The Plot Thickens
The overnight stay in Wurtbad proved uneventful. Taking a rest from his work, Grundi noticed Machholt and Reinholt talking to someone, who soon departed. The same scene was again witnessed by Grundi, and also by Seigfried, the following morning, outside the inn the party was sharing with the merchant and his servant, but nothing came of it- merchants seeking new deals have to foster contacts after all.
And so the party set out on the last leg of their trip down the River Stir in the Black Swan: 2 more uneventful days marked by a following wind helping them make good time, and by flurries of snow which never became the threatening storm. Arriving in Marburg they stayed in the Bosun's Rest they had visited so many months before. There they were recognised by the innkeeper and given a friendly reception.
Seigfreid took advantage of this to pursue a scheme involving the purchase of a horse. The innkeeper directed him to a farmer who might have an old horse to sell. It turned out that the farmer did indeed have a tired old nag he was happy to sell. The price for this discovery was a lengthy chat with the garrulous old goat, in the course of which Siegfried did at least hear a couple of interesting tales. The first was that the outlaw Heinz Gerber was still at large and had recently been active in the area. The other was that Ernst the boatman- who had gone missing when the PC's had last been in the area- had killed himself after his wife Renata had run off with another man. These tales served to remind the PC's that they were returning to the scene of former triumphs.
The following morning the party set off bright and early for Corman's Landing, the site of the Strutting Cock inn. Detouring only briefly to visit the farm for the purchase of Siegfried's 'new' horse, they made good time northwards. Then they heard 2 voices shouting at each other round a bend in the road.
Nursing painful memories, the party halted while Seigfried sneaked ahead through the woods to scout the situation out. Soon enough he saw a cart with a broken axle and 2 peasants arguing over whose fault it had been. Reassured, Siegfried snuck back to the party, and together they continued up the road.
The 2 peasants stood slack-jawed in fear at the sight of the party, the elf and 2 heavily-armed dwarfs in particular. Attempts to glean information about events at the Strutting Cock proved futile other than to elicit the pair's fear that the party were outlaws. Siegfried treated this suggestion with scorn, and headed off up the road. Torn between a desire to help the stranded pair and the need to press on, the others dithered for a while, before following Siegfried, with the promise to send help from the Strutting Cock.
Soon thereafter the party approached the edge of Corman's Landing. Siegfried organised his plan. He had some smart new clothes and a horse. He would pose as a noble, while the rest of the party played the parts of his bodyguards and other members of his retinue. The idea, he explained, was to have a cover story ready to explain their presence to any evildoers they should encounter ahead. Thus prepared, the party proceeded, Berthold slung over the back of the horse because he had by this time fallen quite ill.
Breaking out of the treeline into the open space of Corman's Landing the party caught sight of the inn, the tollhouse, and the other buildings they remembered. Everything seemed strangely normal, and they could hear the birdsong from the surrounding trees as they approached the Strutting Cock. Entering the inn's courtyard, they headed first for the stables. Finding the stables empty roused their suspicions.
Undaunted, they made for the entrance to the inn. On the way they passed the kitchen window. Looking inside, they saw Heidi Handler and 2 serving girls hard at work. Seigfried approached and by dint of hand signals tried to get Heidi to come out and speak to him. Heidi's only reply was shrugs of incomprehension. In the end, she opened the kitchen window and asked Seigfried what was the matter.
We're here because of Josef's message Siegfried explained. What message Heidi asked. The message he sent asking for our help because he was in trouble explained Siegfried. Heidi patently didn't understand what he was talking about. I think you'd better speak to Josef she said. Realisation began to dawn on the PC's, and Mordrin kicked a stone which narrowly avoided breaking the kitchen window.
The party made their way into the inn. In the bar room they found Josef Haarig, Emmerich Handler and a servant decorating the room for the annual harvest festival. Even as the PC's began to wonder what was going on, Siegfried was struck by the realisation that he'd almost forgotten about Mittherbst, one of the major feast days of his god, Ulric. Meanwhile, Haarig welcomed the party as long-lost friends.
Soon enough, the party began to explain why they were there, only to find that Josef knew nothing at all about the message he was supposed to have sent. He did however grasp that they had travelled all the way back from Middenheim on the strength of a message that he and his inn were in peril. So he sat them down with some food and drink, and proceeded to get the whole story out of them.
