Averland Adventures: The Blue Reach Delta

Sometimes, dead is better...

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Sergeant, Imperial Roadwardens

Sir,

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for my promotion to the rank of sergeant. The extra coin will certainly be useful and I can use the extra rank to good effect in our ongoing trials and tribulations. I’m not totally certain that all of my reports are reaching you, but I’m going to proceed as if they were.

After fighting our way to the top of the necromancer’s tower for the second time, we finally managed to face the fiend himself. As expected, he had surrounded himself with vile undead minions – several wights and a zombie ogre of all things. I don’t pretend to know a single thing about the undead, but our intrepid fieldwarden explained the differences to me between bites of the pies he always seems to have secreted around his person. While there is a lot of person to cache pies around, I keep thinking he has to run out eventually.

When we got to the top of the steps, we saw the necromancer standing on a raised dais with his undead followers at the base. There were runes glowing on the floor with an eerie green light and an overall aura of dread, and the smell of decay. For some reason both Dolan and Erik pulled up short, grew very pale and began to shake. I assumed that they had been stricken by some kind of evil spell. The fiend spotted us and drew himself up as if to speak to us – Axel called it “Evil Monologue #1”, whatever that means. Not being particularly interested in what he had to say, Adam and I opened fire. The glowing runes must have affected my aim as my shot went wide. Adam got in a solid hit though, and I saw the necromancer stagger under the force of the sling stone’s impact, although he remained on his feet.

I saw his hands raise and he began to mutter something in a strange language when suddenly we were engulfed by these black tendrils of energy that sprang from his fingertips and wrapped around us like coiling vipers. It had the benefit of stopping the shaking of Dolan and Erik as they both became very still, but the rest of us managed to avoid the effects of the spell and fight on. The wights and the ogres moved up to engage us while the necromancer began preparations for another spell. One of the wights managed to strike a telling blow on Ekhart and the zombie ogre struck me with a glancing blow. Dolan managed to shed the effect of whatever malicious power had held him back and announced his presence by striking the ogre. Axel managed to evade the melee and get a shot in at the necromancer, but he was protected by some sort of invisible barrier and managed to shrug off most of the effects. Adam got another powerful shot in at the necromancer which we could all see made him truly hurt – poetry I tell you, pure poetry. While Erik remained held by the spell, my return strike at the ogre accomplished little.

The melee went back and forth until Adam tagged the necromancer AGAIN with a beautiful shot. I think that it was at this point that he realized his life was in danger, so he took cover behind his summoning table. It was not quick enough to save him as a magic dart flew from Eckhart’s hand and bored in between his shoulder blades. It was at this point that he pointed his finger at the helpless Erik and cast his next spell. To my horror, I watched the very life force drain from Erik and flow towards the necromancer, binding up his wounds and restoring his vitality. Combat continued in this was for a while with Adam and Eckhart pummeling him with missiles, mundane and magical while he kept drawing life from Erik to heal the damage. Poor Erik could take no more and finally collapsed on the floor. Now it was my turn to experience the fiend’s attention. As Dolan and I battled the ogre and the rest of my stalwart companions battled the wights and the zombies which had joined the battle, I felt my strength and energy sucked away to feed the monster on the altar. I don’t know what would have happened to me, but the mighty Adam finally placed a sling stone into the left eye socket of the necromancer, dropping him in a heap on his own summoning table.

The wights and zombies collapsed, no longer animated by the will of the necromancer. The ogre lasted a little longer before finally falling to our combined might, but not before landing a crushing blow on me that very nearly ended my rather promising roadwarden career. A thorough search of the necromancer’s lair yielded a few items of note.

First, we found a scrying item that used to be located in Southern Sun Keep and was used to keep an eye on the Sylvanian border. The fact that it was here leads us to believe the Iron Circle has no interest in keeping the evil powers that rule Sylvania out of Averland – a dire turn of events. Eckhart called it the Orb of Othello and used it to take a peek and what was happening at his home and to get a good look at our adversary, Redthorn. We also found the necromancer’s journal which detailed his search for a malicious power which he felt had drawn him to the Blue Reach Delta. He was using the orb to search for whatever it was and had only recently begun to make progress. I fear that we will be facing whatever he was looking for eventually and anything that could scare the necromancer has me, quite frankly, pissing my pants. The necromancer was also wearing an elvish cloak that Dolan recognized as coming from one the members of his warband – an interesting coincidence or something more? The death of the necromancer caused more questions than it answered, but I’m glad that we removed this blight on the face of the empire.

We decided it was time to move on to Blackfire Pass in our quest to return the brave dwarf’s hammer to its rightful owner. Before moving onwards though, we stopped by to see the hermit and spend a couple of days recovering from our ordeal. We informed him that the tower had been cleared, and he and Eckhart spent some time scouring the neighboring woods for herbs that Eckhart could use to make his ever helpful healing draughts. After saying our farewells, we moved out.

En route to Blackfire Pass, we met up with a Bernjaeger patrol headed by none other than Erik’s friend, Anton Deadeye. This was fortuitous, as it allowed us to pass on the information we had collected thus far to another branch of the Imperial military. We spent the evening camped with the patrol telling our tale. In the morning, Anton gave us letters of introduction to the captain of the guard and the noble lord who has stewardship over the town of Grenzstadt, at the base of Blackfire Pass. I had met the captain before, but only in passing as I made my way through the area on one of my regular patrols. After saying our farewells (again), we moved onward.

The journey progressed without incident and at last we approached the gates of the small city. The first thing I noticed was that it was considerably cleaner than the last time my patrols brought me through here. After presenting ourselves to the gate guards, we were given general directions to the city guard headquarters and the captain’s office. We made haste to the captain’s office and introduced ourselves and our purpose in the area. Again, we passed on our information regarding the situation in the Blue Reach Delta. He was unaware of exactly how bad it was, but assured us that the information would be passed along to the appropriate authorities. He also assured us that he would be able to supply us with additional troops when the time came to take the Delta back. He then proceeded to fill us in on the goings-on in the town.

He told us the nobleman that is ostensibly his superior was a libertine of truly epic proportions and that he had a very low opinion of both his intelligence and leadership ability. I think his exact words were, “He’s a total waste of skin and I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire”. At the mention of the word “fire”, Axel perked right up and started rubbing his hands. I don’t know if he was reminiscing or planning ahead, but I’m going to be keeping my on him anyways.

The other item of note was the reason for the spring cleaning. Apparently, the dwarf king of one the local Karak’s was coming to town for an unprecedented visit. We all looked at each other as nasty, suspicious thoughts began swirling in our heads. It didn’t take us long to reach the conclusion that if someone were to assassinate the king and make it look like humans did it, the dwarves at the very least, would withdraw their support for the guarding of Blackfire Pass. That would certainly tie up the troops that the captain would otherwise be willing to give us when we began to take back the Delta. We figured that since the king was on his way, it would be worth our while to try to intercept him and tell him of our suspicions and incidentally give him the hammer at the same time.

So, we headed out again. We didn’t bother to meet with the noble as we all trusted the captain’s opinion of him and really didn’t have the time to waste. The climb through Blackfire pass was uneventful – mostly. Some greenskins did come down and take a look at us, but thought better of it when they saw how we were armed and obviously prepared for trouble. We met up with the dwarves the next day at Sigmar’s shrine, the site of the Battle of Blackfire Pass. The king was kneeling at the shrine and paying his respects to the valor of the many men and dwarves that lost their lives in that desolate place. When he was finished, we were introduced to him by his personal guards. I must say I was impressed – there was no doubt that here was a king, regal and secure in his power. It was easy for us to bow and give him our respect.

He listened without speaking as we relayed our fears to him and the reasons for them. He didn’t even seem taken aback when we admitted that we didn’t have a shred of evidence to support our fears. He thanked us for our trouble and assured us that he was confident that his bodyguards could handle anything that was likely to happen now that they had been warned. He also invited us to travel with him on the way back to Grenzstadt. When we tried to present him with the hammer, he respectfully referred us to his Loremaster to determine who had owned the hammer and who we needed to give it to.

The Loremaster was a nice enough fellow. He told us that he couldn’t tell us much about the hammer right there and requested that we hold onto it until he got to Grenzstadt, so that he could do some research on its origins and maybe point us in the right direction. We joined up with the dwarven royal party and travelled back to Grenzstadt.

