Kall Horst is marched into the watch courtyard and led to a bloody stained stump.
“May I pray to my gods in peace?” Kall asks.
“You don’t look like a godly man?” Reinhold says, but gives in, forcing Kall on his knees.
“Can I pray over near that well there?” Kall asks…
“Cause from where I am, its a tradition to pray into a well…”
Captain Reinhold isn’t having any of it, “You can pray into the well all you like when I throw your headless body down it…”
The Watch Sergent pushes Kall Horst towards the stump and Reinhold readies his axe, raising it.
“Got any last words thief?”
Kall Horst says something snappy, and lashes out with his elbow as hard as he could, catching the man in the crotch. Reinhold is only momentarily stunned, but its all Horst needs to grab axe and loaf the handle over his shoulder. Despite being manacled, he manages it, and hears a cry of pain as the watch sergeant stumbles back from catching it in the face.
It’s all or nothing now as he runs towards the well hoping to make a very wet escape. But his heart sinks when he sees that the well is closed off. With Reinhold now coming after him, he rushes ahead and climbs up on the well, then jumps onto the outhouse lining against the wall.
“I’ll get you! You’ll pay for this!” Reinhold shouts at him. Kall gives him one last mocking salute, grinning and waving at him, before he jumps over the wall and freedom awaits.
He catches the eyes of a few passerby’s and Kall immediately hides his manacled hands inside his cloak. Disarmed and with all his gear taken, he decides to head towards the Crosspike Tavern, possibly seeking the precarious aid of Franz Baumann.
[GM Note – For anyone who might be curious, Kall Horst’s escape was all dependent on rolls. 3 successful rolls; 2 WS rolls (for hitting the two watchmen, first one was at a penalty) and 1 agility roll to jump from the well onto the outhouse, which was a success. Had even just one of those failed, Horst would be whistling a different tune altogether…]
The other members of the party make their way to Baumann seeking aid also, of a different matter. Liliana is missing, and they intend on trying to get Baumann to help.
They make their way along Maug street and into one of the poorer districts of Bogenhafen.
Along the way they encounter 6 street urchins who eye up the party and hone in on them as if they were a pot of gold.
Finja is the first one they eye up, “Hey lady, got a few coin to spare for us starving folk?”
Finja replies, “I’ve got a copper for each of you if you care to act as lookouts.”
Yet the Urchins are more interested in the coin bags hanging from their belts. Two of them each go for Ulrico and Finja, but they spot the wee ruffians trying to snatch their coin bags. Ulrico hard slaps one of them while Finja grabs the other. She gets a kick in her shin from somewhere behind, and she then draws a dagger, threatening to gut the urchin unless they do as she says. She gives them the same offer as before; a single brass penny for each of them if they act as lookouts.
She quickly wins them over and as they approach the Crossed Pikes tavern, she tosses one of them a copper to which the urchins start fighting over.
They step into the tavern. It’s just 10am and the tavern is much busier than it was last night. She heads over to the barkeep who they met before.
“Excuse me Sir, can I trouble you for a moment? I’m looking for a man who we spoke to before, Baumann…” Finja continues on despite the barkeep frowning, slamming an ale down onto the bar and coughing rather abruptly, “Ehem, don’t know anyone by that name…”
Finja apologies as the barkeep replies, “But I remember you lot. You were looking for cutlery weren’t ya? You need Saggy, she’s out back around the corner. Can’t miss her… Got a stall full of the best cutlery this side of Bogenhafen. Best you ask for the special discount bowl.”
Getting the hint, the party leave. Finja tosses all the urchins a copper brass, and the one who she first gave the copper too, an extra copper The urchins start fighting with him over his extra share and they do a scamper.
Around the back of the tavern they see the stall. A young bored looking man and an old woman who must be Saggy, sits, knitting away.
They approach and Finja and Ulrico ask regarding the discount bowl. The old woman scowls at them, “You’re supposed to wait for the question first… Forks or Spoons?”
They give rather confusing answers, and the old woman replies, “Ya’s are gettin denser and denser by each passing moon. Ya’s are supposed to say neither, a special discount on the bowl please… That fat oaf of a son can’t do anything right… Fine fine ya’s can come in, but y’ll have to leave ya weapons behind.”