Haarig was moved and deeply touched by the PC's story, reminding them that he was already in their debt because Grundi and Alane had saved his inn from the curse of having innocent blood spilt on its grounds. He began to review their tale, and just as he did so, Seigfried and Mordrin jumped to the same conclusion at the same time: somebody had wanted them out of Mordheim. Siegfried cursed the name of Beyer and began vowing bloody vengance.
The conversation continued and the PC's began to realise that there were hidden depths to this garrulous innkeeper as he took all their tales of intrigue in his stride. In the end, he pointed out to them that they had progressed from their adventures around Corman's Landing to serving some of the most powerful people in Middenheim. Haarig noted it was likely that they had made similarly powerful enemies.
The talk also turned to Beyer's companions. Josef told the PC's that they had been working with Captain Kurtz and his roadwardens and with Lars the bounty hunter to help restore law and order after the local soldiery and militias had mustered to march north to help defend the Empire against the Chaos incursions. The innkeeper warned the PC's to be wary of Kaltenbach, the leader of the group, who Josef described as a hard and brutal man.
As the PC's sat trying to absorb what Haarig was telling them, the innkeeper announced that they were his guests, and that they would pay not a single penny for their food and drink, neither that night, nor during the festival tomorrow. Josef went off to get on with his work.
The party sat around in the barroom as it filled up for the evening. The locals were familiar with the PC's and their previous exploits, and Josef made sure that they soon knew all about why the party had returned. The PC's found themselves the centre of friendly curiosity. The locals were agitated by rumours of an impending grain requisition, about which one Theoderic- one of Kurtz's roadwardens, currently on duty at the tollhouse- was particularly exercised. That night though, the PC's stories of heroic adventure gave the local farmers something more diverting to think about
Basking in the glow of the locals' admiration for their exploits, the PC's played up to their reputation as local heroes, and soon forgot their troubles. Except for Berthold, who was too busy being ill upstairs, and Siegfried, who continued to bemoan his wasted 60gc, and to nurse his deepening grudge against Beyer, Kaltenbach, and anyone else he might find had been involved in this pointless diversion.
Mittherbst dawned crisp and clear. Seigfried was still brooding, but Grundi and Mordrin sat down to breakfast with typical dwarfen gusto. As they ate they were approached by a young man in the trailworn garb of a woodsman. He introduced himself as Corvin Liess. Liess explained that he was a Longshanks- a servant of the gods Taal and Rhya, and that he was investigating the disappearance of his mentor and his confessor.
Faced with the incomprehension of the 2 dwarfs, the young Longshanks explained his duties as a guardian of the holy places of the woods. He then explained that his missing companions- a priest of Taal and a fellow Longshanks- had last been seen boarding the missing boat of Ernst the boatman. The young fellow told the PC's that he knew of their own search for Ernst, and asked if they had any information that might help him in his search. The PC's had to confess they knew nothing that might help him.
Corman's Landing was by this time beginning to fill up with local families arriving for the day's festivities. Children ran around shrieking with delight as they took part in the games and other diversions. After a while, something about the decorations struck a chord in the dwarfs' minds- some of them reminded the pair of Reinholt's corn doll. They spoke to Josef, who directed them to Liess.
Hearing what they had to say, Liess reacted with shock. He asked them to explain in detail what they had seen. Had they seen a symbol of a sickle he asked them. Grundi and Mordrin racked their brains, and concluded that they did have a vague memory of a ring that Luthor Machholt had been wearing. The young Longshanks explained that these were the symbols of Ahalt the Drinker, a god of the Old Faith whose followers were the sworn enemies of the followers of Taal and Rhya because their cults had supplanted Ahalt's own.
Liess thanked the 2 dwarfs for their information, and went off to play his part in the day's celebrations. Grundi and Mordrin were left with the impression of a sincere young man a little out of his depth.
The rest of the day passed peacefully as the PC's took full advantage of Josef's generous hospitality and joined in the Mittherbst celebrations with gusto. Except for Siegfreid, who spent the day brooding in his room, before going out that night to conduct private rituals to Ulric to mark his own celebration of Mittherbst.
From Altdorf to Corman's Landing
- #1 Curiouser and Curiouser
- The GM's confession: again I lament.
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim