuchung safe house, and he heard the voice of Erasmus Pronk nearby. Pronk had rescued Hoche from drowning in the canal, but he was quickly beset by a fever and was bed-bound for six days. Pronk reassured Hoche that there was no permanent damage, and the wound on his neck, which had a minor infection, would heal eventually if he kept poultice on it. Pronk then asked him if he found anything in the library, and Hoche recalled that he only discovered a single name - Saint Olovad - and that he believed it was in some way connected to Andreas Reisefertig, the rouge agent. Pronk revealed to Hoche that he had heard of Saint Olovad before, and that he was a saint of Manaan, a common deity worshiped in Marienburg, and there was a church dedicated to the saint nearby. Hoche was determined to take this as a chance to do something more impressive on his first assignment than almost drowning.[1f]
After another day of resting, Hoche and Pronk arrived at the church by carriage. It was a strange, squat and solid building, with much of its stonework worn and many seagulls perched on its roof. As they entered, the agents immediately recognized (and smelled) the destitution of the church. Filthy beggars in rags occupied almost every pew, and Hoche walked past a bearded man who was known only as the, "Useful Idiot," and whose rags were particularly stained with soup, vomit, and spittle. Hoche approached a priestess who was attending to an idle slumped figure, and told her that he was looking for a man whom may have recently passed by. Before she could reply, there was deep cry within the church that made both her and Hoche turn to look. As Hoche and the priestess quickly made their way to the origin of the sound, Hoche realized that the howl of shock and sorrow had emanated from Pronk.[1f]
Pronk was sobbing, with words spilling from his mouth in incoherent syllables, and he was on his knees cradling the Useful Idiot, rocking him back and forth as a mother would do a child. The filthy beggar stared blankly ahead into nothing, and grinned a huge brown-toothed smile as if he was enjoying the experience. As Hoche looked at the Useful Idiot more closely, the idiot's mouth lolled open into an even larger dog-smile, and he started making strange guttural sounds that were directed to the ceiling. Hoche did not recognize the man's face whatsoever, but he could see a deep scar in his mouth; a twisted lump of scar where his tongue should have been. Pronk's tearful babbling also started to become clearer, and Hoche could hear that he was was crying, "Gunter, Gunter, Gunter," over and over again.[1f]
After Hoche had the priestess look through temple records to confirm that the "Useful Idiot," had been living on charity for a few weeks after being dumped there without warning, Hoche let Pronk take the husk that had once been Gunter Shmölling to his safe-house. Hoche analyzed the situation, but the turn of events had just taken a very unpredictable route. Pronk's reaction confirmed that the Useful Idiot was indeed his partner and best friend, Gunter Shmölling, but what events led up to Shmölling ending up at at Saint Olovad tongueless and mind-raped? Was he the one who left the note in the library? Or was it Reisefertig that had written the note? Was Reisefertig the one who ruined Shmölling's mind? Or was he the one who discovered the destroyed agent and took pity on him prior to dumping him at the temple? And on top of that, Hoche thought about how if this man in filthy rags was Gunter Shmölling, and that Hoche had never met or seen him prior to visiting Saint Olovad, then who was Johannes Bhor, the man that supposedly signed Shmölling's name to that letter that started Hoche on this journey in the first place? If Johannes Bhor was not really Gunter Shmölling, then who was he? And what role did he play in all this? As Hoche was trying to mentally unravel these mysterious, he suddenly felt a sharp pain from his neck where the knife-cut lay. Hoche decided that it needed to be healed, and went off to find one who would take a look at it.[1f]
There was a sense of unease as Karl Hoche entered a Shallyean monastery in search of a healer. Indeed, even when the charitable priests and priestess had agreed to allow one of their own to sit Hoche down in a private room and bless the wound, Hoche could not quite place the sudden discomfort. As the healer gently unwound the bandages from Hoche's wound, he commented on the peculiar shape of the cut. Hoche thought back, and recalled the strange serpentine-shape of the knife that was used to cut him. Hoche's training allowed him to realise that the dagger, wielded by the silent librarians, had been shaped to resemble a symbol of Tzeentch, The Changer of Ways. As Hoche was deep in thought, the healer applied holy water to a fresh bandage to finalize the blessings, but as the drenched cloth touched Hoche's neck, he instantly felt an all-consuming explosion of pain. Hoche's mind was filled with unspeakable agony the likes of which he had never felt before, almost as if someone had poured boiling oil into his blood and acid on his thoughts. Instantly he was on his feet, screaming and roaring in pain, and he instinctively backhanded the healer, but with such force that the startled monk flew across the chamber, crashing into the stone wall and dropping, stunned.[1f]
A small pool of blood was forming around the slumped-unmoving healer, and Hoche wondered how he had done so much damage when he meant only to push the young man away, but more importantly, he wondered why had the healer tried to harm in the first place? Something was very wrong here. As another blazing lance of pain shot through Hoche's body, he came to believe that the Shallyean monastery was corrupted, and dark forces of Chaos must have been at work within the seemingly innocent place of healing. With the wound on his neck throbbing and aching as if alive, he yanked the door to the chamber open, and brandished his sword at a group of unarmed Shallyans who had gathered outside. There were far too many people for him to take on alone so Hoche suddenly grabbed a youth little more than a boy, pulling him close like a shield, and put the sword to his throat. Hoche could see under the veil of deceptive-innocence, and as he slowly edged his way to the entrance of the monastery, he loudly threatened to kill the boy - a likely member of whatever cult that had infiltrated the monastery - if anyone made a move against him. The Shallyans shrunk back in horror, petrified; only because he had taken such vile attackers by surprise, Hoche thought. No surprise attack came as he made his way outside to his horse. He let the boy go and quickly swung into his saddle, and rode as fast as he could on the rough track. Hoche rode off into the distance, with the wound on his neck now dully throbbing, and with even more questions plaguing his mind.[1f]
- "They came for us this morning. No subtlety, battering at the door with staves, which gave us a few moments to hide the most precious items in the prepared places. Many were arrested in their home before dawn, and the hunters had taken the chance to settle old scores. I escaped over the ladder and am leaving this for whoever has the wits to find it, for what good it may do you. I suggest you flee to our allies in Kislev. Or, if you are brave, stay low in the city and find out what scheme was behind this. Learn why the witch hunters moved against us now, who gave the order and what his motives were, and avenge us. Sigmar be with you. Pray for our souls..."
- —The last words of Gottfried Braubach.[1g]
When Karl Hoche returned to Altdorf, he was unaccustomed to the quietness as he entered, The Twisted Windmill, a well-established gathering place of Untersuchung agents. Even though his instructions were to report back to the barracks immediately for debriefing, Hoche had been on the road for a long time and had become quite hungry. He also thought it would be good to see all of the agents he befriended, even his mentor Braubach with his cynicism, to clear his mind of the unexplained twists he encountered. Hoche gestured to the landlord and tavern-keep, whom seemed almost startled to see him, and ordered a meal as he pushed the door open and made his way to the inner sanctum where Untersuchung agents habitually drank and talked. This room was also silent and empty, and Hoche sat down nearest to the doorway, ready to surprise his friends when they arrived, and waiting for his food and drink. But as he stared idly at the unpolished surface on the table, he saw something that immediately grabbed his attention: an secret Untersuchung symbol had been scratched into the table, one similar to the one he found in Marienburg. [1g]
Karl Hoche at first thought it may have been a joke, but the symbol nevertheless denoted that there was a useful item underneath the table, so he ducked his head under the edge of the table. Hoche saw that wrapped in a cloth that was pinned to the underside of the table with tacks was the journal of his mentor, Gottfried Braubach. But before Hoche could think any further, he heard the clunking of a key in a lock, and it took him a moment to realise that he was deliberately locked in the room. As Hoche mentally mapped the room, he realized that a tavern was bound to have a beer-cellar, so he lifted and moved the table, and was rewarded with the sight of a trap-door built into the floor. Grabbing the journal, he lowered himself through the hole and he landed on a crouch down the eight-foot drop. When his eyes adjusted, he saw there was small passageway in the east wall, and he preceded to crawl through it.[1g]
Now that he was out of the locked room, Hoche let himself reflect on what had just happened. Why was none of his friends in the the tavern? Why did the landlord lock him in? Was the Knights Panther up to something? And why had Braubach left his journal underneath the table where any Untersuchung agent could have found it? Why didn't anyone else take it? Hoche paused, the gravity of the situation dawning on him when he realized the only two possible reasons: that either all the other agents knew it was there, or there were no agents left to find it. Hoche then sloshed on into darkness, desperate and determined for answers.[1g]
There was another tavern named, The Fist and Glove, a very well-known establishment that caters primarily to Witch Hunters. Most Witch Hunters never let alcohol pass their lips, but there are no words against drinking in the scriptures of Sigmar, thus there are no hard rules against drinking in the Order of The Silver Hammer, and some Witch Hunters are glad to wash their troubles away occasionally with drink and ale, though the Fist and Glove held no convivial atmosphere. It was if centuries of earnest discussion over points of religious doctrine and agonizing over matters of consciousness had literally soaked itself into the woodwork, the beer, and the air itself. Such an atmosphere greeted this man who entered; a merchant from Carroburg that was one-eyed, had his left arm bandaged, and had black curly that was visible under a Tilean-style velvet hat. He called himself Herr Frei. But if one was an acute observer, one would notice that Herr Frei also had a bandage wrapped around his neck. However, it was unlikley anyone would notice such small details for he placed himself directly at a table that was occupied by several Witch Hunters, and spent his time befriending them with free drinks and light conversation.[1g]
Herr Frei learned from the slightly drunk Witch Hunters that he that an organization of Chaos worshipers were recently just rooted out in Altdrof not too long ago. The organization was said to be dedicated to protecting the Empire from the schemes of Chaos, but ironically, the Lord Protector of the witch hunters received word that the agency were harbouring heretics and dealing with the very dark forces they had sworn to fight. Lord Protector Thaddeus Gamow was said to have obtained dispensation from the Grand Theogonist himself to search the barracks. The With Hunters then went into detail about all the heretical tomes, all the forbidden books, the parts of mutants, and many more that were found. They then went into exquisite detail on how efficiently all of it and how so many members of the agency were burned. Herr Frei then caught sight of a woman named Sister Karin Schiffer; a woman whose blood (even by Witch Hunter standards) must actually be frozen water from Kislev. She was the assistant to the Lord Protector himself, and even though she only joined the order a year prior, the witch hunters told Herr Frei that Gamow had taken a particular liking to her. She looked up and her eyes and his locked in mutual recognition, but neither one of them moved. When she broke the gaze and looked down, Herr Frei quickly left the tavern.[1g]
Karl Hoche discarded his disguise when he turned to an alley way, and his heart was heavy as he did so. Hoche didn't want to believe it at first, but when he heard the words come from the Witch Hunter's mouth he had to face the truth: The Untersuchung were all dead, denounced as heretics and chaos-worshipers, and Hoche himself was a wanted criminal and enemy of the state. His mentor, his colleges, his friends were dead, burned. All of them. The woman in the tavern, Sister Karin Schiffer, he had recognized before; she often visited The Twisted Windmill as a representative of the Witch Hunters to argue boundaries of jurisdiction between the two orders. She had seen right through Hoche's disguise and it was only a matter of time before the Witch Hunters would come for him. Hoche knew in his heart that the Untersuchung weren't actually Chaos worshipers, albeit just a bit careless, but questions still swirled around in his mind. Hoche, unsure what to do next, studied Braubach's journal. Uncertainty at first clouded Hoche's mind, but after reading the last entry to Braubach's journal he quickly found resolve. He was determined to find answers and find out who was the one who ordered the raid and why. He would avenge the Untersuchung.[1g]
- "Faced with a wall, an elf will go over it, a dwarf under it, and men of the Empire through it. A halfling will look for a door. I once told that to scholar from Cathay, and he said that in his country a wise man would turn his back and imagine there is no wall. And who's to say that won't work as well as the others?"
- —A riddle of Gotffried Braubach, one that no one found funny at the time.[1g]
Karl Hoche discovered that Lord Protector Gamow was the second-in-command of the Order of Witch Hunters, whose ruthlessness and zeal had taken him to the top. He was renowned for his ability to seek out groups of Chaos Worshippers, but Hoche also learned that most of his arrests were just groups of innocents that had been tortured so severely that they would admit to pretty much anything to stop their suffering. But Hoche still needed more information about the Witch Hunter's raid so he made his way back to the Untersuchung headquarters within the Reiksguard barracks - reasoning that even though it was dangerous, he managed to break in once, so he could definitely break in again.[1g]
Hoche made his way into the barracks (with a fifteen-foot ladder that his former employers had careless left hidden in the gutters on top a nearby building) and made his way down a staircase to the main room, but stopped at a door when he saw shadows moving underneath it. When Hoche unsheathed his sword, he accidentally got the tip of it caught in the unaccustomed folds of his merchant's cloak, and it clattered across the steps. A young witch hunter pulled in the door and walked out, lantern in one hand, and a longsword in the other. Hoche reacted first, and stabbed the Witch Hunter in the windpipe with a knife he kept sheathed in his belt. As Hoche reached for the sword of the dying Witch Hunter, he knew he was outclassed as three more hunters appeared behind their fallen comrade, and he ran back up the staircase. As he reached the top of the staircase, Hoche discovered the ladder was gone. Across to the opposite roof, Hoche saw a figure in a dark priest's cloak with its hood pulled back, and he could see starlight gleaming down on a mass of dark hair that contrasted with her complexion and her eyes like firelight glinting on coal. It was Sister Karin Schiffer, and Hoche realized that she had been following him since the tavern, and when he exclaimed this fact out loud, she replied, "I had a good tutor..."[1g]
Karl Hoche was soon escorted down a poorly lit corridor to where Witch Hunters kept the few they did not immolate... immediately. He was roughly shoved into an eight-foot square cell that contained a wooden bed (cunning assembled without nails or pegs), an iron ring set into the wall, a pile of rags that might have once been a blanket, and a grate in one corner that reeked a stench of human filth. Once the door was swung closed behind him, and the heavy bolts set in place, the room was enveloped in a complete darkness where Hoche had to feel around to get a bearing of his surroundings. Steeling his mind against the horrors to come, and knowing that there was not much else to do in this situation, he laid on the bed, closed his eyes, and tried to sleep. So long was Hoche trapped in that sunless pit that he soon had no conception of time whatsoever, and could not even tell if it was morning or night. It could have been days, weeks, or even months that he was trapped in that single room; each time he opened his eyes he was greeted only by an eternal gloom. Very rarely was he awakened by commotion coming from the other cells, for silence dominated this prison, but when he was awakened, it would often cause his hackles to rise. [1h]
There were a handful of times Hoche was awakened by noises that he could not explain, such as when he heard from a nearby cell wet sounds akin to how a pig is butchered and how their guts and innards would pour onto the ground in a wet heap. This happened prior to him hearing a loud crash and something that sounded like growling. Something was throwing itself against the door in a nearby cell, something big. Before Hoche could figure out what it was, he heard another crash and the door to the nearby cell was thrown off its hinges. Hoche heard sounds of snarling, crossbow bolts firing, the voice of someone shrieking, yelling and pleading, and then the sound like a young-tree branch being twisted before splintering. Then a different kind of roar was heard: a huge fusillade of muskets and flintlocks, but right before everything was silent again, Hoche, from the small door-slot, caught glimpse of a figure. He saw a huge misshapen body, massive legs, a beast-like head atop hunched shoulders, a broad mouth with too many teeth, slit eyes, and something about how the skin glistened in the faint torchlight suggested scales.[1h]
The first time Hoche was taken from his cell, he was brought to a high vaulted room and was brought before a table with his hands bound to the chair he was sitting on. To his right side stood Sister Karin, but in front of him stood a man. It was Lord Protector Gamow himself, and he directly interrogated Hoche about his mission. Hoche knew that all the information he had could not be used against the already-decimated agency, so he obliged in telling Gamow all he knew. Hoche talked about how he joined the Untersuchung, Andreas Reiserfertig, his stint in Marienburg, the library; and indeed it appeared Gamow had information on most of it anyway. However, Gamow asked Hoche the name of the agent in Marienburg, and Hoche hesitated. The agent in question, Erasmus Pronk, saved Hoche's life, and he was reluctant to betray someone who showed him such kindness. Hoche, citing solider's honour, refused to give up Pronk's name. Gamow responded in a dramatic fashion, tipping the chair sideways, and then kicking the restrained Hoche in the gut, ribs, neck, and head - repeatedly - until he was bloody and bruised all over. When Hoche was dragged back to his chamber, he weakly made his way back to his bed, but discovered a small rectangle of wood that had a waxy substance on one side with words scratched into it. Even though it was too dark to read it, he used his hands to feel that it read, DO NOT GIVE ME UP. KEEP HOPE AND FAITH. I WILL HELP YOU. Hoche, not knowing whether or not it was some psychological trick, knew that trying to figure out who left it would do him no good, so he scratched into it himself, NEXT TIME LEAVE FOOD, and threw it across the floor and went to sleep.[1h]
The second time Hoche was brought from his cell it was to a different room, and he was bound to a table staring up at the ceiling, his arms and legs bound far apart. Lord Protector Gamow came into view, and this time wearing a white apron. Gamow, holding a wide array of sharp and curved tools, asked Hoche who was the deep-cover Untersuchung agent in the Order of the Witch Hunters. Hoche could not answer, for he wasn't even aware an agent infliltrated the Witch Hunters untill that very moment, but when he didn't say anything, Gamow slowly moved out of sight - south of Hoche's vision. Gamow then started slicing Hoche's feet without any warning. It felt like an eternity of agony as Hoche felt cruel instruments rip, tear, and gouge parts of his feet. When he felt something reach bone, he tried to double up, but the restraints holding him down kept him in place. As the cutting momentarily subsided, Gamow came close to Hoche's ear and whispered, "Erasmus Pronk is dead." This meant, even though Hoche had not given any information about the agent, Gamow already somehow knew about Pronk and had severely beaten Hoche for no particular reason. Gamow then started cutting away Hoche's bandage, ready to start inflicting pain on an already inflamed wound, but suddenly stopped when he saw it fully. Hoche saw Gamow's face, he saw an expression of surprise, but a cruel thin smile then spread across the Lord Protector's face. Gamow then abruptly ended Hoche's torture session, by suddenly ramming something metallic against the ruined flesh of Hoche's feet, and he passed out from the pain. When he returned to consciousness, he was his cell and his feet and neck were re-bandaged. Hoche, at the moment, was glad of the impenetrable dark, for he was too horrified to gaze upon the damage done upon his feet.[1h]
Whenever Hoche would sleep, his normal dreams were now replaced with constant dreams of blood, fire, and ruiniation, and he would constantly feel his neck throbbing and pulsating. Such conditions were soon exasperated as something very strange happened to him. One night (or day), some meat and a loaf of bread were thrown into his room. Hoche was denied any form of food whatsoever from the very first day he was imprisoned in the dark chamber, and it seemed a point of extra cruelty that some days a food cart would be pushed down the corridor, stopping at nearby cells but never his. This time however, Hoche eagerly devoured lumps of gritty bread and coarse uncooked meat. Another man from a nearby cell, one who was clearly insane, asked Hoche if he was eating the food. Hoche reluctantly answered, "Yes", and the insane man giddily asked, "Have you received any gifts from the Gods?" Hoche replied that he hadn't and that the gods have forgotten him in this dark place far from any temple. The man then said, "Maybe we speak of different Gods, new man." Hoche felt a chill run down his spine, and did not answer.[1h]
- "I'll warn you, times will come and you'll be confronted with things that rip away all the nice words you've ever learned about the gods. That's when you'll find whether Sigmar is really your strength. We can't train you or test you for that, and yet it's something all Untersuchung agents have to meet."
