Bags are packed, wagons loaded, everyone is set for a road trip.
Werner jumps into the driving seat, everyone else climbs into the back and with a crack of the reins they’re off.
The road is quite busy. It’s the first few days of autumn and there’s plenty of traffic. People on foot and trader carts head towards Middenheim for the upcoming carnival, and the steady stream of usual traffic heads towards the capital. It’s getting cooler but summer’s death throes make for pleasant travelling.
Eight horse coaches thunder past the wagon as it trundles down the road.
It’s a few hundred miles to Middenheim and it’s going to take just short of two weeks, but everyone’s excited to see the City of the White Wolf and attend the Empire’s, and if not the world’s, greatest carnival!
The weather turns cooler over the next few days and the crew continue on their journey. They stop at coaching inns during the evenings and spend as much time as possible travelling the road.
Over the next few days, they chat to the odd merchant, they see the roadwardens drag a poacher out of the woods crying for mercy.
Five days into the journey, the light fades for the evening and the wagon pulls into the Shepherd and Tankard.
The inn isn’t that busy and everyone enters and surveys the area.
There’s a table of coachmen in the bar area, a couple having a quiet drink and a drunkard slumped on a table surrounded by bottles. Through in the lounge there appears to be a priest talking to an old man, standing in front of the fire.
“What will it be?” Says the innkeeper, and as Werner turns to the others, raised voices can be heard from the other room. The old man comes through with the priest trailing after him
He’s carrying a handful of small bones, he looks deranged, he approaches the party standing at the bar and his face spasms, he fixes his gaze at Wandy, he grabs at his cloak holding him by the shoulders and staring into his face and begins to talk wildly and rapidly before Wandy can pull away.
He talks of darkness, shadows over Bogenhafen, hooded figures and great evil, death on the Reik, the great mutator, chosen ones and peril, the walled city of the White Wolf, chaos and spiders, a power behind the throne and the empire in flames, the horned rat and the book of changes, the enemy within. He then pulls away as if his hands are burnt, he looks at everyone in the face and screams, running out of the inn door.
He talks so fast and manically that it’s hard to make out what he said and the details, the party, stunned, stand and look at each other as the priest runs after the man.
Everyone is unnerved. He seems to talk of what has passed and what will come to pass. He seems to have talked about the adventures they have been on.
What was all that about?
The innkeeper says, “you know that guy?”
They explain they do not and the innkeeper doesn’t know him, just came in earlier and sat by the fire.
The priest of Sigmar returns. He doesn’t know him either, he just stopped to offer aid as he looked in distress, just before the adventurers entered.
Right. Everyone sits down at a table with drinks and waits for food while discussing the old man.
A short while later, two young ladies, late teens and obviously of good breeding enter, along with a giant of a man, with a thick heavy brow, massive jaw, flattened nose and a huge woodcutters axe. They talk to the innkeeper and after a brief exchange with the giant, the large man leaves and goes back outside the inn. The girls stay at the bar for a drink.
At this point, the drunk man stands up and staggers forward. He spots the ladies and heads over. It’s clear that his presence is making the women uncomfortable, and when he gets lewd and ‘grabby’ they tell him to leave them alone, but he’s not listening.
Werner can stand this no longer, and he’s off his feet heading towards the drunk.
He grabs him by the scruff of the neck, and the pisshead asks what the fuck it’s got to do with him?
Werner is no match for this guy and slaps him round the face and throws him to the side.
The drunk man considers his options, says he was only messing and sits back at his table for another drink.
The ladies are extremely thankful and offer to buy drinks for Werner and his friends. The blue eyed blonds continue to show their gratitude and introduce themselves as Ulrike and Bertha Jung, travelling to Middenheim to see their cousin, Kirsten Jung, who is a lady-at-court for the Graf, Boris Todbringer.
The enormous man enters the inn, sees Werner, and holds up his axe and stomps forward purposefully.
“Stop Gundar, this here is Werner, our new friend, and it’s a good job he was here – where the hell were you? Some bodyguard you are!”