When we got to the town, it was decorated with banners and bunting as the Baron was trying to put on a good show for the king. We all thought it was rather tasteless, but the king seemed to take it all in stride. The Loremaster came up to us and directed us to an Inn he knew and requested that we wait for him there. He would be along the next day with information on the hammer. Not particularly enjoying the celebration anyways, we took his advice and headed to the inn.

We spent that evening and part of the next day just relaxing – enjoying good food, good drink, and good company. The Loremaster arrived towards nightfall, accompanied by his guards and apprentices. He proceeded to tell us that the hammer was in fact quite famous, and he was grateful for our attempt to return it to its rightful owners. The problem was that there was some confusion as to who the rightful owner was, but fortunately they were both dead. Unfortunately, they were both interred in a lost Karak, and he wanted us to replace the hammer in the tombs of one of these fallen heroes. One of his apprentices was bothered by this as he felt that the dwarves should keep the hammer for their own use, but he was overruled by the Loremaster. The Loremaster added that the dwarven people would be extremely grateful for our assistance in this matter. It’s been my observation that the gratitude of the dwarves is something you can take to the bank – literally. Naturally, we agreed to undertake this task, even though we have no idea where we are going or what we are going to do when we get there.

I’ll file my next report as soon as the opportunity presents itself and if I survive.

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Skeletons, and Zombies, and Wights, Oh my!

The sky was gradually getting brighter. Dawn would be here within the hour, and there was still no sign of the elf, Dolwen should have been back by now. Listening to the gentle lapping of the river, I was starting to worry. Even worse, I was getting bored, and a bored Halfling is a dangerous thing. Fortunately, my ears picked up some new sounds. First I could hear the laboured rowing of a small boat, the second was the sound of its hoofed pursuers. Sounds like Dolwen really kicked over the hornets nest, I better warn the others. We prepared ourselves for battle. The beastmen were coming into view just after I spotted Dolwen. Judging from the difficulty he was having steering, our foes were going to reach us first. Pieter prepared to meet the charge, while the rest of us took aim. I don’t really know their names, but some were definitely bigger and uglier than the others. I targeted one of the big ones and put all my strength behind my shot. Pieter followed my hit with one of his own, striking my target in a rather sensitive area. The beast howled and slumped, temporarily incapacitated. If he survives this, he’ll definitely be walking funny. The shaman stepped forward, and Pieter turned to face him. The beast bore the symbol of Khorne, which according to Eckhardt means he can’t cast spells. Unfortunately for Pieter, he’s adapted to that little disadvantage with his combat prowess, landing one blow on each leg in quick succession. A large shadow looming over me prevented me from observing further, as I found myself forced to evade one of his ugly and clumsy companions (did I mention ugly?). Dodging my opponents attack while looking for an opportunity to strike back, I was struck from behind just as an arrow sprouted from Ugly`s throat silencing him forever. I’ll have to remember to buy Erik an ale later. I turned to face the cowardly attacker behind me, and retaliated with a solid hit, forcing him back a step. Big and ugly number two moved in once again to try another feeble swing. Not so easy, now that I know he’s there. His companion however, was more successful. Fortunately, he was one of the smaller, better looking beastmen, his sneak attack deflecting harmlessly off my armour. I briefly wondered how our foes could view me, a simple Halfling, as threatening enough to require a third of their number to take me down. Dolwen later suggested, it may be because Halflings are more appetizing. I’m not convinced, especially since Adam is clearly the plump and juicy one. I suspect I need better P.R. Changing tactics in order to survive the onslaught, I switch to sword and shield. I hoped my allies were faring better, we needed to end this quickly. I could hear in the distance a group of mounted riders, and I seriously doubted they were coming to help us. Dodging Ugly, and parrying Peewee (yes I know he’s still bigger than me.), I waited for an opening to strike. Ugly took an arrow to the thigh, and dropped to the ground (That’s two ales I owe Eric). The beast was howling, and clutching his leg. Though not dead, he was definitely out of the fight. Glancing to my right, I witnessed Pieter take a crushing blow which knocked him out of his saddle. His fall was broken by the struggling beastman, who finally ceased struggling. Shakily getting to his feet, Pieter took at swing at Peewee, who, realizing he was now outnumbered, turned and fled. Letting them go, we quickly piled into the boat and pushed off. Pieter tried to stay with his horse, but battle fatigue was making that difficult. As he struggled to cling to the saddle, he almost lost his sword, which I quickly snagged before it could sink to the bottom. The second group arrived, led by a giant of a man in red armour. Locking eyes with me, he raised his fists, and bellowed “HALFLINGGG!!!”. I guess we’ve met before. He does look a little familiar. I wonder why he’s so angry? Maybe it was something I said. Not wanting to aggravate him further, I smiled and waved. I also added another gesture that I’d seen Erik use once or twice, which I assumed was good natured. This unfortunately seemed to infuriate him further, I’m going to have to ask Erik what that one meant. Floating down and away from the bank, I once again wondered why so many people are pissed at us Halflings? Maybe I’ll ask Big Red, the next time we meet. However, I think I’ll let him calm down first.

At the opposite bank, while Eckhardt tended to Pieter’s wounds, Dolwen and I discussed how best to hide the boat. We decided to sink the boat with stones and tied it up and marked the location so we could retrieve it later if needed. Putting as much distance between us and the river as we could to make pursuit difficult, my keen ears heard combat to the south. Investigating, we found Swearmonger and company being overrun by undead. We quickly provided cover fire to help their retreat towards us. I nailed a zombie with my staff sling who then shambled towards me. Wow, these things are ripe, I wonder how they managed to sneak up on Swearmonger and friends? We quickly dispatched the undead making sure they are now dead-dead by burning them. Moving away from Adam’s burning pile of bodies, we patched everyone up and discussed events with Swearmonger. While bandaging him up, Eckhardt asked him “What are you doing here?”. He’d apparently heard about the little bar incident in Schraumlieben, and came to try and offer assistance. He offered to watch for the return of Baroness Von Altram and give her a message about the need for soldiers in the delta region. Unfortunately, she is not due to return for another three months. I guess we’re pretty much on our own till then. In the meantime, he will try to find out what’s happening in the Southern Sun Keep. He has heard, to the relief of Eckhardt, that the prisoners have not yet been harmed. When told about the Widow Vogel’s farm, he offered to provide escort for her and her son to a safe location until the delta region is liberated. Pieter agreed and wrote a letter of introduction. The only other piece of advice he had was to seek aid from the Rangers to the South. We made camp for the night and after making sure the funeral pyre was no longer bellowing out smoke signals, we parted ways.

Heading South I noted that lately Pieter has become a little twitchy. Not enough for me to be concerned, but I think I’ll keep an eye on him. He probably just misses Adelle. My thoughts were once again interrupted by the sounds of combat. We found a lone dwarf desperately trying to fend off a group of skeletons and ghouls with his hammer. Judging from his many wounds, unless we dispatched the undead quickly, the dwarf did not have much longer in this world. Pieter urged his nervous steed into a charge. I briefly battled with a bout of the heebie jeebies, before joining the frey. Opting to go hand-to-claw (since we were once again outnumbered), I drew my sword and shield and charged a skeleton. I had so far managed to avoid being wounded, and realized that I never stopped to think about just how creepy it is to see a skeleton shamble about. I wondered, as the skeleton finally shattering under my blade, how the hell do they move without muscles anyway? Questions for another time. I’ll have to remember to ask Adam about this later. Turning to see how my companions were doing, I went to the aid of the obviously wounded Pieter. He’s been having a really bad week. We quickly dispatch the remaining undead, and see to the obviously doomed dwarf. As I predicted, he did not have long in this world. Choking on blood, and gasping for breath, he asked us to take his hammer to Karak Azgaraz. We agreed, then he shuddered, gasped and was silent. Adam and I buried the unfortunate dwarf while the wounded were taken care of (us little guys have to stick together). I think Karak Azgaraz is to the South, so it doesn’t really take us that far out of our way. Maybe we can convince the dwarves to join the fight. While we’re at it, maybe we can find out where these undead are coming from.

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On the Road Again

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Patrolman, Imperial Roadwardens

Re: On The Road Again

Sir,

I’ve become quite certain that my chances of retiring from the Roadwardens with anything approaching all of my bits and pieces, has become vanishingly remote. Take our current situation for example – After all of our troubles in what should have been a fairly mundane escort of a local merchant, we were all looking forward to getting back to the Delta and a certain amount of normalicy. Instead, when we arrived at Schramleben, we found that our home had been invaded and forcibly taken over by a mercenary group called the “Iron Circle”. If this had been merely a “might makes right” situation, it may have been tolerable. However, we were in possession of evidence that pointed to the fact that the Iron Circle was involved in the forces of Chaos by summoning demons at the very least.