- —Gottfried Braubach, to Karl Hoche during his training.[1d]
Hoche was suddenly awakened from a night of blood-dreams, when he heard sudden movement in his room. He was on alert, when suddenly he heard a voice utter a secret phrase taught to Untersuchung agents so they could identify each other. The voice belonged to Sister Karin Shiffer, and she revealed that she was the one who had left the plaques. She was the deep-cover Untersuchung agent Gamow was speaking of but couldn't identify. She helped Hoche into boots and helped him reach a chamber with new clothes, and with tears in her eyes she revealed that she had also been trained by Braubach. She explained to Hoche that he was trapped in a With Hunter's prison, where Gamow kept heretics and mutants to study, but it was the night before Mondstille, the great feast-day at the end of the year, and half the guards were drunk, and the other half were at a temple for a midnight service. Sister Karin helped Hoche to a door, and beyond it was a horse tethered to a gate that had wine, food, and a dagger in its saddle bags. Hoche hobbled onto the horse, and breathed in the chill crisp air. He learned that for seven weeks was he trapped in that prison, and without looking back, he rode off into the chill night.[1h]
Before he left Altdorf, he briefly stopped at a cathedral of Sigmar, and lit a candle on a small altar. He prayed for his regiment - the Fifth Reikland Pikemen, and the Untersuchung, for Gottfried Braubach, for Rudolf Shulze, and he continued to pray as he rode on the Nuln road that stretched between the two major cities of the Empire. Hoche felt the wind around him. He laughed out loud, taking in the vividness of the world that filled him with the strength of sensations and the energy of freedom that was denied to him for so long. Hoche traveled all through the night, and stopped to eat as the sun started to rise, staining the clouds and the world in a beautiful pink, before riding again. He felt alive, he felt that he could run alongside his horse for miles, that he could leap trees, that he could chase a deer and outpace it, that he could catch it and lift it over his head, tear its neck open and let blood pour over him, bathing in its heat, letting it splash into his upturned mouth and drinking it down as the beast thrashed its life out. He stopped abruptly. Where in hell did that thought come from?...[1i]
A little bit after noon, he approached a cottage inn. He and the horse had been riding for so long that they needed to rest for a few hours before riding again. As walked to the door on unsteady legs, Hoche quickly thought up a new identity and a new name to call himself, but for no need; Right after he rapped on the door, a plump and generous man invited him in for Mondstille dinner without so much as asking for his name. Hoche allowed himself to be pulled into the cottage and was sat down before a table. The generous man introduced himself, his wife, his three children, a traveler from Kemperbad who was a brandy-merchant, but Hoche didn't pay much attention since he couldn't take his eyes off the food. There were roasted potatoes browned to perfection, purple sauerkraut and steamed cabbage, a loaf of nut-bread made with rosemary and raisins, two roasted pheasants, and a great goose that was basted in butter and its its skin crisp and layered with bacon. The Piéce de Résistance of the entire meal laid inside an oval dish-cover of silver, and there was much anticipation as plates and cutlery were passed around. Hoche truly felt human again as such hospitality allowed all of his pain, fear, and horrors of his recent experiences to melt away.[1i]
Everyone gathered around the table as, with a flourish and glee, the landowner whipped the cover off, and no one was disappointed by what laid underneath. There were sausages, black and white pudding, thick slabs of beef, mutton, pork, ham, venison, heap of livers, kidneys, sweetbreads dewed in drips of white fat, oxtail, and there in the centre, two organs with their surfaces thickly veined. One, the landowner claimed was from a bull; stuffed with mushrooms, onions and backon. While the other was from a stag; pickled in sweet cider vinegar with rosemary and pearl onions. They were two, big, still-dripping, hearts. All Hoche could see were two hearts, lying on a blood soaked cloth on a makeshift stone altar he disregarded before as only some rubble, given faint texture by the summer moonlight. For a second, his senses were filled with the stench of human blood congealing. Hoche fell backwards in his chair, clattering to the floor, causing the landowner and the merchant to help him up. Hoche, with the horror of everything that had happened to him rushing back, urged the family to eat without him, but the generous landowner bid him to rest upstairs for a moment.[1i]
Upstairs, in the lavish room the landowner had generously allowed him to rest in, Hoche could not sleep, so instead he shaved the scraggly beard he had grown in the prison. After shaving, he sat on down on the bed, looking at his boots. He was still afraid to look at the damage, but he knew he would have to eventually, so he took them off and was surprised at what he saw. Both his feet were completely healed, no blood, no open wounds, no gaping holes; it was if they were untouched. He remembered the pain Gamow had inflicted and wondered how it could have left no mark whatsoever. Curiosity and fear blossoming in his chest, he stood up, and approached the mirror, and peeled off the bandage on his neck. He noticed that edge of the scar looked like a little lip, and in fact, it looked exactly like a lip. With horror, he reached out to touch it. It moved. When the lips parted, he could see the gleam of teeth. It was a mouth. Hoche's whole body was shaking as he staggered away from the mirror and bumped into the bed. The stuff of Chaos was in him. The dark gods had placed their mark on his body. He was a mutant. He was damned.[1i]
Hoche fled the house, saving the generous family the shame and burden of knowing that they had unknowingly catered to a mutant. He rode on his horse with no thought to destination or direction, his mind teetering towards insanity. He realized the truth of what happened at the Shallyean monastery; the place of healing wasn't unclean - he was. The small cut from the cultist's blade had blossomed into an unmistakable mark of chaos that now had doomed Hoche into a living nightmare. He rode on, terrified of arrest, of other people, and what he had now become. He drank from puddles, ate moss and fungi, acorns and rose-hips; as he ran away from civilization and from himself. [1i]
After a few days of this self-imposed exile, he reached a road, and after following it for a few miles he discovered a burned-down hut with a figure lying face-down in the mud beside it. Hoche decided he would investigate, to see if the body was still alive, and if not, if it had any items or clothes that he could use while on the run. As he approached, he saw that the body had no wounds whatsoever, and all too late he realized it was a trap as five other figures jumped out from dead leaves that had been cleverly placed around the road. They were mutants, and Hoche saw that the body he had approached was now up, and was in fact a pale-haired youth with three arms. Hoche thought quickly, and attempted to show them that he was a mutant too and was one of them, but before the words even escaped his mouth, he was smashed in the face, and fell onto his back. The mutants surrounded him, punching and beating him to an inch of his life, before robbing him of his cloak, his jerkin, his boots, his dagger, and his horse. They even took Braubach's journal from him; the only thing that he could look in for any pretense of advice. When they saw that Hoche was saw so skinny they decided not to eat him and left, leaving him to lie there on the ground. [1i]
Hoche, bruised, bloody, and bare, laid in the mud and stared up towards the sky. He moved not a single inch for hours, not when the rain came and pelted him in its cold wash, not when he heard the movement of animals nearby, not even when the sun set and Mannslieb started to rise. He felt that there was no point in moving anymore - no point in even living. He waited for the mutants to come back and finish him, for some animal to mistake him as a corpse and devour him, for infection to come and slowly ebb away his life; but none came. He thought about why this happened to him, why had Sigmar and the gods abandoned him to this life. The world had stripped away his humanity, had brought him up high and down so low that filthy mutants found him so vile that they wouldn't eat him. He thought about his life; he was the son of a priest, then a solider, then a lieutenant, an agent, Herr Frei, a heretic, a prisoner, and now, an abomination. The world had done more than just strip him of his humanity; it had destroyed who he was. Who was Karl Hoche?[1j]
He had been so many things that he no longer knew what kind of man he was, in fact he wasn't a man any longer. He had lived a life of masks, and now that his hopes and dreams were all gone, now that his life had been shattered and turned upside down, he realized that his identity was shattered too. Hoche looked within himself, inside his own tainted soul, and saw that what had he had always thought of Karl Hoche, as himself, was only another mask. Hoche had a choice; either he could remain as Hoche and die there wretched and alone, Or he could lift the mask and see what emerged, for good or ill. A spark of something still burned within him, but he needed another source of strength. He then closed his eyes and whispered - even though his lips were cracked and caked in blood and scabs - he whispered; "Sigmar give me strength." The rain momentarily stopped, when he opened his eyes, he saw that he could see the clear night sky with all of its stars and constellations. Then he saw it, and if anyone else was looking away at that moment they would have missed it entirely:
Karl Hoche Reborn
- "But remember this, when it comes: Sigmar's not a strong god, and he's not a wise god. Some would say he isn't even a sane god. But in the stretch, he and your sword are your only allies."