The party agree to head in but leaving two behind at the stall, but Saggy is reluctant to allow two strangers to stand around acting suspicious. She reluctantly agrees to let them all in to see Baumann.
They make their way down through a manhole and into the sewers. They don’t go far though as they approach a wall. The young man that had accompanied them shows them a secret entrance into the Crosspike cellar, and they head up, ready to meet Baumann once again.
Liliana is still kidnapped, sadly. She hears the keys turn in the only door that leads into her makeshift prison and sees a thin man with short crop hair and a subdued look to him. He approaches the other girl first who is chained up at the wall, and gives her a drink to which she gladly takes.
Liliana nods when the man waves the flask in front of her, and he approaches her, giving her what is revealed to her as water. She takes what is left and Liliana tries to stir up conversation with the man as he leaves, but he doesn’t reply.
Soon… she starts falling into a deep sleep…
Back in the Crosspike cellar, the party meet with Baumann. A couple of new faces are here too, one of them looks particularly dangerous, and has been staring at the party ever since they entered.
Baumann greets them in his usual charming way. “Seems you’ve all got business with me then… So, have you all changed your mind? Have you decided to aid my cause then?”
Finja tells Baumann about Liliana, and says for in exchange of finding out where she is, they’ll be willing to help Baumann with any problems he has as long as it doesn’t include murder.
“My price is modest, I can assure you. It might actually help you in your cause. And yes… I know about this girl. My source was quite… unsteady about what happened. I’m told that the woman may have transformed into some kind of beast, and lept out the window. Naturally its nonsense of course, but… the manner in how she disappeared is quite alarming. I very much doubt your friend is alive. Those who go missing in Bogenhafen do not turn up, and those who do, turn up with their chest open and their very soul taken from them.
“But I’ll help. For a price of course. In exchange for keeping my ear to the ground, and sending my little birdies out, I want you to look into these disappearances as well. As I said, my price is modest. You’ll be helping your own case, and … I will help you avoid the authorities as best as I can.”
They agree to the terms, and Finja asks for any information Baumann has concerning what he knows so far about the disappearances, and also asks if Baumann himself believes that Liliana’s disappearance may be linked to the other disappearances and these ritualistic murders.
But before Baumann can reply, one of his men approaches. He whispers into his ear. Baumann looks annoyed; he takes out a dagger and stabs the man in the throat, killing him outright.
“I do apologize for that. My man had the audacity to suggest that I kill you and dump your bodies in the sewer. Such talk is not to be tolerated considering that we are now allies…” he looks about at his other men, who look away.
Baumann then continues, saying he certainly does believe they are linked, and gives what he knows so far…
“I’ve been investigating these strange goings on for sometime now, but I’ve not had much luck. What I can tell you is that somehow the great Merchant houses are involved. There are 4 houses in power in Bogenhafen, and I can only tie 2 of them together, the other 2 I’m not sure on.
“The two houses that I have my eye on the most is the Teugeons, and the Steinhagers. What puzzles me is that the Teugeons and the Steinhagers hate each other, and rarely work alongside one another. Yet, in the past couple of months, my men report to me that for some reason they’ve grown more… fond of each other. Johanne Teugeon is often seen conversing with Franz Steinhager, and the two are up to no good I reckon. There is also concerns relating to their so called charitable organization known as the Ordo Septanarious. They run soup kitchens down in the poorer districts, but I believe it is nothing but a front for something else.”
Finja asks if Baumann has any leads on where they should start, and he replies, “Possibly… Have you heard of Friedrich Magirious?
“He is the towns Merchant’s Guild Leader. Oversees the towns business here. A wealthy man, not as powerful as Steinhager or Teugeon, but a man with considerable influence. I highly suspect he’s involved. But… I’m not sure on his loyalties. The man has resented Johanne Teugen ever since Karl Teugen disappeared. Friedrich and Karl were good friends from what I’m told, and it strikes me odd that Friedrich would be bedfellows with Johanne Teugeon. He’s most definitely a member of the Ordo Septenarious, that much is certain. Perhaps… you can try and gauge the man. I’ve not had much luck as Magirius knows me and my men, and does not take well to my kind… Maybe you might have more luck. You can often find the fat git dining away at the Golden Trout Club during the afternoon.”
Further inquires into the Golden Trout Club and what sort of place this is, Baumann says, “Ah yes… that might be a problem. Your not exactly up to the standard when it comes to their clientele, but we can take care of that easily enough.”
As he says this, another one of his men approaches rather cautiously, and Finja overhears something about the ‘Mask of Ranald’. Baumann slaps the man outright, “Don’t be a fool. Don’t mention such things again.” The man cowers back to his seat.
Baumann arranges for Ulrico and Finja to be dressed up in a more suitable fashion and are led to a secluded area within the cellar along with one of his men.
After a good few minutes, they return and look well suited for their task. Ulrico is dressed in a gentleman’s suit, and possibly the finest fabric he’s ever worn. His shoes sparkle with shine. Finja gets dolled up; some makeup is applied, and her raggy worn clothes are taken from her and she now looks the part as a upstanding well defined lady.
Baumann lets out a slow clap, and ceases… “Good, good. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve business to attend to. I’ll have one of my men escort you to the Golden Trout Club, do make haste as you do not want to miss Magirius.”
The party leave, and make their way through Bogenhafen heading towards the club.
Meanwhile, Kall Horst has negotiated his way past Saggy after meeting the Barkeep at the Crosspike Tavern. He arrives while the party are still down in the cellar at this time, and is told to wait in the alley, somewhat suspicious of the old woman. Nevertheless he waits patiently. 5 minutes pass and he hears something to his left. He see’s a man climb over a wall at the end of the alley, and then to his right, he see’s a man step out from the shadows, wielding a club.
“Mr Horst. A pleasure. Baumann thought you might show up here… You’ve been a very naughty boy Mr Horst.”
Kall engages him in brief conversation, and is distracted as the other man comes up behind him, and wacks him in the head from behind with a cudgel. He falters onto the ground, unconscious.
When he wakes up… He finds himself in the Crosspike cellar. He’s surrounded by armed dangerous looking thugs, and Baumann is standing in front of him. Horst is sitting down when Baumann approaches him, extending out his hand, “I’ll shake the hand of any man who does one over Thadeous Stengel. You are either very brave, or very stupid… to cross Mr Stengel, 3rd cousin removed from von Sapnatheim himself.”
“Yes, but you didn’t have to knock me over the head to tell me that…”
“Ah yes, I appologise for the overzealous behavior of my men…”
Baumann’s grip tightens then, and his smile quickly fades… “But you stole in my town, without my permission. Hold him.” Baumann’s two biggest brutish looking men flank Kall on either side and hold him down. The one to his left takes out a sharp knife, he smiles through crooked yellow and black stained teeth, “Hehe… What we do with him Boss? Cut off his nuts? I wanna feed him his nuts!”
Baumann hesitates, thinking for a moment as he looks upon Kall Horst. He then says…
Bruno, the brute wielding the dagger, says, “Hehe Boss, he’s a pretty boy isn’t he. Not so pretty without that hair though…” and grabs a good amount of Horst’s hair and gets ready to cut it.
Kall, practically shitting bricks at this point, tries to talk some sense into Baumann.
“A man of my talents could be useful to you, how about a trade?”
Baumann sniggers, “A man of your talents? Yes… Cause I certainly could use a man who goes about robbing bathhouses and chucks shit over powerful men. I will say you’ve got a ballsy way of doing things Mr Horst, but your not smart about it.”
Horst tries desperately to win Baumann over. Baumann becomes interested when Kall says he’ll do anything, and Baumann gets Bruno to stay his hand.
Kall offers a trade, his hair for whatever Baumann wants done.
Bruno looks disappointed as Baumann gives over to the idea. Baumann tells Horst about the deal he has with his companions and says that the deal didn’t cover murder, as he felt that they would not be up to the task… Baumann goes on, telling Horst that he has suspicions that two of the most powerful merchant houses in Bogenhafen may be behind the murders and disappearances in town, but can’t know for sure. However, if it is indeed found out that they are the ones responsible, he wants Horst to “cut the head off the snakes.”
“After all, if they are indeed responsible, then it isn’t really murder, is it? Justice would be served.”
Kall agrees to kill the heads of the family/families if they are indeed found to be responsible. Baumann also says to leave anything belonging to them alone, if they are responsible. As what they own would be his, due to some ‘personal’ matter that Baumann doesn’t go into detail about.
Horst inquires about his gear that was taken from the watch. Baumann explains that the watch sergeant that had accompanied Horst into the courtyard was his man in his employ, and that he had secured Horst’s belongings and brought them to the cellar.
Liliana wakes up from her deep slumber to find that the girl imprisoned earlier is strangely missing. Not only that, but she can hear swords clashing against one another in the corridor behind the door. After a few seconds, it stops. Keys turn into the door, and a man steps through.
Liliana is shocked to see that its Ernst Steurmann, Kall Horst’s uncle and the boatman that had brought them to Bogenhafen.
“Thank the gods your alive Liliana! I need to get you out of here!”
Liliana is almost speechless, and somewhat suspicious… She remembered the girl earlier on talking about illusions and trying to trick her, she thought Liliana herself was some kind of trick. Could this be a trick as well?
With no time to think on it, she finds herself holding Ernst’s hand as he leads her out. She steps over dead bodies and make their way into a courtyard that opens up into the town of Bogenhafen.
Liliana takes a breath of fresh air, but… a sinister laugh echoes through the air.
She turns and see’s Ernst Steurmann’s face begin to melt, and behind it, Gideon!
“Such pitiful gullible creatures you mortals are. I had hoped you would surprise me, but o well…” he lunges out towards her chest, rips into her breast and takes out her heart. She fades out into darkness… and wakes up in the cellar in familiar surroundings.
The party make their way to the Golden Trout Club when Finja feels a tug on her arm. She turns and see’s a small dirty faced girl with a cheeky grin looking up at her. Finja recognizes the garments and the accent that she speaks with; a Strigany! And the first Strigany she has seen since her escape from the beastmen attack on her traveling Strigany family.
“Mi gran wants to meet you, lady…” she runs off, and stops halfway. Finja speaks to her in their native tongue, asking “Whose are you.”
“Yenar! Yenar! Yenar!” she shouts, running off.
Finja recalls the name… She remembers Lothar who briefly spoke of his mother once in a tale he was sharing, her name was Yenar…
Finja tells the party that she must follow. The party agree to follow and the escort is told to tell Baumann that they’ll make time later for the Golden Trout.
They have a hard time keeping up with the girl, but eventually she slows down at the behest of Finja. They soon find themselves in the festival and stop short of a Strigany caravan. A sign nearby reads, “Mystic Yenar.”
Finja steps up and into the caravan alone, pushing aside a curtain to see an old ancient woman. Her skin is ancient wrinkled and scarred with blotch marks. Her hair is grey and thin, with only a few whisps left, most of which is covered by a Strigany bandana. Her eyes are of white-glaze, and she appears blind. But as Finja steps in, the woman turns her head and stares directly at Finja.
“Sit, child.” she says.
Finja asks if indeed she is the mother of Lothar.
The old woman smiles briefly, then the smile turns into sadness as she says, “Yes. Lothar. There are many Lothars amongst the Strigany, but only one of such a soul as his. For he has passed into the realm of Morr, be it willingly or not. It is a loss that we all feel… Now tell me child of Ranald, do you grieve for his loss?”
Finja remarks how the grief is a deep wound, and the old woman replies, “We all do, child. We all grieve for his loss. Yet… Death is just another path that we all must take, and soon it will come calling for me no doubt. It is just a passing of ones soul into another realm. Lothar shared his craft with you, and you cherised it and nourished it with his aid. Whatever comfort it might bring, let it be known that my son went into the welcoming embrace of Morr, his soul put at ease knowing that you now carry on his legacy. It is also perhaps, that legacy that I wish to.. protect. I will be blunt child. You are in grave danger.”
Finja remarks that danger is not new to her, but Yenar remarks, “This is a danger of a different kind, child.”
