Grunburg, a small town within the province of the Reikland. It is here that the party of 4 meet…
Ulrico Eisenhauer, a traveling apothecary arrives in the town with a friend of his that he met on his travels, Eckhardt Konrad, a soldier from the Ostenmark province. Together they seek a room at the Laughing Minstrel Inn, a rather unremarkable stop in the town of Grunburg.
Before they arrived, two other strangers had sought out the inn. Kall Horst, a traveling Outrider with business in Altdorf, came across a distressed Finja Dieterich in the hills south of Grunburg off the beaten track. Kall Horst had given aid to Finja, agreeing to bring her as far as Grunburg.
They had only one thing in common. They were all going to Altdorf, the capital of the Empire. The common man might say, “All roads lead to Altdorf,” and in a way, it was true. Altdorf was the center of the Empire, a city of opportunity for those who sought it out.
The innkeeper at the Laughing Minstrel had told them that there was a morning coach heading to the city; a Ratchet Line Express coach.
Apparently the son of the Elector Count of Ostland was gathering up a party for some kind of march into the Grey Mountains, with handsome pay offered!
Having paid for their room and board, the four of them set out for Altdorf. Kall Horst had his own means of transport, a well bred but traveled weary horse called Belvar. Being a somewhat experienced outrider, Horst had offered his services to the coachman to ride ahead and scout. Despite some initial hesitation about the ‘fee’, the coachman agreed to give him a single shilling and another shilling upon arrival in Altdorf, if he could arrange the matter with his boss, that is.
The Coachman had told them it was a 4 day journey to Atldorf, with various stops on the way at several coaching inns. By nightfall, they had come to their first coaching inn, The Forest Oak. By morning, they rode out again for Altdorf.
It was late in the evening when Kall Horst had spotted something up ahead. Smoke on the horizon… and a seemingly abandoned wagon cart.
He alerted the coachman and signaled for them to stay back while he checked it out. Getting closer, he spotted something most foul…
A mutant! Deformed no doubt by chaos, corrupted by its evil taint. It was feasting upon the remains of what looked to be a peasant in farmer’s rags.
The mutant had been too busy feasting upon the remains to take notice of Kall Horst riding up. With a single hit in the back from his crossbow, the mutant was quickly dispatched.
Kall Horst had decided to trot further up on his horse to check out the smoke on the horizon around the curve of the trees, only to discover absolute carnage!
A carriage was on fire, and littered around it were bodies, both mutant and common folk. What remained were two other mutants, busy looting and feasting on the flesh of those they killed. Kall quickly took a shot at one of the mutants from afar and landing a blow, before deciding to ride back and alert the others.
Four of them had decided to advance, with the coachman staying behind saying he’ll go no further until its safe. A scuffle breaks out. But the mutants, having already been worn out from the carnage that they caused, were little to no threat to the party. They were soon put into the ground. Then the looting began…
Kall Horst occupied himself with searching the dead while Eckhardt, Ulrico and Finja searched for clues as to who the victims were. There was not much to learn from the carnage…
But Kall Horst did find a peculiar thing. Faced down in the mud, not far from where the ruined carriage lay, was a man who, when turned over onto his back, looked remarkably like Eckhardt Konrad. So strong was the resemblance and likeness of this seemingly strange man, that one could not tell them apart, except for the fact that the man who looked like Eckhardt was very much dead.
When Eckhardt had discovered the body for himself, he was lost for words. The only thing that identified the man was a ring with the initials KL. Eckhardt was unsure what to make of the man. He boarded the coach and continued his way to Altdorf.
It was only at the second rest stop that night, that Kall Horst had shown Eckhardt Konrad a piece of parchment that he found on the body.
Upon learning that the initials KL correspond with the name Kaster Lieberung, and that this Lieberung was apparently on his way to claim a rather large inheritance, Eckhardt saw a golden opportunity. With the affidavit proclaiming his identity, the fact that he looks exactly like this Lieberung fellow, and that he had the ring, Eckhardt declared in rather hushed tones that he would be willing to share the inheritance with the other three. Although probably not done out of generosity, and more of a way to buy ‘silence’ for what was now public knowledge within the group.
The next morning the party had continued onto Altdorf. On the 4th day since leaving Grunburg, they arrive late in the evening at the city gates of Altdorf. With the toll keeper satisfied with his nightly earnings, the party move on, making their way to the Konigplatz.
The coach comes to a stop just outside the Ratchet Line Express stables, and Kall Horst see’s to his horse as he makes his way over to the local watch house to conduct his business.
The rest depart from the coach and make their way down the street of a hundred taverns, searching for a ‘quiet’ place to rest for the night.
Kall Horse heads into the local watch house with the coachman in toe, who stated earlier he had to report what happened on the road. The coachman asks for a discreet word with the watch sergeant in private. Kall Horst seeks out a man called Hans Gruber, his roadwarden contact and a man who owes him 2 crowns. However he is told that Hans Gruber rode out, possibly with the Prince of Ostland.
Horst later learns from the watch sergeant that Hans Gruber did indeed sign up to go on some damned ‘crusade’ into the Grey Mountains with the prince, to deal with some heretic proclaiming the return of Sigmar or some other nonsense. However, the watch sergeant said he was unable to pay for Horst’s services that Gruber had hired him for, as the roadwarden and city watch business was kept separate.
Meanwhile, Finja, Eckhardt and Ulrico stroll down the Konigplatz is cut short, Two hooded strangers approach them. They stop roughly 30 meters out, and one of them makes a gesture that is aimed at Eckhardt Konrad. It is some kind of secret message, but Eckhardt is confused as ever. The man repeats the gesture, but this time with a slight variation to it. Eckhardt, growing frustrated, shouts out, “What do you want! Are you mad!?!” The two hooded strangers give each other a confused look, and walk away towards a small building just off the platz. There, they see a man wielding a crossbow looking over at them. Steely eyed, with a hard chin and a rough ‘look’ about him, a deep scar running around his neck. The party decide its best to carry on and ignore them, wanting to find room and board quickly and fast.
Kall soon meets up with the rest of them, and learns about the two strangers from them. Just as he’s about to double back to keep an eye on their rear from the shadows, a familiar voice cry’s out, “Nephew? Is that you!”
As the man steps out from the shadows, Kall Horst recognizes him. His uncle, Ernst Steurmann. The two make small talk about old times. Ernst Steurmann used to be an outrider and a very good scout for the Empire, although he tells Horst that he’s given that up and now does the river trade.
There is a short introduction to the other strangers, as Steurmann says that he knows a decent place with decent ale at a tavern called The Boatman. They agreed to go there.
At the Boatman, Horst gets the first round in. Finja gets a bit ‘tippsy’ and perhaps spills more than she is willing to spill when Steurmann inquires as to how she came to be found stranded in the hills south of Grunburg.
There is a mention of Bogenhafen, and Steurmann says that he actually has business in Bogenhafen as the local schaffenfest is coming up in a weeks time.
He goes on to state that he operates a barge and he is willing to take those that are interested to Bogenhafen, should they need it on the morrow.
With another round of drinks in, the party take up his offer and agree.
Suddenly, without warning, Eckhardt Konrad jumps from the table and runs out of the tavern in a rather comical fashion…
“What’s wrong with him?” asks Ernst Steurmann.
“Bowels… Best not get into it,” replies Ulrico.
Steurmann buries himself in his tankard of ale.