“Apologies m’lady, the horses….”
“Yes, yes..” Bertha cuts him off and Werner asks if they would like to sit down.
They join Durak, Gnoblar, Wandy and Rowlocks at the table and have a pleasant few hours chatting. It gets late and the ladies set to leave, but first they insist that they visit them in Middenheim. Ulrike writes down her address and hands it to Werner. He pretends he can read it, smiles and thanks them.
It’s back on the road and they continue. They pass a small market town with stalls and some roadwardens and traders.
After lunchtime on the next day, Werner spots a group of what appear to be beggars heading towards them on the road. They are attached together round the waist with a rope and the lead bigger has a cane. The beggar at the back carries a wooden cup and shouts, “Alms for the blind!”
When they get close, Werner takes pity on them, pulls over and throws a gold in the cup. They are extremely grateful! It’s a lot of money for them, they explain they are on a pilgrimage to Altdorf. After more thanks they continue on their way, and Werner, with an extra sense of contentment, cracks his whip and continues.
They’ve been on the road a week and are not making bad time considering how busy the road is now they are closer to Middenheim.
They see a group of poachers heading out the woods carrying an enormous stag, they give the wagon a shady look and watch it pass.
As they leave the Warriors Candle, the next day, it begins to rain. A strange, dull, rhythmically noise can be heard from up the road ahead.
Everyone peeps forward to see what the noise is. Werner can see. Its a company of halberdiers, marching along followed by supply waggons. Their uniforms are ostentatious, red and yellow and they look tired but determined. Werner pulls the waggon to the side and they watch them pass.
The next day, after lunch they come across an old dwarf, walking the road with an over laden donkey. They stop for a chat. He’s selling goods, nick nacks and trinkets, as well as donkey jerky. He tries to shift some of his gear, but no one wants half a pair of shoes or a wooden necklace. Werner does consider buying a massive gear from the doors of a far dwarves fortress, but everyone talks him out of it. They wave goodbye and continue on their way.
It’s been nearly two weeks now on the journey and they estimate it will be another 5 or so days.
It’s been a long day and everyone is pleased to see the sign of the Three Feathers as they approach the coaching in up the hill, the sun setting in the distance.
As the party’s waggon draws closer they can see its unusually busy. There’s a large ornate coach outside and lackeys, some in livery, are busying themselves with various trunks and chests as men-at-arms look on.
Everyone jumps out and heads in as Werner ties up the horses, parks the waggon and talks to the inns stable hands.
Inside the inn is bustling. There’s an arm wrestling competition going on between a large man and a man-at-arms. Others gather round the table shouting laughing. A grinning halfling sits a table with a pack of cards having a pint.
Ita a full ten minutes before anyone can get the innkeepers attention.
“Welcome,” he says at last, " I’m sorry to have kept you waiting for so long, but as you can see, we have a distinguished guest tonight – Gravin Maria-Ulrike Von Liebewitz of Ambosstein no less – and there are so many arrangements to be made. I hardly know it I’m coming or going with it all. Now, you want a room? Of course you do, ah excuse me again, I’ll only be a moment."
Everyone’s waits for another few minutes as he directs a train of servants upstairs.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “it really is mad this evening!”
They book a couple of double rooms, order a round of drinks and everyone takes off their cloaks and makes themselves comfy at a table in the centre of the room near the arm wrestling.
There’s plenty of people milling about in the bar, men-at-arms, servants and patrons.
It’s nice to have a relax in a busy pub. Werner considers the arm wrestling – he thinks he can take the big guy whose doing all the winning, but he decides to relax for now. Everyone chats about current events and what Middenheim may have in store.
About ten minutes later, three travellers with heavy cloaks enter, hang their cloaks near the fire, speak to the innkeeper and then sit down at an empty table for food and drinks.
Five minutes later, a gnome enters, books a room then goes to play cards with the halfling.
Gnoblar goes to the bar and talks to one of the servants. Seems the Gravin is heading to Middenheim to deal with a legal matter.
A short while later, one of the Gravin’s livery comes down and heads to speak to the guy arm wrestling. Bruno is ordered upstairs to his room as the Gravin doesn’t want him to injure himself.
Bruno stands up towering over the servant and tells him to get fucked. The servant scurries back upstairs.
After five minutes or so, the Gravin herself, accompanied three servants, comes down the stairs looking annoyed. After a short exchange with Bruno, he sulkily heads upstairs. Food arrives for the rest of the Gravin’s party and most of the men-at-arms and servants eat at the bar.
Food arrives for the party and they continue to have a few drinks and enjoy themselves. Everyone’s discussing maybe having an early night and getting back on the road, but Werner is having a nice evening and doesn’t seem too keen.
A well dressed couple and two coachmen then enter the pub. The couple clearly only have eyes for each other and speak to the innkeeper and disappear upstairs, the coachmen grab a beer and sit at an empty table.
Five minutes pass before more guests enter. It’s about half 9 now and three men enter, all wearing black robes of the god of death- Morr. They spend a while talking to the innkeeper. After much discussion they then leave the inn and return a few moments later carrying a coffin. They carry it upstairs and disappear.
Following their experience with the Maria Borger a while back on the Reik, the adventurers discuss the coffin and start to worry about the presence of vampires. Last time they saw a coffin there was a nasty one inside.
Just to be safe, Werner heads outside and looks for some yew trees to make some stakes.
It’s not too much trouble for the axe wielding carpenter, but while he’s outside a traveller on horseback arrives at the inn and gives Werner a wave as she passes. She hands her steed to the stable hand and heads inside.
Werner comes back in and rejoins his table for another round of drinks. The sturdy looking female traveller stands with a drink at the bar and chats to some of the servants.
As Rowlocks sits and watches the bar, he sees one of the men-at-arms give the female traveller a cheeky bum squeeze. A split second later he is laid on the floor with a bloody nose, the other members of the Gravin’s party back away and give their drinks a good looking at.
It’s about 10pm. At this point a liveried servant comes down the stairs and orders the gravins entourage to retire for the night, stating that they will be leaving at first light in the morning. The various members finish their drinks and drift off to the dormitory.
About the same time, male from the couple comes downstairs and orders a bottle of wine. Before he can return, Wandy spots him talking to one of the gravins servants. A heated exchange takes place and the man, who is now very angry, stomps off back upstairs and the servant heads to the dormitory.
It’s a bit quieter now in the bar, and everyone discusses calling it a night.
Gnoblar heads to the bar and talks to the woman. Her names Ursula and she works for the Kemperbad town council, off to Middenheim to deliver a message. She’s funny and chatty, and she joins the guys at the table for a round of drinks.
About 10 past 10, Bruno tentatively walks down the stairs, looking all around the bar room. Seeing none of the gravin’s party there, he shouts the barman for a mug of ale and tells him to ‘keep ’em coming’ and sits down at the table with the two coachman. A few minutes later, the arm wrestling starts again.
Werner’s had a few beers now and fancies his chances. After Bruno slams down the arm of one of the coachmen, Werner heads over. “At last! Some competition maybe!” Shouts Bruno and the coachman stands aside.
Everyone gathers round as Werner and Bruno roll up their sleeves and lock hands.
Staring each other in the eyes, they go at it. No arms move and it’s tense. Werner’s arm starts to faulter and the crowd gasps, but he gradually moves it back to upright. Everyone starts cheering and Bruno’s hand goes back. Both men are sweating with veins bulging.
Werner then feels a slight wobble on Bruno’s arm and goes for max power. He goes over the top with his fist forward and slams Bruno’s arm down. The pub erupts with cheering and much back slapping and mug clanging takes place. Bruno is the first to congratulate and orders a round for everyone. He commends Werner on his power.
“Hah, I reckon I could beat you,” shouts Ursula to Bruno, putting five gold crowns on the table.
“Well let’s see,” he says.
Ursula sits down and the crowd regathers. Bruno let’s his arm go down a bit with a smile, but he’s being gentle with the lady. He applies some power and the contest begins in earnest. Neither move and sweat breaks out on Bruno’s forehead. It’s evenly matched until Ursula’s arm wavers and Bruno slowly but surely forces her arm to the table. More cheering backslapping takes place and Ursula and Bruno laugh it off.
Spirits are high and the idea of bed is postponed while everyone sits in one big group.
A tray of drinks is brought to Bruno who offers them round and everyone grabs one.
A short while later, Durak, who is sat next to Bruno slumps down onto the table unconscious. Bruno laughs and makes comment about dwarves supposed to be able to hold their drink.
Immediately the party is suspicious, Durak likes a beer and he’s never done this before – there’s something wrong with the drink. Gnoblar sniffs it, yep, somethings not right. Wandy then spots one of the barstaff looking worried, he immediately leaves the pub through the main door.
One of the priests comes downstairs and talks to the landlord. A few coins change hands.
As soon as he leaves, Ursula stands and goes to talk to the barman. A few more coins change hands and she comes back to the table.
One of the gravins party, who was earlier wearing a wig and gown, comes down in his nightshirt and orders a brandy.
One of the three, of the first three people to enter the inn, goes upstairs and the lawyer looking person goes back upstairs too. The other guys friends the head upstairs too.
Rowlocks, Wandy and Gnoblar want to go to bed. Werner doesn’t, but he reluctantly heads upstairs. They grab Durak and carry him upstairs.
They’re in the corridor in the opposite wing to the gravin’s party and they split into two rooms. Durak, Wandy and Werner in one and Rowlocks and Gnoblar in the other. Werner stands outside the room for a few moments to survey the scene. Durak’s flat out already and everyone else gets comfy.
From down the corridor, raised voices can be heard. As Werner heads down to have a listen they abruptly stop.
As he’s walking down the main corridor, a door opens and the brandy drinking lawyer pops his head out stating that he heard something. Werner agrees and he goes back in his room and shuts the door.
As Werner turns the corner he bumps into the man who was with the lady earlier. He turns to a hushed voice and asks Werner, being the ‘adventuring type’ would do him a favour? Head into the dormitory and find a man called Hans Empresser, and ask him to call at his room, with 10gc for the trouble. Werner considers this and accepts.
He heads back down and through the bar, just as Ursula heads out the main door. He asks around in the dorm and finds Empresser.
On the way to the stairs, Werner stops and talks to the man, questioning him on what is going on. He doesn’t want to say and Werner suggests he may be in danger and maybe he should pay Werner to stand guard as he goes in the room. This worries Empresser and he begins to open up after much negotiating.
It seems that the man is from a rich family and is having an illicit affair with a lady from a rival family. Empresser knows this and wanted to ‘speak to him’ about it. This gives Werner even more persasive power and adds to his case of protection. Empresser agrees and heads to the room.
Werner hangs back then stands outside the door where he can hear voices.
As he does, one of the gravin’s servants comes to Gnoblar and Rowlocks’ room, knocks and requests him to come and speak to Rechstandler, the lawyer. Gnoblat thinks for a moment, the says OK. He leaves the doorway and follows the servant, but not before heading down the corridor and grabbing Werner to come with him.
Not far from his own room, he knocks on the door. In short, the lawyer is being blackmailed by the people in another room. Could Gnoblar and his colleagues murder them for 250 gold?
It’s a significant amount and Gnoblar and Werner arn’t sure what to make of the situation, but they don’t want to do it. Gnoblar explains that he is not a murderer and thanks but no thanks.
They exit the room and Gnoblar goes back to bed and Werner heads back to where Empresser and the bloke are.
Outside the room, all is quiet, no voices.
I thinks for a moment and knocks on the door. The man, who we now know to be having an affair, asks what he wants.
He insists that no one is in the room with him and as Werner begins to argue, saying he knows there is a great noise can be heard coming from downstairs. It starts with hammering and turns to shouting.