- —Gottfried Braubach, to Karl Hoche during his training.[1d]
One could say that the man-that-was died there on that abandoned road, and a new man that called himself Karl Hoche was born before the world. Another could say that the rest of Hoche's soul finally withered, but was replaced by something unconquerable that blossomed and now wore his flesh. Regardless of the details, a new Karl Hoche stood up from the muddy ground, and everything he did from that point on was not beholden to any code of morals or ethics, not to any sense of duty, honour, or loyalty; not to even any god. Sigmar may have shown him a sign, but it was not he who gave Hoche the strength to stand up - it was Hoche himself who did. Hoche's sense of self now came from within, and his sense of loyalty and honor would be the same and be tethered only to himself and his purpose, and that purpose he set off to find.[1j]
Karl Hoche followed the mutant's tracks back to their village, although "village" is a generous word one would use. It was more a dilapidated camp, and Hoche could see that they were huddled around a fire, wearing his clothes and roasting lumps of his horse on sticks. He marched his way to them, making no effort to hide his approach. When they looked up, Hoche declared that he had come by the will of the gods... and that he wanted his rain-coat back. The mutants laughed, and the one who was wearing his jerkin - a mutant that was headless but had eyes where his nipples should have been and a bare chest that was split by a lipless mouth - stood up and started towards Hoche while brandishing its stick as a sword. Hoche knew this was a distraction, and the real attack would be from another direction, so Hoche stood his ground, turned his face to the fire, lifted his head to expose his neck and second mouth, and declared that he was one of them! The headless mutant stopped momentarily, and Hoche, using the moment to his advantage, yanked and twisted the stick from the mutant's hands, quickly whipped around, and smacked the boy with three arms that was creeping up behind him. The boy was carrying Hoche's dagger, and when he dropped it from the sudden smack, Hoche dived for it. The headless mutant had picked up another branch and brandished it like a club, and as he approached, Hoche turned around and calmly smiled at the mutant. As it swung its club back, Hoche expertly threw the dagger blade-first right inside the mutant's mouth.[1j]
The other mutants by the fire witnessed Hoche slowly stride towards the headless mutant, right before kicking the hilt of the knife with his bare foot, forcing it deep. With a great spray of blood, the mutant collapsed backwards, dead. Hoche, taking back his knife and one of the dead mutant's sharpened fangs as a souvenir, stripped the cloak off its body and put it on, feeling warm, familiar and comfortable. Hoche looked back towards the remaining mutants by the fire, whom were now standing in wary poses, and some cowering. He calmly made his way to the fire, but did not attack the mutants, and instead sat down and started eating the roasted strips of horseflesh the headless mutant had not finished. When another mutant with warty skin, whom Hoche assumed was the leader, asked what was he going to do and what he wanted (while trying to sound fierce but failing halfway through), Hoche simply pointed to the corpse lying at his feet and replied that he wanted his hut.[1j]
Later that night in the squalid mud-hut, Hoche was on the filthy bed calmly contemplating. He didn't sleep, for he knew another attack was bound to happen, and was thinking about which other mutant would try their luck and enter the hut. He then remembered an old army trick, and then stripped off his clothes and made it into a bundle before making a man-sized lump under the blanket of his bed. Naked, he then moved to the corner of the hut near the doorway and waited. Not long after, he heard footsteps outside and a mutant with owl wings and a face that constantly and slowly morphed into other faces entered the doorway with an axe. As the mutant raised the axe over the bed, thinking that Hoche was sleeping in it, Hoche stepped behind mutant, grabbed the axe handle with both hands and pulled it away from the would-be assassin. As the mutant turned, Hoche smacked it in the face with the flat part of the blade and sent the mutant flying sideways across the room. Hoche let the mutant scramble to its feet and flee before he left the hut. He walked towards the fire, stark naked, and hefted the axe high above his head. He didn't see the other mutants, but he knew they were hiding and watching, so he shouted and declared loudly to the camp that he hears everything and never sleeps. Even though he was lying through his teeth, he knew the other mutants would very much be inclined to believe this, and satisfied with the knowledge that they would not attempt to attack him again, he went back into the hut. Hoche's sleep was not disturbed by anything more than dreams about blood and fire.[1j]
During the night Hoche's wounds already mostly had healed; minor regeneration that he realized was part of the effects of his mutation. He also discovered that he had no control over his second mouth as it would sometimes attempt to whisper to him in the night. He found it revolting when it tried form words as a baby would, and when he tried to cover it with his hands he would feel its hot breath and its tongue lash out, so he did his best to silence it with a cloth that he wrapped around it. The next day, he made sure to learn all of the mutants' names and how they ended up together, as a way to reafrim the fact that he wasn't going anywhere. The mutants, knowing that they had little option, slowly accepted (but were very afraid of) Hoche. There was Max - the leader of the band of mutants, who was slightly overweight with a wide array of unnatural growths and warts on his skin. Nils - the mutant that had failed to kill Hoche in the hut and fled, but now had come back but still wouldn't look Hoche in the eye. Rolf - a huge and strong bearlike Beastman-turnskin that had not yet devolved into a full Beastman. Lousie - a bizarre hyper feminized figure with exaggerated breasts, hips, and blue eyes that were three inches apart, whom appeared to flirt with almost everyone in the group. And her son, Hermann - the three armed adolescent who kept calling Hoche a "bastard" (even though it became clear that none of the other mutants could clearly identify who Hermann's father was). They were all first-generation mutants, with the exception of Hermann whom was born after Lousie had joined the camp, and had lived normal lives before mutating. Over the next few months, Hoche learned the way of the mutant, and saw how it was a pathetic and poor way of life. Even though Max boasted ambitious plans of growing corn and raising livestock such a chickens, Hoche saw that most of their days just revolved around scavenging for basic things that would keep them alive. [1k]
Hoche tried to learn about mutations from them, but he realized the mutants had less than a basic knowledge on the ways of chaos than even he. Nils was the spiritual leader of the mutant village and he sometimes directed petty rituals to, "Lord Seench, The Changer of Days", and everyone prayed to this deity in the village. Hoche also learned, with his Untersuchung training at detecting lies, that it was Max who was the one who ordered Nils to attack him. Max kept control of the group by manipulating the others and causing a sense of distrust between the mutants, and he would do this by making the mutants think that all of the other mutants wanted to harm them except for Max, allowing him to have their trust. Hoche more than once overheard Max conspiring with Rolf, who trusted him the most out of all the other mutants, about how he might have to kill Hoche if he became too dangerous, and he would frequently utter the phrase, "we need the meat," as reasoning and justification. Rolf could not talk with his bestial tongue, so in order to communicate he would use hand gestures as some form of manual language, but it was gestures that only Max could understand. Hoche wondered how hard it would be to untangle this web, and more importantly, how hard it would be to find his purpose that was somehow tied to this mutant village.[1k]
- "Does the fact that we bear the mark of Chaos make us things of Chaos? You, Nils, you were closer to the old gods than any of us. But in your panic you didn't call for Morr or Sigmar. You called for Tzeentch, the god who made you this thing of corruption."
- —Karl Hoche, the Mutant-Slayer.[1l]
It wasn't long until Hoche finally discovered his purpose. As he was hunting for food with Nils, the priest of "Seench," Hoche pointed out to Nils that he wasn't a real a priest, and that it was Tzeentch, The Changer of Ways, not days, that they were praying to. The ever-changing face of Nils turned into that of an old, pock-marked, sad man as he guilty explained that in his previous life - before mutating - he worked only as a gravedigger for a temple of Morr. He wasn't truly a priest of Chaos, nor had he ever even been near a dark rite in his entire life, but he only said such things to keep the village together as much as possible. Hoche wondered why it was that even though these mutants never had contact with Chaos before they started to change, they still followed such a debased and half-remembered form of Tzeentch-worship instead of cursing Chaos and turning to other gods such as Sigmar. Before Nils could answer, a thundering crash came from the undergrowth, as a huge black boar with yellow tusks came crashing into view.[1l]
Nils panicked and scrambled up, causing the boar to attack him first. As the boar charged into him, Hoche could hear the snap of bones from Nils' leg and him reactivity screaming "Seench save me," and beseeching the deity to save him as he fell to the ground. The boar then faced Hoche, and with a spear that had been rudimentarily crafted at the camp, he managed to gore it to death. Hoche then slowly approached Nils, who managed to unintentionally answer Hoche's question with his hapless screams. Hoche learned in that moment that it wasn't just the mark of Chaos that makes those who bear it a thing of Chaos; it is what they believe that makes them one. And even though Hoche was marked by Chaos, he still believed that all things of Chaos must be destroyed. With the futile protests of Nils on the ground, Hoche thrust downwards with his spear, and set forth on his newfound purpose.[1k]
After Hoche had returned back to the camp, he told the others that Nils had died from a wild boar, and even though the others suspected him of something, they did not challenge him on the details. He soon devised a plan to dispatch the rest of the mutants, but it all went terribly wrong very quickly. When spring came around, the mutants had set the same trap that they had used on Hoche on an imperial messenger that they spotted traveling on a horse, but after the messenger was unseated from his horse, Hoche used the distraction to lunge at Max with his dagger. However, things went poorly, and as Hoche gripped on to Max with his knife pressed against his skin, Rolf from behind kept Hoche in a stranglehold. If Hoche killed Max, he would die, but if Rolf killed Hoche, Max would die. Louise and Hermann kept their distance. Hoche, thinking fast, knew that he had to use Max's own tactics against him, so he admitted that he did in fact kill Nils, but only under orders from Max himself. Hoche told the others that Niles had received a vision from "Seench" that predicted doom if Max remained in charge, so Max ordered Hoche to kill him before he told anyone else. Hoche went on into detail about how he at first trusted Max, and how Max made him afraid of the other mutants in group, and how he even instructed Hoche to kill Rolf. And that Max had reasoned to Hoche, "we needed the meat". This was a line Max must have used with the other mutants, who were now having visible doubt in their once-trused leader. Hoche then delivered his most damning lie, that Max was sleeping with Lousie, and Hermann, was their son.[1l]
Hoche's venomous words had their effect, and Hoche felt Rolf's arm pull away from his neck. Rolf roared in anger and his huge meaty fingers reached around Hoche to lift Max up by the hair, right before snapping his neck, and Hoche heard the sound like a two-inch mooring rope of a hundred-foot Reik river-barge snapping in two. Hermann, thinking that Rolf just killed his father, then collided with Rolf, stabbing him in the stomach with a dagger. Rolf swatted the boy away, and Hoche could see pain and puzzlement was on the Beastman's face. He started gesturing with his hands, but none of the other mutants could understand what he was saying. After the realization dawned on him on what he had just done, tears welled up in his eyes and he fell on his knees next to the corpse of the only man who could have translated his grief, and howled in rage, pain, and sorrow. Hoche then lifted his dagger, and rammed it right through Rolf's right eye, piercing deep down into his brain. Rolf still howled as he fell forward, but the howl faded to a final breath as he hit the ground. Hoche, dagger in hand, then turned towards Louise and Hermann, and he knew he would not enjoy what would come next.[1l]
After killing the mutant-mother and her son, Hoche checked the imperial messenger and saw that he had broken his neck after falling from his horse, which had only wandered a few yards down the path. Hoche opened its saddlebags, took out the letters, and read them all, realizing that it had been too long since he had the pleasure of reading anything written for quite some time. One note caught his attention particularly; it was orders instructing The Second Nuln Lancers to ride north with all its speed in defence of the Empire against an army of Chaos that was marching south. They were to travel to the Eiskalt valley, thirty miles south of Wolfenburg, and rendezvous with the main force of the army, led by Duke Heller, the hero of Carroburg. Hoche smiled as he folded the letter and tucked it into a pocket of his jerkin, and as he stripped the clothes from the dead mutants that they had originally stolen from him. Hoche recovered everything that he had taken with him since he left Altdorf, and even went back to the camp to recover Braubach's journal from Lousie's hut, where it sat untouched in its dark leather from when the mutants had orginally stolen it from him. He felt a calm for the first time in many days as he felt the familiar weight of it in his hands. When Hoche gazed upon the pathetic camp, he did not stop to contemplate it, or to recall the memories of the last few months; he had learned what he needed to from this place and had no reason to look back. There were things he still needed to do, and loose ends he needed to tie up. He then walked back towards the road, mounted the horse, turned up the collar of his cloak to hide the mark of Chaos on his neck, and rode away north towards Wolfenburg; to where he would find Duke Heller's army, and where he would find answers.[1l]
Blood of The Empire
- "You are Lieutenant Andreas Reisefertig of the Untersuchung, and I swore to Gottfried Braubach I would kill you."
- —Karl Hoche, to the man that changed his fate.[1m]
The gates to the army camp looked almost identical to the ones Karl Hoche passed through nine months before; but now a new Karl Hoche approached the camp. Upon entering, he was immediately recognized by fellow solider and close friend, Sergeant Braun. After telling the Sergeant a cover story about the trials getting back to the army, Hoche was led around the camp. By some general lack of knowledge from Braun, as well as the other soldiers in the camp, Hoche was horrified to learn that there was indeed a coverup over the incident with the Knights Panther after it was discovered that some of them had sympathies to Khorne; there wasn't even a patrol sent to capture the ones who escaped. Hoche knew there was something brewing in the camp, but he would have to stay vigilant to sniff it out.[1m]
Duke Heller was quite surprised to see Hoche when he entered the general's tent (almost spilling his wine at the sight of the Lieutenant walking through the flap), but nevertheless told Hoche how glad he was to see him back into the fold. Heller told Hoche not worry about the business last summer; a proper "investigation" was carried out and it turned out that Chaos wasn't involved at all. But now there were more urgent things to worry about, Heller said. An Oracle in Altdorf apparently had a vision about a Chaos force invading the Empire from the North-East, but what size or manner the force was, the Oracle couldn't decipher. Men were scouting everyday as the army encamped, but there had been nothing found yet and the wait for action was tedious. Heller also informed Hoche that a position had recently opened up commanding a small regiment of mercenaries and sell-swords, and that Hoche would be perfect utlizing his skills there. Hoche held his tongue about the investigation, knowing that accusing anyone of anything would not get him anywhere, but still accepted this new position that was offered to him.[1m]
Upon setting his eyes on the mercenaries, Karl Hoche was disgusted by the lack of discipline and respect the sellswords had for the army of the Empire. Even though he knew the Duke had given him this assignment more as way to get him out of the way rather than be of actual use to the army, Hoche was determined to shape this rag-tag band of irregulars into a regiment that all the other men envied. He trained the mercenaries hard; drilling them day and night, making sure that every one of their tents were neat and clean, that they awoke early and on time everyday. Most of the mercenaries had never been faced with such a level of discipline in their life, and some even abandoned their posts and deserted the army after being faced with Hoche's iron-hard regimen. However those that stayed, Hoche knew for certain would have the most loyalty and be one step closer to becoming great professional-soldiers. Hoche even made a particular mercenary malingerer, Tobais Krutz, his orderly; a man whom most likely had never been given a position of responsibly in his life. But now that one was given to him for the first time, he would work harder to keep it. It was natural for Hoche to be in such a position of leadership, and many times was he hit with waves of nostalgia after sometimes seeing his old troops during mess-hall. He was careful not to slip back into old habits too much though - The old Karl Hoche was dead; left there by the side of the abandoned road. The new Karl Hoche still had a duty to do, and was now only playing the role of a Lieutenant to bring him closer to finding true answers.[1m]
Karl Hoche was walking past the tents at night when he saw a figure move in the shadows at the edge of his vision. Hoche didn't turn or break his stride however, his Untersuchung training had taught him how to keep any pursuers in sight while simultaneously appearing to be unaware of their presence. He kept walking until he reached the mess-hall area, now deserted at night, right before he called out to the figure to reveal themself. The man who stepped out the shadows was the man whom Hoche had originally known as Johannes Bhor, Duke Heller's aide-de-camp, but then came to know as Gunter Shmölling, the deep-cover Untersuchung agent; But Hoche had figured out his real identity well before he entered the camp. Andreas Resiefertig, the rouge agent, now sat on a bench directly across from where Hoche was standing. Hoche told Resiefertig that he swore to the now-dead man they both one time called their mentor that he would kill the rouge agent. Resiefertig was momentarily taken aback by Hoche's directness, but nevertheless told him not to be so hasty in his judgement. He informed Hoche that it would best, at the moment, they came to trust each other, for Hoche's enemy was the same enemy as Resiefertig's, and in a way, that made them both allies. Reisefertig then tapped an idle rhythm on the bench and told Hoche that something was stirring in the camp. He also said that Hoche's returning had made things very interesting, and even the Duke himself considered Hoche a wild card in the pack. Hoche's mind was full of questions, such as why Reisefertig had sent him to the Unterschung with the letter in the first place, but he knew asking now would not give him any answers and only reveal to Reisefertig that he had a lack of information. There would be a time for a full exchange of information, but that time would not be now. Resiefertig then asked Hoche if he would still carry out his oath to kill him. Hoche replied yes, he will, but not yet; and he walked away, back to his tent and to his men.[1m]
Karl Hoche soon started to get an inkling of what was stirring in the camp. One day, looking closely at a map, he realized, even though the camp had been positioned to maximize defence from the north-east, the camp was vulnerable and open to attack from the west. An army of a decent size had the ability to take them completly by surprise. He then became alarmed after he voiced such worries to his orderly, Kurtz, whom revealed that such an attack had happened before in the same location. The army had an encamped near Castle Lössniz in the Eiskalt valley near Wolfenburg, and Kurtz, being from Wolfenburg himself, knew legends in which a similar Empire army had encamped in that same location during the time of the Great War Against Chaos. The forces of Chaos had exploited such vulnerabilities and attacked during the camp during the war. The Empire was victorious that day, but four thousand men were encamped before the battle, and after, only ninety walked away with their lives. There had been so much death that legend said that sunset that day the whole plain was red, and each year on the same day it can be seen completely red again; which caused many to attribute the field its name; The Cloth of Blood. The camp that Hoche was now in had been built right in the shadows of the ruined Castle Lössniz, with the same exact weaknesses as the one that had been slaughtered years ago.[1m]
That same day, Hoche was in his tent alone with bowl of stew from the mess-hall Kurtz had left for him, for he skipped lunch that day to review battle plans. Without warning, Hoche started to feel horrific pain from his stomach as the mouth on his neck yawned open and tried to free itself from its bandages. Hoche was soon on the ground from the pain and his stomach spasmed with agony as the mouth stretched open, until he realized with dread, that the reason was because it wanted to be fed. Hoche laid on the ground, loathing what was happening to him, but he knew he could not carry on with the pain so he had to give in. After he tied the flap to his tent closed, he unwound his bandages and plucked a lukewarm piece of meat from the stew and slowly brought it close to his second mouth. He could feel the lips parting, the tongue wrapping around the offering and drawing it inside. He could feel the sharp teeth chewing, and after a long while, he felt it swallow. He hated every second of it. He wanted to vomit. He wanted to cut it out of him. He wanted to scream madly into the twilight. But he didn't; he could feel his sanity being eroded, but he knew he had to steel his mind for whatever horror would come. After the sixth piece of meat he offered to it, the second mouth was satisfied and didn't take anymore. Hoche then fell on his bed, his nerves and mind exhausted from what he had just done, and slept; still having dreams of fire and blood.[1n]
When Karl Hoche awoke, he decided to go for a walk to clear his mind from what he had just experienced. As he was passing by the infirmary, he remembered he had heard from Sergeant Braun that one of his old troops from the Fifth Reikland Pikes had suffered grave injuries and that it would do well on the solider's health if he had his old trusted officer there to give him support. However, Hoche learned from a field surgeon that the solider died from blood-poison, and only thirty minutes before Hoche had even entered the infirmary. He remembered that Kurtz had told him that the mercenaries' old officer had died a similar way of blood-poison right before Hoche had filled his vacant position. Curious, Hoche went to the see the body of the solider, and was surprised to see how much blood the surgeons had drained - a whole bucket-full in fact. Hoche thought there was no reason to think anything was out of the ordinary in a medical tent; bleeding patients was a common procedure done by doctors. But he still felt that something was amiss, so he left the tent, took a five minute loop around the camp, returned from a different direction, and kept his distance behind a supply cart. When night soon came later, and most of the camp was asleep, he saw a man slip into the tent and emerge a bit later with two buckets in his hands. When the man set off down the camp, Hoche followed, and soon he realized that the man was walking towards the mess-hall area. He hoped that the man would turn away, but he did not. He wished the man would not walk up to the great iron cooking-pot, suspended over embers, but of course, the man did. Hocje closed his eyes and prayed he would not hear the sound of thick liquid being poured into the pot, but he could hear the echo of splashing with so much clarity that it made him feel ill. Hoche then knew why his second mouth had craved the stew.[1n]
- "You have a part to play in what is to come, Karl, though it may not be the part you expect. Remember when the times comes: heart is better than head."