Finja tells Yenar about the strange occurrence that night her traveling troupe got attacked by beastmen. How they ran her down but when she awoke, they were all dead… How a strange man with a unseen face had approached her and whispered, “Remember my name. Remember Ranald,” to her.
Yenar shakes her head, “I can sense it. Godtouched you are. Do not take that as a blessing, or a curse. For the gods play their game, and we are but mortals, pawns in their great plan of things to come. Whether you are blessed, or cursed, remains to be seen. Even one such as Ranald, plays his bag of tricks upon us, and who are we to understand his motives.
“I am but an old woman, I do not pretend to know the motivations of Gods. Nor do I wish to pry into such things. But if you wish to know more, perhaps I will see through the deception and extract some truth from this. Remain still.”
She grasps Finja’s hand, her eyes close, and for a few moments, silence…
Then she speaks – “I see… him. My son. He is weeping. He is… weeping tears of blood. They pool into a rose, a red rose dripping with blood. A red rose, upon a cross. Blood pours from it into an ocean. No. Not just any ocean, but an ocean of blood. I see it rising now. It grows tall, and threatens to wash over us all. Something rises from beneath. Something… I, I… cannot see further. Death and despair awaits us all. Yet there is a light…
I see shadows. A dwarf I see. A knight I see. Seven of you, facing seven blood red robes, their hoods concealing their faces. Seven of them there is and one. One will destroy them all, and many more besides. Beware the man that is not a man, Finja Diederich. For the eye of Evil is upon you.”
The old women, shaking, lets her grip go.
They both talk briefly, and Yenar then remarks, “There is… something else that I sense. Are you missing someone that you hold dear?”
Finja tells Yenar about how her mother was murdered and her sister gone missing, and the old woman nods sadly, “I did not know… I grieve for their loss. Yet, that is not what I sensed. It is something… closer. More recent.”
The subject of Liliana is then brought up, and the old woman says he could try and find her, but she would need something that belonged to her first.
Finja hands over a potion that was Liliana’s, and Yenar tries to get a sense from it. Her eyes close as she gently takes the potion in both her hands.
The air grows cold, and condenses in on itself. A chill goes through Finja as Yenar begins to speak, her voice now booming, “A shadow… darkness in its true form. I see it… it is, looming over something. A.. young girl. Yes. It is her. She stands over the edge of darkness yet she does not know it. It feeds from her… it chases after her… It craves for her soul…. It is… It is…. with us now! Child Run, Go!”
Finja looks around desperately trying to see what it is that the old woman is referring too, but her focus turns back to the old woman as she begins to float upwards. Finja looks on in disbelief as blood starts pouring down Yenar’s face, her eyes pooling with blood.
Yenar begins to speak, but it is not of her voice… something else is speaking through her. “You will not find the pitiful creature, mortal. Let this be a warning to you.. if you play with fire, you will get burnt…”
Yenar screams out in defiance at whatever internal struggle is going on within the old woman. A cackle of energy begins to form within the caravan, and Finja notices that her own skin begins to lift towards something… something opening up behind Yenar.
A rift of forms in front of her. Her very mind on the brink of insanity as Finja witnesses Yenar dragged into the portal, screaming all the way into the abyss. As quick as it started, it collapses. The air returns to normality, yet… there is a still an eerie feeling within the caravan. Finja makes no delay in getting up and leaving. She steps out, pale faced and in numb shock. For those outside the caravan, nobody had heard a thing…
“Did my granny help ya?” the little girl says as she spies Finja leaving. She tosses the girl a silver coin, “I’m so sorry,” and walks off towards the jousting as the party look on in a bemused state.
Borri catches up to her and asks her what happened, but Finja continues on in silence.
The party get to the jousting as Godfrey is seen readying his horse for the tournament ahead.
As they look about, Finja spots something… A man that fits the bill for the description that Franz Baumann gave for Friedrich Magirious. He’s admiring one of the Reikland steeds when Finja strides over. She questions him on his interest and the man notes that he ‘collects’ them and has a fondness for the creatures.
Suddenly Finja faints in front of him, and the man looks shocked as he starts calling for help.
“Godfrey de Montfort!” his name is called out.
His first jousting set to begin…