Werner goes to the top of the stairs to listen. There’s a group of loud drunk men inside and they are demanding to know where someone is. The innkeeper says he’s not here, but apparently his coach is parked outside. Sounds of brawling can be heard in the bar.
As Werner heads back to finish his conversation, two thugs head upstairs and they’re going to breakdown every door till they find Friedrich! The main instigator is a large, very drunk man and he is now upstairs.
They’re at the door opposite Rowlocks and Gnoblar and they break it down, don’t find what they’re looking for and move to the next one. Werner heads back to that end of the pub.
Gnoblar suggests they open the room door so they can see he’s not there and Rowlocks opens the door, they snarl and look in and head next door to where Wandy and Durak are.
Werner turns up and tells them to back off. Punches fly and the thugs start on Werner. A couple of the inns workers join in and there’s people everywhere. The fight sends one of the thugs and a servant slamming through the door and onto the floor of Wandy’s room as Werner knocks out the one outside. Werner hasn’t had a fight for a while and he is well oiled and still armored. He quickly overpowers the remaining drunk man and drags him downstairs.
In the bar, the rest of the patrons have overpowered the other two thugs and they’re all thrown to the floor. The man is Thomas Pramhandler and he is looking for his Mrs that he suspects is here with someone. The innkeeper has had enough of them and they are bound, locked in the cellar and will be given to the roadwardens the next day.
This is probably the man Empresser went to see. Armed with his new information, Werner goes back upstairs to confront him.
He answers the door. Werner explains that he knows of the affair and what’s happening and asks where Empresser is. Schmidt let’s Werner in and he looks round, but he’s right, he’s not there. Werner insists he walked him there, but Schmidt explains that he left. Werner is suspicious, but leaves him for now and heads back to the room. Before he takes his armor off, he hears a muffled but violent arguement. He heads back into the corridor. Everyone else has been trying to get some sleep but it’s not going well.
There’s nothing outside.
Just then, from another room in the corridor in front, loud bangs can be heard.
It’s the room with the initiates of Morr, and thinking of the coffin, Werner gets everyone up before he investigates and by the time they get there the innkeeper is already there. He insists there’s no problem, and the priests already told him there could be some noise as they had to conduct some services over the body during the night.
Before they knock, everything goes quiet. The innkeeper knocks on the door, and one of the priests answers, apologises for the noise and insists that they will remain quiet for the rest of the night.
Inside the room, two initiates sit upon another. The one at the door explains that his brother sometimes has ‘spasms’ due to his connections to ‘the other side’. This makes him an excellent priest of Morr, but can be inconvenient. He shuts the door. The landlord looks at the adventurers all puzzled, says, “whatever next” and suggests everyone goes to bed, it’s been a long night already.
Everyone agrees and retires for the night.
It’s about twenty past twelve and everyone’s dozing is abruptly cut short. A loud scream can be heard from down the corridor towards the gravin’s wing. When the adventurers arrive, they find servants and others crowded round the door of Bruno’s room. He’s been found dead with a dagger buried in his back. Everyone in the inn is summoned to the bar room.
This roll call also leads to more bodies being discovered. Empresser is dead, the lawyer is dead and a servant is missing.
The innkeeper states that a murderer is on the loose and advises everyone to lock themselves in their rooms until the roadwardens appear tomorrow.
Before everyone leaves, the Gravin displays the dagger that killed Bruno.
Once held aloft it looks familiar. One of the inns staff says, “didn’t he have a dagger like that?” And points at Wandy. It’s true, Wandy does have a dagger just like that, and to make it worse, it’s not on his belt where it usually is. Hushed whispers echo round the bar as Wandy says – “I didn’t kill him!”.
Ursula looks puzzled, the gnome and halfling and everyone else look shocked. And everyone stares at Wandy.
The Gravin then speaks.
“I am authorised by my aunt, to exercise her imperial right to dispense common justice. Therefore, I rule that the party be locked in their rooms without armor and weapons, with guards placed outside their window and door, until the morning, when I shall decide further on a course of events.”
“However, you…. ‘big man’”, she points at Werner, “I sentence you to replace my murdered champion until it should please me otherwise.”
Our heroes all look at each other and consider their options. There’s too many to fight, the pub would lynch them. With their options dwindling, they reluctantly agree, insisting that there’s been a mistake.
Men-at-arms swarm the group and march them upstairs to relieve them of their weapons and armor. Rowlocks, Wandy and Gnoblar are locked in the room with Durak, and Werner is led to Bruno’s room and locked in. The latest dead bodies are handed to the priests to watch over. Everyone goes to bed.
Rowlocks, Wandy and Gnoblar think how to get out of the situation, consider trying to escape and various other plans, but they can’t agree on a decent exit strategy. Once more, they’re in the shit.
About 30 minutes into discussions, the door opens. The gravin wants to talk to them.
Rowlocks, Gnoblar and Wandy are reunited with Werner in the corridor and they’re taken to the gravins room.
“I’m sorry that it was necessary to lock you up, it seemed like the easiest way to calm everyone down. I believe you to be innocent, no one would be stupid enough to leave their own dagger as a clue. Anyway, we have till dawn to discover who killed Bruno. I’m sure that Danmerblatz is behind this. I’m heading to Middenheim to fight a lawsuit against him. If I’m right, his agents will try to kill my new champion,” she gives a wry smile, “but this time you will be waiting for them. You’ll lock yourself in Bruno’s room. I’ll let you get a weapon each, I don’t want you trying to make a break foe it do we? I’ll leave the guards outside your room for appearances. Let’s get moving, there isn’t much of the night left.”
The party grabs a weapon, heads back to Bruno’s room and sits in the dark trying not to fall asleep.
The drinking, the travelling and the staying awake takes it’s toll and nearly everyone falls asleep, but not Wandy..
About 2am, Wandy hears scraping from the chimney, Gnoblar’s awake too. No one moves. Werner is asleep on the bed and Rowlocks has dozed off in the chair. Through the half light, a figure can be seen dropping down from the chimney and lightly stepping onto the hearth. With his night vision, Gnoblar can clearly make out one of the inn workers delicately tip toeing through the room with a knife.
Gnoblar launches forward to grab him, but stumbles and misses. Rowlocks wakes and instantly attempts to grapple the intruder, but he’s also unlucky and doesn’t manage to get him. Knowing the game is up, the inn worker runs back towards the chimney. He’s fast and he’s crouching ready to jump up.
There’s one last chance before he vanishes, and Wandy leaps forward at full stretch, aiming for the guys trailing ankle. He slides across the floor, closes his eyes at the last second and his finger tips brush the assassins legs. His magic touch sends the intruder straight to sleep.
Werner wakes and the gravins men-at-arms burst into the room. They throw the adventurers a smile, ‘nice work’. They set about binding and gagging the man.
The gravin enters – “I knew it!” She says, “I can’t thank you enough”
After more thanks, the weary bunch head back to their rooms ready to meet with the gravin in the morning.
In the morning they head down for breakfast and are greeted by the thankful Gravin. Everyone is present, apart from Ursula who has disappeared during the night. They pull up at the gravins table.
She thanks them for their involvement, and thanks Werner for standing in as a would be champion for the night. “Unless, of course, ‘big man’, you would like to actually represent me as my real judicial champion? At the trial in Middenheim in a few days? You look like you can handle yourself. I will pay you a daily fee for your employment and a bonus if you win?”
Werner considers this. He’s been looking for new career options for a while now and this might be just what he needs. Also, fighting for a living, that’s right up his street.
But what about his friends? The gravin says they can join her retinue as extra protection for the remaining journey to Middenheim, but after that, they’re on their own. We’ll see about Werner after the trial.
Werner accepts and everyone gathers their things, loads up the waggon and joins the train of coaches carts.
That was a rough night at the Three Feathers.
A few days later and the waggon pulls into the valley below Middenheim and through the trees, up on the mountain, the towering fortress city of the White Wolf can be seen ahead.