- —Sister Karin Schiffer, to Karl Hoche.[1o]
Duke Heller tapped an short staccato rhythm with his fork as he ate breakfast in his tent, with Karl Hoche sitting opposite from him at the table. Hoche, with knowledge about what was being fed to the soldiers and about the camp's great weakness, had marched up the hill to confront duke. Before a single word escaped Hoche's mouth, Duke Heller, not even looking up from his plate, bluntly revealed that he was indeed a follower of the Chaos gods. He also revealed that in his possesion was a warrant for Hoche's arrest. He knew all about the Untersuchung, how Hoche how joined, how it turned out to a heretical organization covering for a chaos cult, how witch hunters had burned it all down, how Hoche was deemed a heretic and is now an enemy of the state, and the duke could have him arrested at anytime; but hadn't yet. The thing was, when Hoche returned to the camp, the duke thought Hoche was part of the great scheme, but now wasn't so sure from watching Hoche snoop around in the past few days. Duke Heller then calmly said, that in the next few seconds, if Hoche didn't show proof that he was a fellow follower of the dark gods, he would have him arrested, tried, and burned before noon.[1m]
Hoche did not expect this at all; Duke Heller, the hero of Carroburg, had just admitted to being a follower of Chaos and was now inviting Hoche to join with them, or die if he didn't prove he was a chaos cultist. Hoche thought back, recalling what the duke was doing when he entered the tent, and recalled what Reisefertig had done the day before on the bench in the mess-hall area. When Hoche rapped his knuckles to the table, beating out the same rhythm, the Duke nodded, but said he would need more proof; the Untersuchung could have simply just taught Hoche the code. Without hesitation, Hoche then pulled down the collar of his uniform to reveal his second mouth, his mark of damnnation. The duke stared for a long moment. Then he stood up, walked around the table, lifted the cover off a dish, and invited Hoche to join him for breakfast.[1m]
After breakfast, Duke Heller requested two horses and gave Karl Hoche a tour of the perimeter of the camp. As they did so, Heller informed Hoche of the whole plan in its entirety, and the personality of the stalwart duke changed to that similar to a toddler with a burning desire to reveal a secret that it had bottled up for too long: Legends about the field of the Cloth of Blood were true, and the location and set up of the current army camp were meticulously arranged by the duke to match how it looked during the Great War Against Chaos. The duke wanted to recreate the massacre, but not as some sacrifice to Khorne, but to be used in the creation of a great horde dedicated to the Blood God that would sweep down and destroy the Empire's heart. Blood increased the potency of such a ritual, and the soldiers had unknowingly been feed the blood of their comrades everyday since they arrived. When the time was right and the correct rites were performed, the power of Chaos would flow through the army and through the veins of the men; warping mind, body, and soul. The ritual would initiate once the camp was attacked from the same location it was attacked those many years ago, and Duke Heller revealed that it would be initiated by those Hoche had met before. The Knights Panther that escaped last summer had spent their time battling in the Chaos Wastes, completing the terrible transformation in becoming Chaos Knights of Khorne, and now waited in the forest north of the camp, waiting for the time to strike. The original massacre had occurred on Mitterfruhl, the spring equinox, and upon that day, at sunset, a new slaughter would begin. Karl Hoche knew the spring equinox laid only two days away...[1n]
With anger did Karl Hoche realize, upon returning back to his tent, that Braubach's journal was missing from its secret hiding place. Andreas Resiefertig was forcing a confrontation, and this is exactly what occurred when Hoche marched yet again back up the hill to find the pseudo aide-de-camp reading papers in the outer section of the duke's camp. Hoche directly approached the rouge agent whom then offered to trade. Resiefertig had been on the duke's good side for many months, and yet it took Hoche only a mere hours to gain information that Resiefertig had spent an incredible amount of effort to only unsuccessfully yield. Eventually the pair stood outside the tent, watching the grey clouds roll across the sky as Hoche exchanged information with the rouge agent. As Hoche informed the rouge agent about the Khorne-plot, he found that Resiefertig held that of Chaos in somewhat the same level of curiosity and abhorrence similar to himself - if fate had gone differently and Hoche had not sworn to kill Resiefertig, perhaps they could have even become friends. After Resiefertig warned Hoche that such a plot was beyond the ability of duke alone, and that there most likely was someone else pulling the strings, both of the former-Untersuchung agents' attention were drawn to a long column of men that appeared on the south road and was marching to the camp. It was two companies of greatswords from Altdorf, and at the back of the column were four men in dark cloaks on horseback, riding at each corner of a large carriage that bore a large banner depicting the Order of the Witch Hunters. When Hoche turned his head back to ask if they should both go to investigate, Reisefertig was nowhere in sight, and had gone with out fulfilling his part of the bargain to return the journal. Shrugging his shoulders, Hoche walked down the hill to join his men as they watched this procession enter the camp. It wasn't long before he heard a voice shout out from inside the carriage, a voice that sometimes still haunted his dreams; it was Gamow, the Lord Protector of the Witch Hunters.[1n]
As Gamow marched up the hill to the Duke's tent, Hoche was able to make out another figure with billowing priest's robes and black hair that sat inside the carriage. Wasting no time, he climbed inside the carriage, to the astonishment of Sister Karin Schiffer. She almost did not recongize Hoche in his full army uniform and without his scraggly beard, but nevertheless he thanked her for his release from the Witch Hunter's prison. As he warned her about the workings of Chaos that worked within the camp, and that even the men were unknowingly being fed human flesh, he could not help but notice something strange about sister Karin's demeanor; something that hinted towards a smile. It was then that she revealed that Hoche was not unlike such men in question. Lord Protector Gamow had been studying the effects of mutation, and theorized that if a mutant were to consume tainted flesh it would accelerate their change and bring about mutations. When a mutant died in the Witch Hunter's prison, Gamow would feed its flesh to another mutant. Hoche realized that he wasn't given any meat untill after the Lord Protector had seen his neck, and there was damnation in that meat. Sister Karin told Hoche to forget about the Untersuchung and that fate had other things in store for both of them.[1o]
With boiling hatred did Karl Hoche march back up the hill towards the Duke's tent, swearing to strike down the man that hastened his vile transformation, even if by killing him did nothing to end the Chaos plot. As he roughly pushed his way into the general's tent, he heard something that gave him pause. Coming from within the inner chamber he could hear the duke's rumbling tones being countered by Gamow's more nasal and vowel-filled ones. He overheard something about a site being prepared or something along the lines. It could have been something as simple as a rite to bless the troops, or a trial; but why the second-highest Witch Hunter in the Empire would travel hundreads of miles in the Empire for that, he could not fathom. The Duke then started to congratulate the Lord Protector about bringing down the Untersuchung, and Hoche leaned in, making sure to hear every word that came next. Duke Heller asked Gamow which Chaos God they worshiped. Gamow's reply was clipped and clear; The Unterschung was NOT a chaos cult front, infact they were not beguilled by chaos forces at all. However, the agency started to get an inkling on Gamow's great work, so Gamow had them elminated. Hoche's mind was filled with both relive and wild hatred; he was relieved to hear that his former organization was not in leauge with dark forces, but also felt his blood boil at the fact that he had just heard that the man who put his old friends and comrades to death admit that he only did so as a peice of politcs, to remove an inconvient barrier to his own plans. Hoche felt the urge to draw his sword and rush in, but knew that it would be foolish. Duke Heller had previously thought that the Untersuchung was a chaos cult, but now that he knew they were innocent he would have second guesses about Hoche. Karl Hoche knew that his life was in danger, but knew that he had no other option but one.[1o]
Blood, Fire, and Ruin
- "But remember that Chaos rules the emotions, not the intellect. Let your head rule your heart."