As this weren’t enough, we soon discovered that the Iron Circle were looting and pillaging at will, and that significant numbers of halflings were being detained and hung for no other reason than the fact that they “were” halflings. Now, I understand that there are people in the empire who would not find this particularly distressing. However, these were good people whom I had known for years and loyal subjects of the Emperor. They certainly deserved more than the arbitrary treatment they received.

Shortly after our arrival in town, we were accosted by a group of these mercenaries and were told to disarm. Given the state of affairs we found, my mood was less than objective where these fools were concerned. In one my less diplomatic moments, I expressed my opinion of being disarmed by drawing my pistol and pointing at the leader of the group and demanding that he leave us alone. When he refused to do so, I shot him in the head. He must have thought I was bluffing. In any event, my actions touched off a fight and we were forced to flee the Village. Wilhelm Niederlitz told us to head for his ranch and that he was sorry, but he needed to disavow us and put some distance between us and him. We understood his decision as there was nothing to be gained by his being killed with the rest of us and his stature in the community my bear fruit in the future.

We saddled up and charged out of town. The gate guards attempted to stop us, but aside from a crossbow quarrel in the arm that almost ended Axel’s life, we escaped unscathed. We had been told that the village of Sigmaringen had been razed by beastmen after they refused to submit to the Iron Circle. We thought it would be a good place to pick up a boat and lose any pursuers we may have on our way to the Niederlitz ranch. We headed south along the river to search the ruins, and also to see if we could find evidence establishing a link between the Iron Circle and the beastmen. After spending a miserable night camped in a hollow in the hills, we continued onward and reached Sigmaringen at midday. The was a pillar of smoke rising from the village common as we topped the rise overlooking the village. The keen eyed Dolwen spotted a group of beastmen still in the village and him and Erik decided to do a recon and see what we were getting ourselves into.

When they returned they told us that they found at least one boat that was probably seaworthy and at least twenty beastment encamped in the ruins of the village. We spent some time discussing tactics and it was decided that we would ride up to the guard post at the village entrance, dressed as Iron Circle members in the uniforms we had managed to acquire. Our two halfling members would pose as prisoners to add veracity to the ruse. If it worked, it would certainly prove conclusively that the Iron Circle was working with the beastmen.

Obviously they were because our arrival at the gate was greeted with no more concern than mild curiosity. One of the gor guards went into the centre of the village to summon whatever passed for leadership in the warband. Everything was going according to plan until one of the guards appeared to notice that Dolwen was an elf. Fearing our cover was about to be blown, we fell on the remaining gors and hid their bodies to prevent accidental discovery. It was a good thing we did because shortly afterwards a larger group, ungors, gors, and a bestigor, approached us. As the new group approached, one of the gors sniffed and paused and then said something to the bestigor. The group became more alert, but proceeded towards us. When the gor paused a second time, we attacked.

Arrows and sling stones flew towards the beastmen while I held my attack until I could charge the bestigor, hitting him a solid blow on the arm. The rest of the group engaged the ungors and gors, while I kept the bestigor otherwise entertained by yelling taunts and making faces in hopes of keeping him out of arms reach of my comrades. He spent his time alternating between telling me how he would prepare me for consumption, and roaring at the top of his lungs for reinforcements. When the reinforcements came into sight shortly thereafter, I figured my time was just about up as Gustav, my noble steed, began to get just a little nervous about how close they were. I made the best pistol shot of my life, and put the ball up the right nostril of the bestigor, rocking him backwards. I then charged him and Gustav knocked him down and danced on his head on the way by. Once I pulled safely ahead of the reinforcement, I reigned in and put another bullet into the bestigor, finally finishing him off.

The appearance of another wave of reinforcements plus what looked like a shaman behind the first wave definitively tipped the balance of force in their favor, so we retreated and regrouped. We made camp for the night and the next morning headed for the Niederlitz ranch. We were greeted by Wilhelm’s butler who informed us that the Iron Circle had already been there looking for us. He then led us to a hidden cellar under the barn and the battered and terrified survivors of Sigmaringen. A hedgefolk woman and one of the survivors filled us in on the details of the fall of the village. The Iron Circle were present, but made no effort to protect the villagers from the rampaging warband – a harrowing indication of their intentions and loyalties.

It was decided that we needed to seek allies outside of the Delta, as the Iron Circle were too powerful to engage with purely local forces. As we needed to cross the river, Dolwen volunteered to sneak into Sigmaringen and see about stealing us a boat with the intention of meeting up with the rest of downstream. Apparently it got a little hairy (ha!) but he managed to get the job done. I’m penning this on the banks of the river as we prepare to cross over on our way to Blackfire Pass. I’ll post this as soon as possible and if you could see your way clear to make some inquiries on our behalf and on behalf of the entire Blue Reach Delta, I’d be eternally grateful.

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Diplomatic solutions

The rainwater continued to run down my neck and into uncomfortable places as we rode. The persistent rain had lasted for days, but I didn’t care, I was heading home, or at least the closest thing to it since I left the Moot. The month following the fun and games at the warehouse had passed without incident…or arson. We watched the doctor hang for his crimes…(he didn’t twitch nearly as much as I’d expected), we received the eternal gratitude of Von Altram’s…(we‘ll see), and we were rewarded by Castor Lietdorf with the “privilege” of being his honour guard for his trip to Streissen…(there was also some gold). Truthfully, the gold was the only reason I agreed to go, I’m not really comfortable being in the spot light. I can think of several people who would love to see my head on a pole, so it’s probably not a good idea to broadcast “Here I am guys…whatcha doin?” The rain was finally starting to let up as we entered the delta region. A familiar odour filled the air, and with a shudder, I remembered the unfortunate Halfling I immolated last month. As we rounded the bend in the road, we saw black smoke rising up ahead. Pieter looking worried, glanced my way “I didn’t do it! I swear.” Pieter took off down the road with the rest of us quickly following. We arrived to find the widow Vogel’s place surrounded by a bunch of black-cloaked men with wolves, yelling, howling, waving torches, and trying to burn down the widow’s home. Pieter demanded “What’s the meaning of this?” the leader turned to us “Move along, this is Iron Circle business!” At the mention of Iron Circle, I loaded my staff, while Pieter urged his horse into a charge. Pieter’s horse jumped the wall as my stone struck the leader, exploding his arm at the elbow. Not having anything further to say, his corpse collapsed. Pieter charged into the main group, slicing into one of them with his sword and then trampling him. I moved away from the group for partial cover. I’ve found it wise not to cluster when facing foes armed with crossbows. However, I overlooked the fact that wolves prefer to attack single targets. The snapping, snarling beast leaping over the wall quickly reminded me of this. The wolf was almost as big as my pony, but with bigger teeth. The first bite, fortunately, scraped harmlessly off my new armour. I tried my best to avoid the pointy end of the wolf, but the beast was almost as fast I was. An arrow flew past my ear from the direction of my comrades “Hey!!” I yelled, “Aim higher!!” I managed a few more slices with my dagger, but the wolf kept coming. I was just starting to tire, when an arrow suddenly sprouted from the beasts chest, dropping it. “Bad dog.” Pieter and Eric managed to subdue the last survivor for interrogation, while Eckhardt tended to everyone’s wounds.

The interrogation revealed little except that the merc twitched a little more than the doctor had. The widow Vogel, however, revealed much, filling us in on the events of the last few months. The Iron Circle mercenaries (the guys with the torches) took over the delta shortly after we left for Pfunzig. Their leader “Red Thorn” with a couple of hundred men, and non-humans, attacked and captured the keep, taking Eckhardt’s father prisoner. We are going to need some allies before attempting to free him. Also during our absence, a chaos war band attempted to attack the hedge folk, and were repelled. In retaliation, the town of Sigmaringen was attacked and razed. The Iron Circle, (surprise, surprise), stood by and did nothing during these attacks. A force of undead has also been destroying southern farms. Whether the undead, and chaos war band are working with the Iron Circle, remains to be proven, however, given that it was Iron Circle members who summoned Mr. Demon in Pfunzig, I wouldn’t be surprised. We decided to head to Schraumlieben the next day to seek allies.

On route to Schraumlieben, we encountered a blockade of Iron Circle troops. Wilhelm decided to try something new to us…something called diplomacy, and calmly talked our way through the checkpoint without resorting to violence…I wonder how often we‘ll actually use this approach in the future. In town, Wilhelm led us to an old friend of his, one of the village elders. Gerard was happy to see Wilhelm, but was also extremely careful in choosing his words. Probably because of the two men in the kitchen who were, clumsily, trying to keep out of sight. Gerard mentioned how the mercenaries took over the region, and that things have been “stable” since. Looking at me and Adam, he warned that we should stay out of trouble. It was also suggested that if we were going to be staying in town, we would probably be wanting to “stable” our horses. I asked where, and he said to talk to Gremath, the owner of “Gremath’s Stables”. I haven’t yet mastered the art of subtlety, but I think he wants us to go to the stables. At the stables, Gremath was more forthcoming. There are pockets of resistance in town, but nothing organized, and nothing capable of retaking the town. No one knows why the mercs are here, since there is no money or goods currently stockpiled in the delta. They obviously have an agenda, but nobody knows what it is. Also, halflings are apparently not well liked by the current regime. It seems we have been branded rebels and thieves…go figure. Many of my kin have been rounded up and hung on trumped up charges, the rest are in hiding. “Do the mercs have a bar that they frequent?” I ask. Pieter added “Is it flammable?” throwing him a grin and a wink, I start thinking of ways to get the local small folk out of town. As we were about to leave, we were also warned against openly carrying weapons in town. This was of course ignored, and we made our way to the “Mallard Inn”.

The Inn was busy, but we managed to get a table and ordered some food and drinks. Many of the patrons were wearing the garb of the “Iron Circle” and since they outnumbered us, didn’t take long to work up the courage to hassle us about our weapons. Pieter, still prickly over the incident at the widow’s farm, started a verbal jousting match with one of the sergeants. Things were getting pretty heated when, Pieter in one of his more diplomatic moments, drew his gun on the mouthpiece warning “You are about two seconds from the biggest mistake of you life.” Fumbling in my sling bag, and looking for a good firing position, I silently counted…One…The mercs companions stood, here we go again…Two…The sergeant started to say something more, but was interrupted by the pistol errupting in his face…KABOOOMM!!! Ears ringing, I jumped up on the table and fired a couple of shots as the mercs attacked and the locals took cover. The unsure footing of the table was obviously affecting my aim, so I dove off the table, and tumbled to the corner to snap off a shot, connecting with one of the sergeants. From the corner of my eye, I noticed two more mercs crashing the party through the front door. They must have been some of the racist troops I’d heard about, the ones with the irrational dislike of Halflings. They both targeted and took a shot at me missing wide…Adam must have been hiding under a table. Ignoring them since they didn’t seem to be well trained with their bows, I concentrated my fire on the bigger threat. The sergeant finally fell to a well placed shot, and I turned to the two party crashers. My companions and I quickly dispatched the remaining mercenaries, and took a look at the damages…What a dump, the owner should really tidy things up a bit. Looks like we won’t be staying here tonight, and I havn’t even received my dinner…I wonder if I can get it to go?, “Lets get out of here before the reinforcements arrive.” Pieter paid the bartender for the damages, and we quickly made our way to the stables. “Go Seabiscuit!”

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The Morning After

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Patrolman, Imperial Roadwardens

Re: The Morning After

Sir,

I’m sure that you’ll be happy to know that we managed to rescue our companion, Adam, from the clutches of the Fist. Verena knows that there are certainly not enough of the happy little fellows in the empire. The morning after the daring rescue, we took the Fist’s accountant that we managed to acquire, back to the temple of Verena where we spent some time resting and healing. An initiate delivered a note to us from the outside. This was a little alarming to us considering the fact that we were supposed to be keeping a low profile, and had gone to considerable pains to make sure that no one knew where we were. The note invited us to a meeting at the Maid’s Fancy, an upscale inn in the south eastern part of the city, and a definite upgrade from the types of establishments we seem to have been frequenting lately. The meeting was timed for noon and further asked us what we had to lose? Being as we were still breathing, I thought that to be a stupid question but we agreed to go nevertheless.

Upon our arrival, the bartender steered us towards a private room at the back of the common room. A small, dapper man was waiting there and greeted us civilly enough. He told us that he works for Schwarmonger and gave us a little background as to why people were bursting into flame. Apparently, Schwarmonger, Faustman, and a doctor had decided to create a potion that would give the gift of magic to whoever drinks it. The side effects of the potion were as horrific as they were spectacular and Schwarmonger withdrew from the partnership. Faustman and the doctor continued to work on the potion and their testing of the product through the patrons of the Upright Pig was what was causing people to immolate. It also explained why the effects of the burning got worse as they perfected their formula. The bad publicity was starting to affect his business dealing and reputation and his employer planned to publicly expose Faustman at the auction he was preparing to hold for the bottles of “Firewine” he and the doctor had created. He wanted to know if we were interested in helping Schwarmonger put an end to Faustman and his plans. We took the opportunity to ask him what he knew about other investigations we had going on. He told us that the “Iron Circle” is a mercenary company that has been steadily moving men south but he had no idea why. He also told us that he had heard of the Kraemer twins and the cult of Handrick, but didn’t where the twins were or what their cult’s objectives were in Averland. While I wasn’t particularly thrilled about being involved with a thieves’ guild, the enemy of my enemy is my friend – at least as long as I keep my eyes open. We agreed to meet him outside of the warehouse and bring these events to head.

We met Schwarmonger outside of the warehouse at the appointed time and managed to get inside without any difficulty. I’ve seldom seen a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. It seemed like every criminal in Averland was there. While we were moving through the crowd, Eckhart managed to catch a glimpse of the Kraemer twins leaving the warehouse and Faustman pocketing a large purse of coins. We can only assume that at least one bottle of firewine is in the possession of the cult of Handrick.

Faustman took his place at the center of the improvised stage, surrounded by four of his bodyguards, known as the “Fingers” and a scholarly looking fellow whom I assumed was the doctor responsible for this vile creation. Faustman began the auction stating that he had three bottles available, at which point Schwarmonger stepped forward and proclaimed firewine as a hoax. Pandemonium erupted.

The Fist and his fingers headed straight for us, apparently a little miffed at the sheer volume of mayhem we had managed to perpetrate on him. The mad pyromanical halfling began lobbing naphtha bombs pretty much indiscriminately about, although I must admit he seemed to be targeting Erik for some reason as his first one managed to immolate him. I pointed out that being on fire is generally considered a good thing unless you’re actually ON fire. He didn’t find that humorous for some reason…

Dolwen and Axel both missed their initial shots, but Adam, Eckhart, and I hit one of the Fingers in quick succession and knocked him unconscious. Erik rolled on the floor and managed to extinguish himself before becoming totally engulfed. At that point we became fully engaged in combat. Faustman hit Eckhart in the arm and almost removed it from his body while Dolwen and Axel both missed their shots again. Adam missed his furious attack against one of the Fingers who had apparently tortured him by eating pies right in front of him – the horror…

Combat continued with both sides trading blows to good effect but neither gaining the upper hand. Meanwhile glimpses around us revealed a mercenary group, an Ulrican group, and a Sigmar-be-damned vampire converging on our fight with the hopes of taking the firewine off of Faustman’s dead body. The mad halfling continued tossing his bombs into the crowd and Erik tried to put an arrow in his noggin but missed. I snapped off a quick pistol shot, but merely winged him. Light load I guess. Melee continued without too much changing for either side. Axel then managed an incredible feat of marksmanship by shooting one of the bombs out of the halfling’s hands and catching him of fire with his own creation, effectively removing him from the battle – a truly stupendous shot. It did however manage to do what the halfling had not managed thus far, catching the warehouse on fire.

Faustman kept getting hit repeatedly with glancing blows while the mercenaries, Ulricans, and the vampire continued to move towards us. One of the Fingers managed to slip a couple of blows past my guard, with the last one smashing my shield hand and nearly causing me to pass out. Faustman seemed to have an uncanny ability to avoid death as our blows rained down on him and he managed to avoid them totally or the glanced off of him. Finally, whatever dark god were watching over him left his side as the intrepid Eckhart crushed his skull with a well-placed sling stone. I noticed that the vampire had managed to raise some of the fallen to help him and that he had managed to slay the Ulrican leader. He did look a little concerned though as the fire inside the warehouse continued to grow. He left shortly afterwards as did the mercenaries.

By this time I was quite literally dead on my feet, but I kept in the combat to act as a target if nothing else. Dolan managed to fell one of the Fingers while the remaining two spread their attacks out between the rest of us. After trading a few futile blows, Axel and Eric managed to kill the two remaining Fingers. The mod broke up as the ever vigilant members of the watch arrived to take things in hand. One of Schwarmonger’s henchmen managed to capture the doctor who proceeding to fill us in on the details of the manufacture of firewine.

It appears that at least this investigation has come to an end and I believe we’re going to be heading home soon. I’ll make sure to keep you apprised of doings as the opportunities present.

View
A Fair Fight.

The glow from my earlier pyromaniacal episode continued to light the night sky. Dolwen and I, having located the home of “The Fist”, made our way back to our inn. We needed to regroup to plan our next action. The Fists’s men were out in force looking for us. We had narrowly avoided several small groups of them back at the burning remains of “The Pig.” By now, I can only assume that they already know were our inn is. Even if Adam hasn’t cracked under interrogation, how hard could it be for someone to find where a group with two Halflings and an elf were staying? With a little of Ranald’s Luck, maybe we’ll find our friends before they do. I was about to suggest to my silent friend that it might be best to stake out our inn rather than go to the room, when he noticed them leaving the inn. Looking a little worse for wear, I asked “What happened to you guys?” Pieter explained how they had gone up to the room and were attacked by the enemy waiting within. “You mean you actually went up to the room?” Shaking my head, I dismissed the matter as either over-confidence or foolishness, it pretty much amounts to the same thing. To add insult to their injuries, the innkeeper decided to throw us out, something to do with damages and disturbing the other guests. Having nowhere else to go, we made our way to the Temple of Vereena to seek refuge, and report our findings to the High priest Klatis.

The temple was fairly quiet, given the late hour, so we were able to enter without attracting too much attention. Klatis summoned some priests to tend to the wounded. Since I had nothing better to do, and waiting patiently is extremely boring, I unshouldered my satchel and pulled out the ledger to examine it more closely. The entries at the front of the ledger were clearly standard entries keeping track of loans, transactions, etc. The back of the ledger, however, contained coded entries. Unfortunately, I couldn’t decipher any of the code names, so for now, their identities remain a secret. I asked Klatis if he could provide materials to copy the ledger, and he offered the use of some of his scribes for the task which I accepted gratefully. My companions were finally done being poked, prodded, and bandaged so we made our report to Klatis. He confirmed that Faustman “The Fist” was the leader of one of the largest thieves guilds in the area. He went on to tell us that the guild is currently involved in a war with some rivals. We were also told that “The Fist” has an unknown ally. I suspect it may be one of the Lietdorfs, although I am not sure which one. I can’t be sure whether Raymond was at the “Upright Pig” as an ally or potential victim. We then discussed our plans for the following day. We needed to save Adam of course, if they hadn’t killed him already. Eckhardt suggested we go to the watch first. I suggested that it would be simpler to just knock on Faustmans door and ask him if he’d like to discuss the matter over tea. My prejudices towards the watch aside, the guild will obviously have agents in the watch, what self respecting guild wouldn’t? “Lets just sneak into his place, save Adam, and if he’s not there, burn it to the ground.” “It’s not like he doesn’t already want to kill us.” We discussed options further and eventually decided to try stealth, not really the groups strong suit, but what are you gonna do? Dolwen reminded us about the gathering in tent city tomorrow night, and suggested it might be better to accomplish this mission first to avoid showing up potentially half-dead from a previous skirmish. We all agreed and turned in to get as much rest as we could for tomorrow.

We were awakened the following morning by an initiate who asked us to report to Klatis. Once in his chambers, Pieter asked “What is it?” “There’s been another burning” he answered. Dolwen asked “Besides the bar?” I’m not entirely sure, but I think I saw a smirk. I may have been wrong about the elf; he might actually have a sense of humour after all. The victim was Raymond Lietdorf. I guess I can cross him off the list of suspects. He managed to survive and is currently recovering at an inn called “The Rivers Secret” in the merchants quarter. We left the temple immediately and made our way to the inn. We were allowed to see Raymond who was looking pretty good for someone who had just burst into flames. “Who might you gentlemen be?” “Just well-wishers with a few questions, my lord” He readily answered our questions about the night before. He was down by the waterfront when suddenly he was engulfed in blue flame. Before being tackled into the river by one of his more loyal bodyguards, he was surprised that there was no pain. He also mentioned seeing colours, and drinking some Tilean wine but was unsure as to where it came from. We tried to question him further about who might want to kill him, but he became tired of the questions, and dismissed us. As we were leaving, we discussed what our next step should be. Suddenly, the entire upper floor was surrounded in a shimmering blue globe which quickly vanished in a silent detonation taking the engulfed portion of the inn with it. “Wherever they went, at least they’ll have a nice barn to take shelter in.” The others did not look convinced. It was time we confronted Castor Lietdorf. We arranged a meeting with the Baron through the Baroness Genevieve. He agreed to meet us tonight during a party he was attending. I ran through the nights itinerary, first meet with the Baron, second go to the cutthroat convention, third save our field warden, and if there is enough time, burn down another building. It was turning out to be a busy night. I decided to get some rest until this evening.

Our meeting with the Baron accomplished little. I suggested that if Raymond was not the intended target perhaps he was. The persons behind this may have intended for Raymond to be with Castor when the delayed effects of the wine activated. He listened to our warning but could not give us any reasons why someone would want Raymond or himself harmed. As for “The Fist”, he said if we could prove his involvement, he would ensure that there would be no repercussions to us if we were caught bringing him down for these crimes. I recommend that we don’t get caught. I don’t know that I trust this noble to live up to his end of the bargain. As we made our way through the crowds towards tent city, a disturbance down the street caught my attention. Based on the screams, we had another burning. Casting a quick wink at Pieter, I ran towards the commotion. The unfortunate soul was completely engulfed in purple flames, his screams piercing through the roar from the panicked crowd. The warriors armour was melting off him from the intense heat. This was obviously not the same stuff that Raymond had drank. Erik, noticing a Halfling staring in awe at the event, told us that this same halfling was at the “Upright Pig”. Deciding to question him about these burnings, Erik called out “Hey you!” The halfling startled from his rapture, made a rude gesture before fleeing down the street. The pursuit ended at an apparent dead-end alley. Not wanting to run in blind, I stayed at the mouth of the alley as the rest of the group advanced towards the halfling. The halfling was waving a torch and shouting some nonsense about lies and truth, and how we’ll all burn. While thinking that this couldn’t be good, I noticed a little too late, the barrels stacked around the enraged halfling. I was about to warn my friends when the halfling dropped the torch, igniting the gunpowder. The series of explosions was deafening. When the dust had cleared and my ears stopped ringing, I made sure that everyone was okay, before looking for the remains of the halfling. There was no trace of him anywhere in the alley. Curious as to how he had managed to escape, we left the alley before the watch came and accused us of blowing it up.

Slightly charred, but otherwise none the worse, we arrived at the gathering place. Tents surrounded the fire pit, as did brigands equal to our number. Wondering what this gathering was all about, my query was answered by a man with a torn ear emerging from one of the tents…of course…Trap. The man limped towards us and confronted Erik “My plan succeeded in luring you out.” Sneering at Erik he spat “Lets make this a fair fight.” The group sprang to action as the outlaw and brigands attacked. I target a thug as the rest of the group targeted the gimp. Apparently it’s fair as long as the halfling doesn’t join in. The lackey, not thrilled with receiving a slingstone to the shoulder, tried to take a swing at me. I decided to target his other shoulder this time. Nope…still not happy, there’s just no pleasing some people. Evading his clumsy swing, I was very aware of the cursing nearby, indicating that Erik was not faring well. I tried a shot to the gut this time which bounced harmlessly off his armour. I’m not sure he even felt it. Still managing to dodge his attacks, I fired one more stone, connecting with a satisfying splat between the eyes. His head rocked back, followed by his twitching body. Turning to find my next opponent, I saw Erik getting crushed by an overhand blow. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he collapsed to the ground. I snapped a quick shot at the boss, hitting him solidly in the mid section, he didn’t look happy either. I found my rhythm and started to bob and weave while snapping off opportunity attacks. As most of the brigands fell, the limper not liking the odds, tried to flee. Eckhardt fired a quick shot as he fled, as did I. Erik having regained consciousness also fired an arrow from a seated position. The outlaw realizing that Erik was still alive, returned to try and finish the job. Besides, it’s really hard to run away with a limp. Erik got unsteadily to his feet, and adopted my tactic of evade and shoot. Eckhardt landed a crushing blow, rocking him back. Erik, catching him unbalanced, knocked him down with a glancing shot. I landed another stone to the head rendering him unconscious. Erik dropped his bow, and drew his sword. Standing over his helpless foe, he thrust his blade into the outlaw’s eye, silencing him forever. He then proceeded to do several unmentionable atrocities to the corpse, which I won’t mention because they were…well…unmentionable, while the rest of us chased the remaining brigands into the night. A short while later, as Eckhardt and Dolwen patched up Erik and Pieter, I recovered the outlaw’s diary. It revealed that he had no intention of going after the Baroness. It was all a ruse to lure Erik out and get revenge. Looks like it only half worked. Pieter and Erik were in no condition to do anything accept groan, so we decided to postpone Adams rescue until the following night.

The next morning we went to see the Baroness to inform her that she no longer needed to worry about the outlaw. “He wasn’t happy to see us.” I informed her “But it’s done.” Before leaving with our reward, Erik had a private discussion with her, but wouldn’t talk about it. Returning to the temple we updated Klatis on the nights events, and Pieter and Erik received some more healing. Klatis brought the ledger and the newly made copy, and provided us all with good luck charms. Every little bit helps. We spent the day resting and preparing. Having verified the copy was a complete match, I stashed it with my gear and brought the original with me. I figured, if things didn’t go well, we may need it to try and negotiate Adams release. The time had come, and we made our way to “The Fists” home. Shockingly, we somehow managed to eliminate the two sentries without attracting any unwanted attention. Pieter and Erik dressed in the sentries clothing, and we proceeded to the backdoor. Finding a Halfling servant scrubbing pots, we convinced him that no harm would come to him if he kept quiet. He then told us his brother was in the next room. He was as agreeable as his sibling, so we tied them both up in the cellar. Searching the main floor, we discovered some papers and a manifest. They detailed a shipment of goods to the “Iron Circle” I suspect this is the same group that had summoned Mr. Demon a few days ago. Making our way upstairs, we confront the two remaining occupants. The trollop was less than useful, but Joe the accountant had some interesting information. “The Fist” is currently prepping for an auction tomorrow. There is supposed to be some bigwigs coming. He provided us with the time and location, but knew nothing about Adams whereabouts. We searched the house further and were about to leave when I noticed a secret door under the stairs. A hidden spiral staircase led to a lower floor. We quietly searched the area and located the guard chambers. These guys are actually starting to get the hang of this stealth thing. Easily subduing him, we continue to search until we found the cells. We found Adam clutching his knees, while slowly rocking back and forth muttering “I’m missing it.” “I’m missing it.” At least that’s what I imagine he was doing since I was too short to actually look in the peephole. He did, however, look extremely hungry and relieved when we unlocked the door to release him. We locked the guard in the cell, and prepared to leave. We were well on our way back to the temple when I realized, that in the excitement of rescuing the field warden, I had forgot to light the house on fire.

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Pyromania in Averland

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Patrolman, Imperial Roadwardens

Re: Pyromania in Averland

Sir,

Following up some leads we’d unearthed during our investigation of the strange occurrences of people spontaneously bursting into flame, we decided to head to the Upright Pig in order to ask some more questions. I have never been in a worse excuse for an inn in my life and considering some of the truly vile dives my employment has taken me to, that’s quite a statement.
Fortunately, that particular situation was soon to be remedied, unlike our investigation. Our companion Axel decided to go and seek gossip amongst the “patrons” of the bar – on his way he muttered something about a Captain Obvious. I’m not sure about the reference, but it probably bears investigation. In any event, he did an absolutely stellar job of finding out pretty much nothing. The only thing that we managed to find out was that the outlaw the Erik is looking for “may” have been talking to the owner of the Upright Pig.

After spending some time drinking what passed for beer and eating even worse food, a group of four men came in the bar and proceeded to go through a private door at the back. My initial impression of this group was that they were probably criminal types. When I said as much to my companions I got the strangest look from Axel and he actually saluted me. I can honestly say I never expected such a gesture of respect from him. One of the men matched the description of Faustman, prompting us to go and ask the bartender if his boss was in the bar. To say that the barman was less than forthcoming with the information is like calling psychopathy a minor social aberration. Axel volunteered to listen in for a possible confirmation but learned nothing more.

A careful examination of the situation led us to decide that there was no way to get through the door and check out where it led. Eckhart and Adam decided to stay close to the bar to see if they could follow our suspects when they left while the rest of us spent some time looking for Erik’s outlaw friend at the other dives around town. While we were exploring the underbelly of the wine festival we came upon a rather heated discussion about the relative merits of various drinking vessels. After decided we really didn’t care, we moved on to a place of interest called the Virtuous Mermaid. After sniffing around (not too deeply) we determined it was an even poorer dive than the Upright Pig. The more time I spend at the wine festival, the lower my bar (no pun intended) seems to get.

Some decorous questions got us a lead on the outlaw and a small donation got us a potential meeting at another disgusting bar. Meanwhile, back at the Upright Pig, Eckhart told me that Adam decided to follow when some of the men that had come in with who we suspected was Faustman, left the bar. I can only surmise what happened next – Adam’s squeal of delight over a particularly delicious looking pie undoubtedly alerted his quarry that he was following. Adam has not been seen since and we are somewhat concerned but enjoying the peace and quiet nevertheless. Our meeting with the Virtuous Mermaid lead gave us a date and location for a meeting called by the outlaw chief that Erik is hunting. We also discovered that has also been seen recruiting by the orc skulls in the main square.

Together again (except for Adam) we waited until dark to continue our investigation of the Upright Pig. Dolan scaled the rear wall to listen in at a window that we assumed was an upstairs office. There was nothing to be discovered there, so we decided to watch the front and rear of the establishment to see who would be coming and going this fine evening. In the mid-evening, a better dressed group than what normally is seen this type of bar entered. We couldn’t see exactly what went on as we were concerned that the criminal element operating here now had our descriptions due to Adam’s suspected capture. We could tell however that the party inside seemed to get livelier after they entered. The leader of the well-dressed group is definitely related to the Lietdorf family, but his exact relationship in unknown at this time.

We decided to check the sewers and see if this particular rat hole had another entrance. Sure enough, we found a secret door in the sewers that led to a cellar below the Upright Pig. After overpowering the really inept guard we found out that the Upright Pig is owned by “The Fist” which I assume is the street name for Faustman. The guard was convinced that we worked for a rival gang led by someone named Schwarmonger. This ties into the rumors we heard of conflict between the local thieves’ guilds. He also confirmed that Adam had indeed been captured by the Fist. Stairs out of the cellar led to the kitchen of the Upright Pig. Eckhart and I acted as the rearguard while Axel, Dolan, and Erik searched upstairs. A thorough search of the office allowed them to discover a secret drawer in the desk. In this drawer was a ledger detailing money exchanges and names. The name of Faustman was also confirmed. We released the guard after he convinced us his life was worthless now that he had failed in his duty to guard the secret entrance.

Axel took it upon himself to remove this blight on the city by pouring alcohol all over the bar and lighting it on fire. Tactically, we though it probable that someone would run to Faustman’s house and let him know what was happening and give us the opportunity to find out where he lived. Strategically, we thought it would probably make him irate enough to start making mistakes – never a bad thing. Dolan and Eckhart followed a couple of locals to the merchant district and indeed found out where Faustman was staying. Erik noticed a halfling staring in rapture at the flames of the burning building. Said Halfling looked up to see Erik looking at him and bolted. Erik tried to follow him but lost him in the crowd. Faustman and eight thugs showed up and started to filter through the crowd, asking questions about Adam, their night watchman. I have to admit that felt a pang of regret for providing our enemy with such a tailor made reason for disappearing a body, but I quickly overcame it. Erik, Axel, and I managed to exfiltrate the crowd without being caught. Dolan and Eckhart joined up with us and we watched Faustman leave with intrepid members of the watch.

Dolan and Axel followed Faustman while the rest of us went back to our inn to collect our gear. It was there we discovered that Adam had definitely been chatting to the Fist as there were two thugs waiting for us in our room. After a sharp battle, we managed to prevail against them. It should be noted that these were far from ordinary thugs. Well-equipped and with better than expected fight skill, I can only assume that these were senior lieutenants. Testament perhaps to how seriously Faustman is taking the threat we represent. The innkeeper suggested we leave establishment and find alternative lodgings what with broken furniture and gunsmoke upsetting his other patrons. We met Dolan and Axel outside the inn and are currently discussing our next steps.

Again, I’ll file additional reports as opportunities present themselves.

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Pies, Wines and BBQ'd cows

The road was quiet, except for the sound of our boots. Dolwen was all but invisible, pacing us from the tree line. Our destination was the farm of Old Man Thurn, a cantankerous old codger with a severe dislike for elves. In his words “Damned elves burned me cows and blew me neighbours barn straight to Sigmar.” I wish I’d seen that, I’ve seen barn fires before, but I’ve never seen one actually explode. I wonder if Sigmar even needs a barn? I continued to ponder this as we traveled. We arrived and questioned the old man again, but learned nothing new except his neighbours name (Falshung), and that no cows have self-barbequed since the explosion. Heading to Falshungs, we made our way through the field. Erik slipped and “discovered” a pie of sorts, which I thought appropriate given that Pie week starts tomorrow. Once Erik finished cursing and scraping off his boot, I put away my writing kit and caught up to our companions. The farmhouse revealed little. It looked to have been abandoned. Pieter and I spotted a half concealed hole in the ground which was probably the former location of the barn. The hole was unusually spherical in shape. Pieter also noticed some perfectly smooth stone fragments making up part of the sphere’s edge. Now I’m pretty sure the barn wasn’t destroyed by a normal explosion, not that an exploding barn is normal, but it looked more like the barn and surrounding area was cut out of the ground and removed from existence. Now I REALLY wish I’d seen it. Maybe Sigmar really did need a barn. My thoughts were interrupted by a collective groan from my colleagues as Adam rambled on once again about “Pie”. His obsession with Pie was bordering on unnatural, even by Halfling standards. Fearing that my obviously irritated companions would inflict some sort of bodily discomfort, I suggested that he may want to temper his enthusiasm for pie until we figure out what is causing people (and cows) to burst into flames. We continued our search and, not finding anything new, returned to town with the now sulking Fieldwarden in tow.

Back in town, we pursued some leads and, while allowing Adam to scratch his “itch” at a bakery, learned that all three victims had been to a tavern called the “Upright Pig”. Deciding to check this place out, we left the bakery while Adam still had some coin. The name “Upright Pig” was only slightly appropriate. There was nothing “upright” about the place, but it was suitable for pigs. We grabbed a table and ordered a round. I asked the serving wench for a pint of ale in a clean glass, and immediately regretted it. I decided it best not to take a chance on whatever swill was served, and it had nothing to do with the recent cases of severe terminal heartburn. Looking around the bar, I suddenly started to feel overdressed. Pieter leaned in to let us know “The criminal element is active here.” Shortly after, Captain Obvious got up and went to check the facilities. Erik came back from the bar, apparently learning nothing from the barkeep, and also excused himself. When they didn’t immediately return, Dolwen followed, I’m assuming to see if the other two had fallen in. The rest of us continued to listen in to the surrounding conversations and tried to pick up some rumors. I overheard an interesting conversation about the Pillar of Skulls weeping flames, while Eckhardt learned of a textile shop run by a man named Mathias. Adam learned that he was still hungry. Making a mental note to visit the skulls later, I considered what Eckhardt had learned and wondered if this Mathias was the same person from the letter to the twins. I know Mathias is not exactly an uncommon name, but not believing in coincidences, I decide to investigate this businessman further. The others eventually returned, dry and not smelling any worse than usual, and said something about unsuccessfully trying to get to the upper floor. Dolwen suggested that we should question this Schnozberg person we had heard about, so I followed my companions outside, leaving my still full glass of ale on the table.

Our meeting with Leo Schnozberg confirmed that the “Upright Pig” was a location of interest. Before heading back however, we took a detour past the Pillar of Skulls. I was a little disappointed to see that the Pillar wasn’t currently weeping. On closer inspection, I was even more disappointed to discover that the flames were nothing more than a prank. I perked up however, when I noticed three extremely “happy” Halflings enthusiastically debating which was the “besht” (yes they were drinking) method for winemaking. “The Trod”, “The Stomp”, or “The Jump” the latter apparently involving a full body, cannonball dive into a grape filled vat. The debate continued, and they eventually agreed that though it may not be the most effective, “The Jump” was definitely the most fun. “Isn’t that what’s truly important?” I offered. They turned to me, cheered “Well said!”, and thrust the first of many drinks into my hand. I was well on my way to becoming one of four “happy” Halflings when the others decided it was time to move on. We eventually went back to the “Pig” where the others tried some vile dwarven..??? wine I guess, while I, emboldened by my afternoon with my Halfling brethren, braved the local, almost as vile, brew. The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur, but I woke up the next day and still had my pants, so I couldn’t have gotten into to much trouble.

Pie Week was finally here, and Adam looks like he’s ready to explode. Since none of us were going to get anymore sleep with Adam jumping up and down yelling “Its here, its here!”, we headed down to the opening ceremonies. I sampled a few pies on the way, but decided not to try any of the wines until we found out more about why people were being immolated, and who was responsible. The master of ceremonies turned out to be the same Mathias who owns the textiles shop Eckhardt had heard about. After the ceremonial uncorking to open the wine festival, I was about to follow Mr. Lietdorf when a rather attractive woman approached, and asked “Erik?” He turned, looking extremely uncomfortable, and stuttered a “Good to see you.” The woman (apparently a baroness) told us that she was hoping to find us and needed to talk to us all later. We agreed and she excused herself as she had a previous appointment to attend to. Still wanting to know if Mathias had any connection to the twins I tried unsuccessfully to relocate him. We made our way to the textiles shop hoping to find him again. While here, the others thought it would be a good idea to get some presentable clothes before meeting with nobility. Adam was looking a little lost so I flagged down a clerk, “Do you have a fat kids section?” pointing at my companion with his pie smeared face. “He’s going to need some stretchy pants.” Dolwen wandered off to the ladies section for reasons which may not be any of my business. He returned a little later with some information about Mathias. Relieved that he hadn’t returned with a dress, he is an elf after all, we learned that Mathias Lietdorf is second cousin to the baron and also heir to the late elector count. This textiles magnate is definitely the sort of powerful merchant type to be involved with the Cult of Handrick. Sure in my mind, but lacking proof, I’ll need to find out more about this noble. After everyone had changed into their new duds, we went to see the Baroness. Genevieve told us that her life was in danger. An outlaw from her past is trying to kill her and she needs us to locate him before he succeeds. Getting his description (Limper with half an ear), Dolwen asked “Why does he want to kill you?” She cast a quick glance at Erik before answering “Revenge, perhaps.” I looked at the baroness “Sounds like fun, I’m in.” The others quickly agreed. Making a mental tally of our current objectives:
1. Locate the twins and their associate Mathias, and foil their plans,
2. Stop the plot behind the recent spontaneous combustions,
3. Find an outlaw limper with half an ear,
4. Learn more about this demon summoning cult and,
5. Find and stop the Halfling slayer.
I started to wonder if maybe I’d be safer moving back to Nuln.

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Cult struggles in Pfunzig

To: Berholt Eisenhauser, Captain, Imperial Roadwardens

From: Pieter Konrad, Patrolman, Imperial Roadwardens

Re: Cult struggles in Pfunzig

Sir,

Our investigations into the cult of Handrich led us to take position on one of the boats operated by Ren in order to lay a trap for the individuals responsible for the attacks on his shipping. Our ruse was successful as we were boarded en-route to Pfunzig. We successfully managed to repel the attack and captured the boat pilot, who “volunteered” some information regarding where the goods from the attacked boat were to be taken, who his employers were, and the approximate numbers and types of individuals we would be facing when we got there.

Taking the pirate’s boat in tow, we proceeded down river. At a natural choke point, we were ambushed from both sides of the river, this time by individuals proven to be associated with the cult (see evidence – membership pin, attached). We ordered the boat’s pilot the beach the craft so we could engage the brigands. I must say that I am impressed with the fighting abilities of my companions. Erik’s first shot pierced the lungs and heart of one of the attackers, effectively removing the need of applying the emperor’s justice to that particular individual. After some fruitless exchanges from both sides, we started to receive some telling shots – the crewmen on our boat started to get picked off and our elven friend Dolan, Erik, and Adam all sprouted feathers, but gamely battled on. Things were beginning to look grim, but then our retaliatory fire started to fall with great effect among our attackers. Eckhart bravely ignored the hail of arrows to give aid to our wounded boat captain. Erik put a shaft up a brigand’s nose and effectively removed him from the battle. By this point we were close enough to shore that I felt compelled to vault the rail to take the battle to our attackers at spear point. While I’ll never be able to prove it, I’m convinced that Axel tied my bootlaces together while I wasn’t looking. Nothing else explains the way my feet failed me as I sailed over the railing and landed most ungracefully in the River Aver. As I went over, I saw Erik take another arrow, but keep fighting. Our group managed to fell another cultist as I dragged my dripping carcass out of the river. By the time I got to melee range, the fight was almost over and we managed to subdue the remaining cultist. Unfortunately, I injured him too severely to be questioned despite Eckhart’s best efforts to revive him. After treating our wounds, we continued downriver.

The enemy pilot guided us past the docks proper, down to the warehouses owned by the assumed leaders of the cultists, Valdred and Valdrec Kraemer. We docked in a cave below the warehouse that screamed “smugglers!” to me, and attempted to bluff our way in to the warehouse, but to no avail. After investigating the area, we were stymied by a particularily stout door and had to find another way in. We sent Ren’s boat and crew with our prisoners to the main dock area, while we attempted to gain entrance into the warehouse. Dolan’s foresight prepared an escape route in the event that things went badly for us. After a brief, but unsuccessful side trip to determine our exact location, we proceeded to stealthily kick in the front door to get into the building in question.

A thorough search of the upper portion of the warehouse yielded a note proving that the Cult of Handrich, acting through the Kraemer twins, was up to no good in Pfunzig. (See evidence – handwritten note, attached). We also discovered a substantial cache of weapons and armor that we immediately felt could be put to good use by us against these enemies of the Empire. We then moved into the warehouse itself to begin the search for more evidence and suspects. The keen eyed Dolan spotted the hidden lever that dropped an entire section of the warehouse floor into a hidden basement area. Axel managed to hear voices in the basement, confirming that the people we sought were there. We brought the floor back up and prepared for our assault by improvising fortifications made of crates and barrels in the middle of the dropping section of the floor. Once all was prepared, we hit the lever and dropped into the basement to face an unknown number of attackers with unknown armament.

The cultists open fire on us with arrows as soon as we were in range. Due to heavy cover on both sides, the missile fire was mostly ineffective. Once the platform hit the floor of the warehouse, the cultists charged our position. Early in the combat, one of the cultists almost succeeded in separating the top half of my head from the bottom half. Fortunately, the steel helm I’d acquired upstairs bore the brunt of the blow and I managed to regain my feet after a few seconds. I stood up just in time to see Eckhart slay the leader and the remaining cultists surrendered.

We remained at the warehouse to make sure that the stolen goods were returned to their rightful owners and that the cultists were delivered to the watch. I will be forwarding a copy of this report to the local riverwarden to help in his investigations of the actions of the same group of criminals.

I will file further reports as the opportunities present themselves.

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Differing opinions of "Reasonable"

After the excitement of facing and defeating an ogre …groan…I think he actually cracked some ribs…we made our way to a hedge-village for some much needed healing. After we had been tended to, the kindly hedge-folk gave each of us a healing draught which I’m sure I will find a use for shortly. Three uneventful and …yawn…boring days later, we received a summons from my boss to help drive a herd of horses to Pfunzig. We joined Wilhelm who also brought along two dwarven body guards…I think their names were Hack and Slash, or was it Frik and Frak? Whatever, they smelled worse than the horses… The trip went without incident, and we arrived in Pfunzig. At the auction yards Willy met with an old acquaintance of his. Their conversation started to get a little heated, so being the most interesting thing to happen in over a week, I tried to listen in. I only caught the end of the conversation when his friend argued “You owe me!” Willy hesitated and with a defeated expression responded “Fine”. He then came to us and said that he wanted us to work for his friend Ren. I asked “Can we trust him?” he paused for a second and said “Yes”. We learned that we were being hired to find out why his shipments were being targeted. It also appears that whoever is attacking these shipments also has a hate on for Halflings. Three Halfling couriers of his were also slaughtered. We agreed and headed into town to start searching for answers. Passing some poor lost soul ranting about “The circle is closing!” I immediately thought of pie. Under the pretense of covering more ground, Adam and I split off from the group to search for clues about the Halfling killer…and perhaps pie. We found a lively tavern, and felt it was a good place to start. I ordered a piece of everything and a Bugman’s. Adam not to be outdone, started ordering whole pies. We learned that there have actually been five Halflings brutally killed. Another rumor of mercs passing thru town, and also something about some feuding families, someone named Strassen, no elector count, blah blah blah, is anything more boring than politics? Then the pie showed up. Raising my pint to Adam “To pie” which he probably heard as “2 pies”. I offered a second silent toast to fallen brothers. Once my silver and the pie had been exhausted, we decided to meet up with our companions to share what we had learned.

After learning about some guy named Old Philippe selling his business, we headed off to find someone named Simon to get more information about the sale and the whereabouts of Philippe’s mistress…The tavern they went to, obviously had more info than ours did… On route, we heard screaming and chaos from further up the street, so I did the only reasonable thing, and ran towards it. A skeletal form with a flaming sword was eagerly cutting a swath thru the crowd. The demon cut one poor fellow in two. I quickly loaded my sling and let fly. The shot clearly got his attention, as his black horned skull turned towards us. Unfurling his wings, he took flight and swooped towards us. Pieter bravely stood his ground stabbing the beast with his spear, only to be rewarded by a crushing backhanded slash from the flaming sword. Battle continued, with Pieter obviously wounded, refusing to back down. One of my stones bounced harmlessly off the demons thick hide, while Erik deflected an arrow off one of his horns. This was followed by some creative curses which I’ll have to remember for future use. The beast continued to press the exhausted Pieter who managed yet another parry. Eckhardt moved in to try and help, while the rest of us continued our missile barrage. I launched another stone which exploded against his temple, forcing the demon back a step. A well placed arrow from the hunter caused the beast to sway a little more. Wounded but not beaten, the demon continued to attack but (fortunately for Pieter) was having some difficulty landing his blows. Eckhardt landed a solid hit, and the foul beast finally evaporated into a cloud of smoke. Slumping to the ground, I overheard Pieter grumble something about “the wisdom of running away”. Grinning, I replied “Are you nuts? That was awesome!” Glaring at me, I quickly dance out of spear range. At this point, the watch shows up. “Thanks for coming boys.” “You showed up just in time.” “We couldn’t have done it without you.” once again dancing out of weapons range. After checking everyone’s injuries, we made our way down the street and located a large hole in the side of a building which we “suspect” was where the demon came from. Entering thru the newly created door, we eventually found the remains of the summoner. An identifying tattoo had been mostly cut away; a section of a circle was all that remained. Everything else had been removed by his accomplice. With no further leads, we went to see Simon. Pieter pounded on the door. A servant answered, looked Pieter up and down, and asked “What happened to you?” The elf replied “Slipped on a bar of soap”, poking my head out from behind Pieter, “landed on a demon” I added. We were then led to Simon who told us about the sale, the foreigner twins who bought the company, and the whereabouts of the mistress. We went to see the mistress who added little, other than that the twins were very persuasive.

Returning to the hotel, we find a note on the door from Wilhelm, summoning us to talk. Meeting with him, he clearly looked worried. “We’ve got a problem.” he said. “I had a run in with some people from my past, business associates from Marienburg, working for the Cult of Handrick.”. Apparently the group had some unsavory business practices, and my boss left the group and started his new life in Averland, as far from them as he could. These individuals (who happened to be foreigner twins) recognized him at the auction yard. These twins also have no love for Ren. Now they know where Wilhelm is. I asked him “Do you think they’ll try to kill you?” Pondering the question, he replied “They might.” Remembering the encounter with the demon, and not believing in coincidences, I look at Wilhelm and tell him “You’re gonna need some more dwarves.”

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