- — Andreas Reisefertig, to Karl Hoche[1p]
Karl Hoche gathered his mercenaries and told them that now was the day they had been waiting for. Hoche annnouced that all of their time training, all of the days spent drilling, led up to this one crucial moment. The Chaos Knights that Duke Heller had informed him about were hidden on an island twenty yards out in a nearby river, but there was a shallow channel that allowed a man to walk to the island if he didn't mind getting wet. Hoche was determined to make the first strike before it was too late. As his force of mercenaires formed outside the main gate of the camp, so did the force Segerant Braun brought with him, right after being convinced by Hoche that this was a grave emergency. The Fifth Reiklands stood side-by-side the disciplined mercenaries as they marched through the forest, led by their beloved and trusted commander. Right before they set off, Kurtz offered Hoche a flask of lamp oil to stop leather squeaking and metal clinking; an old poacher's trick.[1p]
Karl Hoche did not tell his men the real reason why they needed to strike now: that the next day Hoche would be arrested by Gamow or Heller, and by Mitterfruhl it would all be too late. Instead, he raised their spirits and quickened their march to the island. From horseback, he led them until the company reached the bank of the river. He watched as a steady flow of his men made their way to the trickest part of the operation - moving across the river without alerting the enemy. Hoche's heart swelled as he watched his men wade their way through the water with dedicated efficiency, aiding one another when it was needed, and all without a single splash or shout. They were real soilders; his soilders. They were everything he could have ever hoped. It was just as so when Hoche suddenly heard a sharp cry close to him, like the screech of a great black bird. It shattered through the night, and echoed throughout the forest. A great shape could then be seen moving against the dark trees on the island, a hulking silhouette darker than the shadows. When it came into view, it could be seen that they were armourmed men on great black horses, wielding the axes and swords of doom. Hoche shouted his command to attack, but it was lost completely in the roaring cry from the Chaos Knigts as they charged forward. Hoche felt awed by the skill and magnificence of these Knights of Khorne, even as his horrified eyes watched them massacre his troops, leaving bodies to ebb downstream that stained the river red with blood. He turned away and galloped his way back to the camp, his horse smaller, nimbler, and faster than the knights'. He wanted to go back to the river and see if any of his men survived, like a leader should, but he knew they were all dead. Braun, Kurtz, all the men that had trusted him; they were all dead. He had killed them all. Not because his plan was bad or his leadership poor, but because that weird cry had come from him. Hoche had felt the mouth on his neck open, draw breath, and scream. And he did not stop it.[1p]
When Karl Hoche came galloping back through the gate, he shouted warnings to the whole camp. The alarm was like a stone dropped in thick oil: it disapeared, and for a moment it seemed to have no effect, and then the waves began to spread through the tents, growing outwards as the word pressed on. He rode further into the camp until he reached the mess-area and jumped off his horse. He grabbed a mace and swung at a huge and empty cooking-pot that hung from a tripod. He hit it again and again until the booming clangs traveled far throughout the camp, and soldiers began to move towards him, looking for orders and clarification. Hoche had sprung the trap early, and even though men would die, the ritual would not be ready and the forces of Chaos would be destroyed. Another rider then came galloping through the camp, towards Hoche, and he could see that it was Duke Heller who was visibly furious. He declared to the men that Hoche was a mutant, and had him arrested on the spot. As rope was lashed around Hoche's wrists, he heard the duke whipsered to him that nothing had changed, that they were ready for this for weeks.[1q]
It was not long before the Chaos Knights galloped out of the night and charged the north wall. They did not slow down as they hit the line of stakes, nor did they did lessen their speed as their horses leaped the ditch and slammed into the wooden wall with a crash that shook the earth. The wall eventually gave way, and soon soldiers scattered in panic as the knights slaughterd and swung their weapons. A brazier toppled over a tent, and flames leaped and dry canvas blazed. Duke Heller continued to repeat to himself, "Doesn't change a thing," as he spurred his horse and headed off into the camp, leaving Hoche to be escorted up the hill towards the ruins of Castle Lössniz. As he was lead up hill by four guards, he could hear the bellowed war-cries of the knights, screams, and the cackle of fire. As he looked into the field below, in addition to the Chaos Knight's slaughter, something was happening to the bodies of some soldiers. Some had their flesh melt and flow off their bones like liqud; others had their flesh, muscle, and tendons painfully twist and warp into incomprehensible new forms, before going on a mad frenzy and attacking all those nearby with inhuman shrieks. It was a scene from hell. As Karl Hoche kept walking, he realized that he was only being escorted by three men. A second later, only two, and one had their hands bloody and held a knife. As the last guard simply ran away, Andreas Resiefertig used his knife to cut the ropes biding Hoche's wrists. When Hoche demanded to know why he disappeared when the witch hunters arrived, Reisefertig responded that he did not want Lord Gamow to recognize him. But before the rouge agent could elaborate, both men had only seconds to turn to the sound of hoof beats that shook the earth, and a dark rider charged at them whirling a massive axe.[1q]
As Reisefertig dived out the way, Hoche snacthed up a longsword and faced the knight down. As the horse thundered in, and the axe swept down, Hoche sidestepped and ducked out the way, using his own blade to slash the back of the horse's unarmoured galloping-foreleg. Hoche cut through tendon and ligament, and the rider jumped off as his horse as it hit the ground, the stakes embedded in its flesh being pushed deep by the impact, and puncturing heart or lungs as a gout of blood erupted from its mouth and nose. The rider, wearing his black and red, ribbed, curled, and spiked armour, rose and brandished his axe. His helmet dented, he ripped it off, and Hoche recongized his face. Even though it was a twisted, skull-like face, with red eyes with pinprick puplis, Hoche could still recongize that he, the champion of Chaos, was Sir Valentin, the leader of the men who had once been Knights Panther. Reisefertig then charged from the flank with a sword, but with incredible speed the Chaos Warrior reached up with one mailed fist, snatched the weapon out of the air by its blade, and pulled it out of Reisefertig's grip. He smashed the hilt against the rouge agent's face, twisted the weapon around, and thrust the foot of the sword through Reisefertig's chest. Valentin then turned around to face Hoche and hefted his axe. But before he could swing, Hoche could feel his neck twist under his collar, and his second mouth made the same screech it made to warn the Chaos Knights of the ambush. The Chaos Warrior then stood still, studying Hoche with unseeing eyes, before turning away and striding away across the camp. A man then ran out of the darkness, yelling and sword rasied, and the Chaos Warrior decapitated him without breaking his stride.[1q]
Karl Hoche then went to Reisefertig, who was curled on the ground with six inches of sword emerging from his back. The blade missed his heart and had hit his lungs, but no blood came from his mouth. Hoche wanted to know what Reisefertig was going to say before the Chaos Warrior attacked them, and why would have Lord Gamow have recongized him. Reisefertig, through coughs, then revealed that it was because he was a witch hunter once. They were interrupted again, but this time, by a scream and something rushing out from the shadows towards them. It was a former soilder with a sword in his left hand; his flesh melting and twisting into new forms even as he ran towards the pair. Hoche was instantly on his feet, knocking aside the clumsy attacks, thrusting his sword into the man's heart, but he wouldn't fall. Hoche kept thrusting with his sword, but still the decaying man would not die. Hoche, with both hands on his sword, then slashed through the man's neck, his head lolled as blood gouted, and he fell backward while snarling, but finally dying. Hoche could feel the atmosphere of the camp thicking; heavy with bood, death, and a malign force. The ritual must be underway at that very moment, and unholy things were walking the Coth of Blood. Hoche had to stop Lord Gamow from completing, and upon telling Reisefertig, the rouge agent responded by telling Hoche to give the Lord protector his regards. Hoche told Reisefertig that he would come back to him, right before he turned, and made his way to the ruins of Castle Lössniz.[1q]
- "Vengence for Rudolf Schulze!"
- —Karl Hoche, Hunter of Chaos[1r]
Karl Hoche stepped over the burning remains of tents and the dying bodies of men as he made his way to the ruins. Inside, torchlight danced and low voices chanted; Hoche could see that the ruins was once a chapel of some kind. In the middle of the ground sat an altar draped in a dark red cloth beneath a knife and a gleaming bowl. Hoche did not need to look up at nearby watchtower to know that an Imperial standard was missing. Around it were four witch hunters, their eyes covered in hoods, and as Hoche approached closer, he saw two figures kneeling before the altar: Lord Gamow and Sister Karin Schiffer. Hoche realized he had no other option, and plus he wanted to hear what the Lord Protector had to say, so he walked forward with his sword held loosely at his side. As he approached, Hoche already knew what was missing from the altar: Two hearts. Lord Gamow then looked up and turned around, drawing his sword in response. Hoche thought about why would Gamow challenge him when he clearly has a ritual to complete, but quickly dismissed the thought. This was the time for vengeance, for his fallen friends, for his soldiers, and for himself. This was a time for blood.[1r]
Hoche's second mouth started to make a low droning sound, not dissimilar to that of the witch hunter's chanting, as he battled the Lord Protector. Sparks flew with each parry, a small cut with each poor dodge, a swipe at empty air at every successful one; an onlooker would only see a flurry of blows being deflected from each side. Soon Hoche got the upper hand, and he felt an animalistic fury unleash within him. All Hoche wanted to do was slice through this man's flesh, cut off his head, rip out his heart, and squeeze the blood from it. Then he would do the same to the woman; Their deaths were all that mattered. Even as Gamow's parries slowed, he still goaded Hoche, insulting the Lieutenant with the fact that this was a duel where only one real man battled against an abomination. Hoche's rage rose to ever greater proportions, and soon Gamow was losing ground and purely on the defense. "Avenge the Untersuchung Karl!" cried Sister Karin, and this gave Hoche mental pause, even though his body still raged with its frenzied vigour. "Avenge the Untersuchung?" Only a few hours before she told him to forget the agency entirely. After the last blow, Gamow was visibly tired, soon dropping to his knees and offering no defence. Hoche roared his hatred as he moved in for the kill, swinging his sword towards Gamow's unprotected neck. All of the emotion of the last year was in that strike, all the sorrow, all the vile thoughts and self loathing, all the desire for revenge, all concentrated in that last killing blow.[1r]
"NO!" Hoche shouted as he stopped the blade an inch from Gamow's neck.
Karl Hoche knew he was meant to kill Gamow and then Sister Karin like this. He was meant to sacrifice the leader of the ritual and his lover, hence the two hearts. This is why his second mouth responded, this is why they kept goading him into anger; so that the man of learning would become destroyed by raw emotion and bloodshed and give into that of Chaos. He was meant to kill them in bloodshed and fury to end the ritual and unleash an army of Khorne that would strike at the heart of the Empire.
But Karl Hoche was no puppet of Chaos.
He fought his emotions down, and lowered his blade. He turned around, with no intent to finish off the Lord Protector. Gamow, now rising to his feet, shouted to Hoche to finish him, but Hoche would not attack. The Lord Protector had not estimated that this was not the same Karl Hoche that he had imprisoned; That Hoche had died and been buried beside an abandoned road in the Great Forest. The Karl Hoche that faced him now had no place for vengeance or fury in his new life and could only lose this fight in two ways: by dying or losing control. And he would not lose control.[1r]
Gamow on the other hand, certainty did as his plan was falling apart at its crucial moment, and slashed at Hoche. Hoche, blocking and then locking eyes with him, responded by saying, "Reisefertig sends his regards." It was Gamow's turn to now go in a berserk rage, swinging wildly upon hearing the name of the one who was a traitor to his cause. Hoche deflected each attack easily, letting Gamow wear himself down. After one missed swing, Gamow's hard blow being a fraction of an inch too high and a second too slow, Hoche's blade slipped under it and into Gamow's heart. Hoche did not kill Gamow in rage or fury, but in the holy name of Sigmar and the Empire. As the limp body of the corrupted Lord Protector slumped to the floor, Hoche felt an inner calm spread throughout him; the desire for revenge and the fury of the man he had once been, slipped away and was gone. Well, almost all of it. There was still some he held onto, for there was something else he had to finish. Sister Karin than ran at him with a knife, but Hoche easily sidestepped the clumsy charge, and knocked the knife out of her hand and into the night. She shrieked for him to kill her, but Hoche simply ignored her, turned, and walked back out the ruins; Leaving her there by the body of her lover.[1r]
Outside, another duel was taking place, but this time, between Duke Heller and Valentin, the previous leader of the Knights Panther now turned Chaos Champion. Karl Hoche marveled at such swordsmanship; every thrust, dodge and parry was perfectly judged and perfectly met. It was beautiful and terrible to behold, and if any one of them faltered or was distracted for even a second, they would be dead. Karl Hoche then shouted to Duke Heller, who's eyes flicked away, and the look of shock on seeing Hoche alive would forever be on his face as the Chaos Champion's axe passed through his neck. After studying the corpse of the man who had ambitiously fought to take his place at head of the Chaos army, Valentin turned to look at Hoche, and Hoche knew his mutation would not come to his aid this time. Hoche had a moment of inspiration as he dodged an axe-swing aimed for his head. He pulled out the flask of lamp-oil Kurtz had give him before the massacre, and smashed it against the neck-rim of the Chaos Warrior, and oil poured all over and inside the chaos-armour. Hoche kept dodging and parring the axe, blunting his own sword while desperately looking for a torch someone left on the ground. After finding none, he resolved to use a more dangerous method as charged into the roaring flames of a nearby tent. He kept running until he made it through completely and threw himself on the ground and rolled to extinguish his clothes. The Chaos Warrior then exploded out of the fire, his entire body in flames. He was roasting within his armour, and fell over sideways, bellowing like a dying ox. Hoche threw away his own sword, it being too blunted to use, and went over to fetch Duke Heller's. When he approached Valentin, the Chaos Warrior's face was a blackened ruin - bone visible through jaw. Hoche sliced through his neck, and the skull dropped and rolled free, its empty eye-sockets staring into the black sky.[1r]
With this act, the last exercising of his duty, Hoche finally allowed the last shreds of his former life slip away like a snake's old skin. Lieutenant Karl Hoche was gone forever, and now someone more powerful stood amongst this field of death.[1r]
Andreas Reisefertig was only four yards away from when Hoche had left him, and he had pulled himself into the shadow of an overturned wagon. He had lost a lot of blood, but would still survive. When Hoche approached, he reminded the rouge agent of former promises made. Hoche then inquired about Braubach's journal, and Reisefertig slowly unbuttoned his jerkin and pulled the leather book out from where it lay over his heart. If Sir Valentin had impaled him from the other side, it would have been destroyed. When Hoche took it, he demanded to know which side the rouge agent truly was on.[1r]
Reisefertig, smiling with teeth red from his own blood, revealed to Hoche that after he became a witch hunter, Lord Gamow sent him to infiltrate the Untersuchung. Little did Braubach know that all of the training in subterfuge he was teaching his pupil, his pupil was already using against him. However, Reisefertig came to learn that the Witch Hunters he was working for were dealing with the very cults they had sworn to destroy and, disgusted, he left. He fled to Marienburg and joined another organization named the Cloaked Brothers, a group of former Witch Hunters that research the true nature of Chaos so it can be beaten - not so dissimilar from the work of the Untersuchung. It was the Cloaked Brothers who sent him here to observe, not get involved, and to report back of whether or not the chaos-plot succeeded or failed. Upon hearing that the Cloaked Brothers were willing to let thousands die purely for information, Karl Hoche stated that the Cloaked Brothers were insane and that they were no better than Lord Gamow.[1r]
Reisefertig said nothing for a while, but then revealed the real reason why he sent Hoche to Altdorf: it was due to something he saw in Hoche. He could feel a sense of destiny that shrouded around Hoche like a thick veil and that there was something beyond mortal hands that guided the Lieutenant, so he thought it best to send him to Altdorf to be trained by the Untersuchung to eventually be ready to battle against Chaos. He then bidded him to join the Cloaked Brothers to fight against the common enemy, but Hoche refused. Karl Hoche was done being the puppet of others, even for a righteous cause. Hoche's purpose he had already found; to hunt down the things of Chaos and destroy them with no mercy - alone. He will hunt down the Cloaked Brothers too if he ever finds them, for they are only an unknown factor in his path. Hoche would do such things, not to sate any revenge, but because he swore an oath, and he always keeps his word. Just as he made an oath to kill Reisefertig, which he reminded the triple-agent. Resiefertig tried to smile, and asked Hoche for yet another stay of execution. Hoche looked down at the punctured agent, sheathed his own sword, and took up the journal. He would spare him for now, but Hoche declared that the very next time he sees Resiefertig he would kill him.[1r]
Karl Hoche then made his way back to the ruins of the chapel; the body of Lord Gamow still slumped where it had fallen but Sister Karin Schiffer was nowhere in sight. He then dragged the blood-soaked cloth from the altar with the silver bowl and knife, and piled them on top of the corpse, followed by torches and their wooden poles. He threw one lit torch on the pyre, and watched as it burnt. He looked at Braubach's journal in his hand; what perhaps laid within this book? He had always put off reading it fully, for he feared he would learn something about himself from his former mentor that he didn't want to know. But now, Karl Hoche was no longer the apprentice. He had passed the final test, and he didn't need it anymore. He threw it into the flames, and watched until it burnt to ash. Then, he set off on his purpose.[1r]
Andreas Reisefertig had pushed himself back up against the wagon, but he dared not move the sword that impaled him. He was confident. He knew he would live, and perhaps even get a promotion if all things go well. He weakly called out for a surgeon or a priest, and when he saw a figure step out of the night, he thanked Sigmar.[1r]
- "Sigmar will not save you."
- —Karl Hoche.[1r]
The rouge agent looked on in horror when he saw who it truly was that causally walked towards him.
- "Damn you! Damn you!"
- —Andreas Reisefertig.[1r]
In response he heard the unsheathing of a sword.
- "We are all damned."
- —Karl Hoche[1r]
And Karl Hoche pushed the sword through Reisefertig's throat. After looking at the corpse for a moment, he turned away. There was nothing left for him to do here, and there was much work to do...
- "I will hunt the things of Chaos: its cults, its worshippers, its trappings, and its schemes. I will destroy them with no mercy."
- —Karl Hoche, the Mutant-Slayer[1r]
Karl Hoche is a man not beholden to any code of morals or ethics, not to any sense of duty, honour, or loyalty; there is only his dedication to the destruction of Chaos. Every second of his being is spent battling the dark forces in whatever shape they are. Whether they take the form of a twisted mutant, or a corrupt official with sympathies to the workings of Chaos, Hoche will find a method to slay them all.
Karl Hoche is damned, and has been abandoned by the gods. Sigmar does not look favourbly upon mutants and the glittering halls of his domain will forever be locked to the likes of Hoche. Hoche will never give in to the worship of the Dark Gods either, regardless of the fact they have placed their mark upon his skin and will eventually have his soul. Damned or not, Hoche forges his own path. He cuts his own way through the twisted brambles of destiny and will never allow another to dictate his life. He refuses to walk alongside the path that has been laid out for him by any being other than his own, them being a god or not. There is only one master to the fate of Karl Hoche, and that is Karl Hoche himself.
However, there are some principles Hoche has set for himself and will abide by: Unlike most Witch Hunters, he values innocent life and is not so careless in killing those who are not involved. Generally, his first instinct it to save those who are threatened by Chaos, but this comes only secondary in his quest for the destruction of the Ruinous Powers. And if he deems it necessary, Hoche will not hesitate in sacrificing the innocent for this end. Upon finding those who are corrupted and unfit to live; Hoche is merciless, ruthless, and methodological. If you ever cross paths with Karl Hoche, beware if he ever finds you to be tainted.
- 1:Mark Of Damnation (Novel) by James Wallis
- 1a:Chapter One
- 1b:Chapter Two
- 1c:Chapter Three
- 1d:Chapter Four
- 1e:Chapter Five
- 1f:Chapter Six
- 1g:Chapter Seven
- 1h:Chapter Eight
- 1i:Chapter Nine
- 1j:Chapter Ten
- 1k:Chapter Eleven
- 1l:Chapter Twelve
- 1m:Chapter Thirteen
- 1n:Chapter Fourteen
- 1o:Chapter Fifteen
- 1p:Chapter Sixteen
- 1q:Chapter Seventeen
- 1r:Chapter Eighteen
- 2a:Mark Of Heresy (Novel) by James Wallis